The Apple iPhone 5s, LG G2 and Nokia Lumia 1020 span the entire range of screen size and resolution available in the premium segment. From a design standpoint, each device is playing to its strengths - and weaknesses. LG did impressively well to fit a massive screen at the front with almost no such thing as bezel, flipping over all hardware buttons to the back. Nokia on the other hand, had to accommodate a huge camera module and avoid a massive bulge. The flip side is it's still a humongous phone for the screen size. Apple's iPhone, on the other hand, is the most compact and lightweight premium smartphone but falling behind in terms of screen size and resolution is an issue Cupertino will have to address sooner rather than later.
It was the obvious goal of Nokia, Apple and LG to give their respective flagship the best treatment in terms of build and finish but all three handsets are actually improving on traditional designs rather than inventing.
The Apple iPhone 5s has the styling, build and finfish of the now four-year-old iPhone 4. Aiming for the same, yet better is what Apple stands for and the iPhone 5s is the living proof. The single difference to last year's iPhone 5 is the good old Home key, which this time integrates a fingerprint scanner under a piece of sapphire glass.
The LG G2 too is recycling a familiar design from the LG Optimus G Pro phablet. The massive, almost bezel-free screen accommodates the Android navigation controls, while the power/lock key and the volume rocker have been reocated at the back, right at the user's very fingertips. The downside of the LG G2 is the glossy plastic finish which gets covered in fingerprints in no time and is not an easy surface to clean.
The polycarbonate unibody of the Lumia 1020 premiered a while back on the MeeGo-powered N9.It has been used since on the premium smartphones in the Lumia line. The obvious difference is the prominent hump around the camera. Being a camera-centric device, the Lumia 1020 is the only one of the three to feature a hardware shutter key.
The iPhone 5S has a single hardware key at the front, the LG G2 has none, while the Lumia 1020 features the usual set of three capacitive keys below the display.
All three phones have the battery sealed within the body and no memory expansion. The SIM card compartments are side mounted, nano-SIM on the iPhone and micro-SIM for the other two.
There is absolutely nothing on the Lumia 1020's left side but the right side more than makes up for it. And we don't mean the usual volume rocker and power/lock key. It's the dedicated camera button that sets this one apart. A proper shutter key is a must here, it's the cameraphone in the bunch after all. Other than having half press to focus, it will launch the camera even if the phone is locked.
None of the phones in this comparison has stereo speakers. They each have a combination of microphones for noise-cancelling duties but the fact that the iPhone has not two but three in total doesn't quite explain why it cannot record stereo audio in videos.
The biggest novelty at the back of the iPhone 5s is the dual LED flash. It features one white and one amber-colored LED, which dynamically combine to create a more natural-looking flash light depending on each individual situation. The rest looks exactly like the previous iPhone 5's aluminum back with two small strips of glass (covering the phone's antennas).
The back of the LG G2 is where all the controls are. There are two volume buttons each side of a power/lock key. You can also unlock the LG G2 by double-tapping on the screen but otherwise the centrally-placed three button combo at the rear is what you use for operating the device, aside from the outstanding screen on the front.
Above the buttons is the 13 MP camera lens and a single LED flash. The back of the LG G2 features a hyperglaze-like surface with a pattern underneath.
The back of the Nokia Lumia 1020 is where a large round plate accommodates the 6-element ZEISS lens of the 41MP camera, the xenon flash and the LED flash, which also serves as a video light. The hump is prominent enough, but something we can definitely live with, considering the huge sensor, the xenon flash and the ZEISS optics we get in return.
In terms of handling, the three devices will appeal to very different kinds of users. The Apple iPhone 5s is impressively compact and lightweight, with sophisticated, premium feel. It will fit in every pocket and is a pleasure to handle. The Nokia Lumia 1020 is one of the best unibodies to have but the handset is massive for the screen size you're getting. The phone itself is notably lighter than the preceding model which neared 200g.
We wholeheartedly commended LG for the creative choice of location for the hardware keys but other than that the styling is nothing spectacular. Then again, it was the Koreans' best shot perhaps considering they were after a comfortable size and weight. And they didn't want anything to steal the spotlight from the brilliant 5.2" screen anyway.
Winner: Apple iPhone 5s. To be clear, it's the handling and premium feel that we rate in this one. The iPhone's design may've been used on a few generations already, but it's still relevant, to say the least. Apple's flagship looks, as usual, more like an elegant accessory than a working tool. And it's not just the looks, the iPhone 5s is built to perfection, with great attention to detail. You can easily say the same about the other two as well but theirs is a classic example of looks being second to power and performance.
Runner-up: Nokia Lumia 1020. The polycarbonate unibody has enough of a premium feel and, while the handling might be awkward at first, the solid build and the fact that Nokia integrated such a vastly superior camera tech into a phone's body, help it clinch the second spot.
Third place: LG G2. Certainly not by a mile, though - the LG smartphone is probably the most practical of the three, delivering the highest screen estate to footprint ratio and an ample battery. The lack of any controls on the front to spoil the looks also means that while not as pretty as the other two, the G2 is certainly not a smartphone you'd mind being seen in public with.