The latest iPhone features a display that’s an inch and a half larger than its predecessor and as a result, steps into the world of what we’ll tentatively call ‘phablets’, treading on the same turf as a new device by leading rival Samsung.
Sammy took to the stage at IFA in Berlin last week to pull the wraps off of its Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and both phones are set to be on store shelves in the coming weeks, so which one offers you the best big-screened bang for your buck?
Apple iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Design
Both Samsung and Apple have made some serious changes to their design processes with these latest devices. Foreshadowed by the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, the Note 4 is one of the first of its name to embrace metal bodywork, replete with chamfered edging faintly reminiscent of the iPhone 5S funnily enough.
Despite the step up in materials and build quality, the Note 4’s back is still hewn from leatherette-finished plastic, which won’t be to everybody’s taste despite the fact it’s removable and conceals a replaceable battery and a microSD card slot.
On the other side of the globe, Apple’s design team has packed some classic iPhone cues into a new curvier milled aluminium body. The 6 Plus is the biggest iPhone to date, but with a display that’s 0.2-inches smaller than the Note 4’s it’s not quite as imposing and more pocket-friendly. It also retains an impressive waistline at just 7.1mm versus the still arguably respectable 8.5mm thickness of the Note 4.
Whilst Samsung’s new to the world of metal-bodied smartphones, Apple’s been making them for years and yet, the more rounded appearance of the iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t have quite the same distinctive aesthetic as previous generations. Often we say ‘phone x’ resembles an iPhone, in this instance we’re reminded of the HTC First and other minimalist candy bar designs when we look at the 6 Plus.
Fans of the unibody will prefer the iPhone to the Note, but as ever the battery is locked away tight and based on past experience it’ll cost you a pretty penny should ever need to swap that out, not to mention it doesn’t feature expandable memory.
Apple iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Screen
If you take a look at the iPhone 6 Plus as an isolated device, it marks a huge step for Apple who has for so long resisted the trend towards larger screens. The 5.5-inch Retina HD display also totes the highest pixel density of any iPhone thanks to its Full HD resolution, so we’re in little doubt that it’ll offer excellent clarity, legibility in sunlight and accurate colour reproduction, just as previous iPhones have shown us in previous years.
Samsung’s put a lot of effort into its latest display technology too and the Note 4 is the first device with a 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560×1440) SuperAMOLED display. As is often the way with AMOLED technology it likely won’t offer as accurate a colour gamut, but push fantastic vibrancy, whilst at the same time proving power efficient. Going on sheer pixel count it also outperforms the iPhone by quite a bit.
Apple iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4: OS
Comparing Apples and Samsungs is a little like comparing, well, apples and oranges. Both phone makers take very different approaches to what makes a good mobile user experience and both have their merits and shortcomings.
Apple’s entrance into the world of larger phones has posed a few unusual problems for the current iOS experience. iOS 8 on the iPhone 6 Plus varies from its smaller sibling as the company has tried to make use of the extra screen real-estate. Dipping into the iPad’s UI a little, the 6 Plus is the first of Apple’s smartphones to feature two-column landscape support for the majority of its native apps, like Mail and Messages.
There are also new dedicated cut and paste options on the landscape keyboard and a new home button double tap gesture to pull the entire screen down so that the top is accessible without having to shift your finger up. It’s an unusual solution that we’d have to try to see whether it feel natural or not.
If you’re after one of the latest Android 4.4 KitKat devices around, the Note 4 delivers. Samsung’s updated the experience from both the Note 3 and the Galaxy S5 to include new, cleaner iconography, a dynamic lock screen and translucent widgets to better show off your latest wallpaper.
Beyond the cosmetic, the Note 4 might not feature the levels of OS-wide landscape support the 6 Plus does, but in its place you have the flexibility of new multitasking features. The Note 4’s hardware is capable of supporting multiple windowed apps that you can drag around your home screen, resize and minimise, much like a full-blown desktop OS.
Apple iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Performance
If it’s a specs game, the Note 4 wins out based on raw power alone, but as always performance comes from optimisation and the iPhone’s new 64-bit dual-core A8 chip will undoubtedly serve up a smooth user experience across the board.
If you plan on carrying a lot of content with you, the iPhone gives you better internal storage up front with up to 128GB of space, that said, only a sliver of iCloud storage is free and adding more is pricey. Meanwhile the Galaxy Note 4 comes with a comparatively measly 32GB internally but tacks on 50GB of Dropbox cloud storage at purchase and microSD support for cards up to 128GBs.
Apple’s Phil Schiller tried to convince us that battery life on the new iPhone would be superior to the 5S and although that may be true, it’s still likely to drop like a stone during use. The Note 4 might not fare much better, however Samsung’s new fast charging means that you can bring the larger 3220mAh cell back to 50 per cent in under 30 minutes, no such claims were made for the 6 Plus.
The divide really comes with two killer features, the stylus-inclined will unquestionably prefer the Samsung Galaxy Note 4’s S Pen skills – 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and new optimised tools make it one of the best stylus-toting handsets on the market, if you’re a shopaholic, then the iPhone is the one to go for.
A significant portion of the iPhone’s launch event was dedicated to the company’s new Apple Pay service. Link a card to Passbook on the phone, tap the NFC antenna at the top of the device whilst scanning your fingerprint with Touch ID and you’ve made your purchase. The new swipey fingerprint scanner on the Note’s home button is limited to PayPal purchases and unlocking the device.
Apple iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Camera
The iPhone brand boasts one of the world’s most popular cameras and although the sensor size hasn’t grown at all in the past year, expect the new 8-megapixel snapper in the 6 Plus to take some killer shots. The new focus pixel technology promises fast autofocus for stills and video, the slow motion video recording has been made slower (now down to 240fps) and there’s a new time-lapse video option as well.
Selfie addicts will have to make do with the same FaceTime HD camera on the front, although the sensor has been reworked so you can pull off tricks like burst mode and single-shot HDR. Samsung has upped its front-facer, with a new larger 3.7-megapixel sensor, 90-degree wide-angle lens and a wide selfie mode so you can fit more people in.
Moving to the back, aside from a significantly more convoluted camera interface, the Note 4 makes a few notable improvements with optical and digital image stabilisation (as with the iPhone 6 Plus) now working together to steady your shots. 4K video recording out paces the iPhone’s Full HD limit, but there are a number of unusual modes you most likely won’t use either, call it wasted space. At least your snaps are twice the size, due to the larger 16-megapixel sensor.
Apple iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Verdict
It’s an interesting year for the two companies, who are both making changes to some long established practices. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is an American muscle car to the iPhone 6 Plus’s svelte sports car engineering. It wins out based on sheer power and distinctive extras, but that won’t be for everyone.
Apple has done a good job packaging the iOS experience onto a larger smartphone without just enlarging the current iPhone interface and new features like OIS and Apple Pay will have fans enthralled. Whether it offers enough to appease current iPhone users still on-the-fence about their next device is less certain.
What do you think? Does the iPhone 6 Plus look to be the hottest handset for the coming months, or is the fabled ‘king of phablets’ the more established Galaxy Note 4?