iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III: Which Display Is Better? It Depends

An IHS iSuppli teardown suggests that while the Samsung Galaxy S III is superior, on paper, the iPhone 5 may win out.

If the Apple iPhone 5's primary adversary is the Samsung Galaxy S III, then a device teardown by research firm IHS iSuppli offers a few barbs that supporters from both parties might trade, though whether they'll sting or sway anyone is unlikely.

The 10 million-plus people who purchased the Galaxy S III before Apple had introduced its newest iPhone might feel vindicated to know, for example, that despite the iPhone 5's innovative display technology, it "still lags the Galaxy S III ... when it comes to screen thinness and color gamut," IHS said in an Oct. 2 report.

As summertime rumors suggested, Apple pushed suppliers to create a display technology that integrates touch sensors into the LCD, eliminating the need for a touch-screen layer and ultimately slimming down the display. While the display on the iPhone 4S is 2.1mm, the iPhone 5's was trimmed to 1.5mm thick, according to IHS's Teardown Analysis Service.

With the iPhone 5, Apple also raised the color gamut to 72 percent of the National TV Standards Committee (NTSC) standard, from 50 percent on the iPhone 4S.

Still, both these specs fall short of the Galaxy S III, which has a 1.1mm display thickness and a 100 percent NTSC color gamut.

"As the first product with in-cell touch, the iPhone 5 represents a major achievement, improving the image quality and reducing the thickness of the smartphone compared to previous modes," Vinita Jakhanwal, IHS' director of small and medium display, said in a statement.

Still, looking at it with a bigger-picture perspective, she added—with her own Samsung-aimed barb—it’s the iPhone that comes out on top.

"The iPhone 5 overall remains thinner than the Galaxy S III, and its display color gamut is more than sufficient for most users," Jakhanwal continued. "Such improvements on the iPhone 5 are consistent with Apple's philosophy of selecting features designed to yield profitable products that deliver a superior customer experience, rather than of providing technology for technology's sake."

The teardown also found that, in addition to slimming the display, the elimination of the separate touch layer also results in the phone being able to emit more light, and so to offer a "more vibrant and crisper image with improved color saturation than the iPhone 4S."

Again, on paper, the Galaxy S III with its higher color gamut should be the winner. But in practice that may not be the case.

"Some user reviews indicate that colors presented on the Galaxy S III actually can look oversaturated and unrealistic," said Jakhanwal. "While it may be interesting to compare the display specifications for the two phones, the actual front-of-screen viewing experience could diverge for different users."

Even the types of displays the companies chose suggest a potentially better option but no winner or loser. The Samsung features an active-matrix organic LED (AMOLED) display, while the iPhone 5 has a low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) LCD. IHS points out that there "are concerns" about the way that organic materials age, which could affect the OLED's lifetime and power efficiency.

Still, it adds, overall battery life is more truly "dependent on many other factors."

Just like one's phone preferences.

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