Apple iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S2

Video: It's the battle everybody is talking about - which is the best phone around?

It's Apple vs Android, the battle for your smartphone pound - but can the Apple iPhone 4S beat down the Android-flavoured Samsung Galaxy S2?

Update: Check out our Apple iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S3 rumours rumble to see how the reported successors to the Samsung Galaxy S2 and Apple iPhone 4s might fare when pitted against each other in the ring.

iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S2: Build

Samsung Galaxy S 2
Pick up the phone and the first thing you notice is how light it is – it's just 116g. Measuring 8.49mm, it's incredibly slim in comparison to 9.9mm for the original Galaxy S; 9.3mm for the Apple iPhone 4 and 8.7mm for the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. While the Samsung Galaxy S2 will certainly fit into the tightest jeans pocket, the compromise is build quality - the body just feels cheap and uninspiring.

Things don't improve when you remove the wafer thin back to insert a sim - we'd be seriously worried about snapping it. Controls are limited to volume on one side, power on the other, MHL port, which serves a dual purpose of charging via USB and outputting to HDMI, and a 3.5mm jack on the top, Samsung includes a range of streaming options including DLNA.

iPhone 4S
After the antennagate issues with the iPhone 4, Apple has rung the build changes for the Apple iPhone 4S. While it's the same form factor as iPhone 4, it intelligently switches between two antennas to transmit and receive, which doubles download speeds according to Apple. Upload speeds are the same, however.

iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S2: Screen

Samsung Galaxy S2
The highlight of S2 is the 4.3-inch 800x480 screen, which incorporates Super AMOLED Plus technology. Colours are eye popping and blues and greens literally jump out of the screen at you. Off-angle viewing is excellent too - the first phone we've seen to match the iPhone 4.

A larger screen sizes means that the phone is bulky, but it's a joy for movies. When playing back our test HD movie clips, detail is sharp and action smooth. We found that whites aren't as pure or bright as those on the iPhone 4, although blacks seem darker and colours are bolder and warmer. It handles action smoothly too.

iPhone 4S
The 3.5-inch Retina Display is unchanged over the iPhone 4. With an 800:1 contrast ratio and 960x640p resolution – according to Apple, that's more than the human eye can process at that size of screen – the Retina Display sets a new benchmark for mobile screens.

The Retina Display is a joy to use indoors and at most outdoor light levels, although it becomes reflective and difficult to admire when in direct, bright sunlight such as we're having recently. Although adding a gratifying pop to images and videos, older applications and their icons can also appear dated and grainy on the new high-res screen – app developers will have to improve their wares for the iPhone 4.

iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S2: Processor

Samsung Galaxy S 2
The Galaxy S2 has a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor. In use the phone feels incredibly quick – one of the fastest smartphones we've used. Indeed, whether you're browsing a web page or swapping between applications it never feels slow and seems to manage all your tasks with gusto.

During our tests it loads web pages over WiFi quicker than the iPhone 4 - loading a content-rich website like - replete with Adobe Flash banners and carousels - in just 15 seconds. This isn't an Nvidia Tegra 2 chip, so we couldn't download games designed specifically for this (such as Samurai II: Vengence THD), but there are a decent selection of games to play on Android as is, and it won't struggle to run any of them.

iPhone 4S
The iPhone 4S is fired by a dual core A5 chip, which also has dual core graphics capabilities – that's a x2 times faster CPU than the original iPhone 4 chip, according to Apple, and a whopping 7x faster graphics.

“You'd think if you put a CPU like that you'd sacrifice battery life”, said Tim Cook at the launch – but it's been increased to 8 hours talk time, according to Apple.

iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S2: Camera

Samsung Galaxy S 2
Samsung has boosted the camera resolution from 5-megapixels to 8-megapixels, instead of a dedicated shutter; you tap the virtual shutter, which is fairly quick if not quite as nippy as the offering on the iPhone 4S. Stills results are pleasing; the S2 is pretty good at controlling noise and colours are very natural. The S2 shoots HD video at 720p and 1080p at 30fps and results are good; it's smooth, with natural colours, although perhaps lacking a little definition.

iPhone 4S
The iPhone 4S boasts an uprated camera system with an 8 megapixel sensor, giving 3264 x 2448 photos. It features a CMOS illuminated sensor, which gets 73% more light than the iPhone 4 sensor, and is 1/3rd faster. On top of that, there's a high-end IR filter for greater accuracy and uniformity, new lenses that make picture 30 percent sharper and a 33% shooting speed upgrade. Finally, there's the ability to shoot 1080p HD video.

iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S2: Verdict

Apple's claims for the iPhone 4S are considerable, and as you'll see from our iPhone 4S review, it lives up to them making it one of the best phones out there. Is it better than the Samsung Galaxy S2? Yes, it is. While the Samsung Galaxy S2 is one of the best smartphones to emerge from Team Android so far, it's over a year old now and there are newer, better Android phones arriving.

The iPhone has the edge, largely thanks to its impressive Retina display which not only looks good when browsing the web and viewing videos, but is also superb for games. Although smaller than the S2's screen, the resolution is pin sharp, while the Samsung's large screen means that the handset isn't quite as compact.

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Mark Mayne

Mark Mayne has been covering tech, gadgets and outdoor innovation for longer than he can remember. A keen climber, mountaineer and scuba diver, he is also a dedicated weather enthusiast and flapjack consumption expert.