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iPhone vs. Galaxy

iPhone vs. Galaxy: Which Is Cheaper to Own?

Posted on 9/18/2013 13:17 EST

The battle for the best smartphone used to be a one-horse race, but the gap between Apple and Samsung has been closing faster than many expected. More and more, people are taking up a Galaxy instead of automatically deferring to an iPhone. There are many reasons for this, including a possible perception that the feature-packed Samsung Galaxy S4 represents a better value for the money than the iPhone 5.

Photo by flickr.com/ronny-andre

On the eve of the new iPhone release, we took a look at the iPhone vs. Galaxy question to see whether either brand is likely to be a cheaper buy over the long term. We considered the purchase prices of the current models but also the cost of ownership, factoring in apps, durability, and resale value. Although the iPhone holds an advantage on certain fronts, here's why we give the Galaxy the nod.

iPhone vs. Galaxy: Handsets.

The top-tier models under each brand name have been selling for essentially the same price with a plan -- about $200 for a new 16GB phone on most carriers. But with Apple's new iPhones coming out, that seems to be changing. A current Walmart promotion has brought down the cost of the Samsung Galaxy S4 (released in April) to $138 with a new AT&T contract. Amazon has been offering the phone for as little as $108 with a service agreement in recent weeks. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is also $50 cheaper than the forthcoming Apple iPhone 5S without a contract.
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Related: Cell phone fees comparison

One possible competitive edge for Apple: the new iPhone 5C. Traditionally consumers looking to step down from the latest, most expensive model have had to step back in time to an older version being sold at a discount. The Samsung Galaxy S3, released last year, has dropped to the ranks of penny phones on Amazon (with a service plan). When the Apple iPhone 5 came out, the iPhone 4S remained available at a markdown. It's still supported and offered for free with a contract. With the debut of the iPhone 5S, however, Apple is discontinuing the iPhone 5 and replacing it with the iPhone 5C, a new model for cost-conscious customers. It has the guts of an iPhone 5 but comes with a brightly colored polycarbonate body, better battery and LTE performance, and the new iOS 7 operating system (users of older iPhones can manually upgrade). This may give it more cachet and longevity than a tired 2012 model.

Winner: Galaxy

Lowest Upfront Price With Contract
Lowest Upfront Price With No Contract
Apple iPhone 5S
Samsung Galaxy S4
Apple iPhone 5C
Samsung Galaxy S3
1 cent
Apple iPhone 4S

Photo by flickr.com/photos/93405703@N02

iPhone vs. Galaxy: Apps.

Both the Google Play store (for Samsung Galaxy phones, which use Google's Android operating system) and the Apple App Store peddle increasingly large numbers of free apps. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that 72 percent of Android apps downloaded from Google Play were free, compared with 56 percent from the Apple App store. Analytics firm Flurry looked at both free and paid apps downloaded in April 2013 and calculated that Android users pay an average of 6 cents per app compared with 19 cents for iPhone users. According to Flurry, Android users' apparent aversion to paid apps has led developers to create more free, ad-supported apps for Android.

Still, some of the best-designed apps are not free. Among paid apps, the average price from Google Play was $3.06 at the end of 2012, according to data from research firm Distimo, lower than the Apple App Store average of $3.18. Sometimes the exact same app is cheaper for Android than for iOS. The ad-free version of music recognition app SoundHound, for instance, costs $5.99 for Android phones and $6.99 for iPhones.

Winner: Galaxy

Percentage of Free Apps
56 percent
72 percent
Average Price of Downloaded Apps (Including Free Apps)
19 cents
6 cents
Average Price of Paid Apps

iPhone vs. Galaxy: Durability and Insurance.

Countless videos show amateur reviewers giving both smartphones the cringe-inducing "drop test" with inconsistent results. The newest iPhones haven't been subjected to this trial, but early hands-on reviews tell us that the body of the iPhone 5S is nearly identical in composition to the iPhone 5. This is problematic for normal wear and tear, as the iPhone 5 was criticized for its scratch-prone aluminum body. For everyday use, the plastic of the Galaxy and the iPhone 5C are likely to fare better. Third-party insurance provider SquareTrade rates the Galaxy S3 and S4 and the iPhone 5 all "medium risk" for breakage, with both Galaxy models scoring slightly lower than the iPhone 5 overall. Regardless, SquareTrade charges the same amount for insurance for both Galaxy phones and iPhones ($7.99 per month or $99 per year).

Photo by flickr.com/photos/93405703@N02

A new version of the Galaxy S4, the S4 Active, is sold through AT&T and claims to be "whatever-proof." It appears what that really means is water- and dust-proof but not fall-proof. Expert reviewers and others who've used this phone also warn that it can still be susceptible to water damage. It won't protect against everything, but for the same price as the S4, it may provide some extra assurance that a little rain or spilled coffee won't cost you hundreds for a replacement.

Winner: Tie

iPhone vs. Galaxy: Resale Value.

Generally neither an iPhone nor a Galaxy phone is a truly cheap buy, but you can reduce your overall losses by reselling the phone later. IPhones tend to hold their value extremely well across models. A recent survey of resale prices on eBay and a similar site in China shows that even the iPhone 4 is holding value three years after its release. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S3 lost about a quarter of its resale value over the same period. Another analyst cited in Forbes drew a similar conclusion after tracking resale prices in the U.S., China, India, and Brazil.

Winner: iPhone

Final Recommendation.

Despite the current buzz around the iPhone, with its attendant status and style and proven ability to hold its value, a Galaxy phone appears to be the better bargain. Discounts are emerging on the top-tier S4 and cheap and free apps abound.

Winner: Galaxy

by Lee Stevens (Google+ Profile)

Filed in: Apple, Cellphone, iPhone, Smartphones
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