Samsung is a company known for producing big, powerful smartphones, whilst Apple has been the last Bastion of the compact flagship – most recently in the form of the iPhone 5S.
Naturally then, we’re pitting a small flagship from Samsung against the biggest phone Apple’s ever made, but which one will win out in this role reversal comparison?
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Apple iPhone 6 Plus: Design
First up is the Alpha’s bodywork. This marks a turning point for Sammy who for the longest time has been stuck with expensive handsets clad entirely in plastic.
The Alpha features a milled aluminium frame that ups the build quality significantly from its predecessors and looks like it’s actually borrowed parts of its design from Apple’s iPhone 5 and 5S. It’s all straight edges and precision cut chamfers, which feel great in the hand. But all that said, it still retains some classic bendy Samsung plastic with its removable back.
On the other side of the fence is the bigger, bulkier iPhone 6 Plus. For this generation Apple swapped out the straight lines that the Alpha emulates for rounded edges and corners. It makes for a more comfortable handheld experience, particularly for such a big device. Small hands will definitely prefer the Alpha’s more diminutive proportions, but the extra screen space the 6 Plus affords you is a nice luxury to have.
Due to the laws of physics, the 6 Plus is a little thicker at 7.1mm and considerably heavier as a result of its size, nice all-metal body and significantly larger battery too.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Apple iPhone 6 Plus: Screen
As is always the case between the screens used by Samsung and Apple it’s a battle of AMOLED against LCD. The 4.7-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED panel used by the Galaxy Alpha is bright and offers fairly decent viewing angles, but to call it punchy is an understatement; it’s oversaturated look might not suit everybody’s tastes and the iPhone’s LCD doles out a far more accurately coloured experience.
The 6 Plus’s massive 5.5-inch screen takes a little getting used to when you consider it’s an iPhone you’re holding, but there’s no denying Apple’s skill for making a killer display. It’s less reflective, brighter and sharper despite the increase in size thanks to its Full HD resolution. Whilst the Alpha’s no slouch, the 6 Plus’s Retina HD offering is one of the best on the market.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Apple iPhone 6 Plus: OS
For all the praise we give iOS with regards to its ease of use and simplicity, each generation’s new features get tacked onto the settings menu and now it’s become a pretty extensive, crowded list.
iOS 8.1 gives you greater customisation, which is welcome, whilst things like tweakable notifications widgets and the double-tap gesture built into the home button (used to reach the top of apps) alleviates some of the issues typically associated with swiping around a phablet like this.
The Alpha rocks, unsurprisingly a Samsung-skinned version of Android 4.4 KitKat. As ever there’s a wealth of customisation, from your homescreens to your apps drawer and notifications panel, but dip into the settings and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options and modifications you can make to the Alpha’s user experience.
Some love/hate elements like the Toolbox shortcuts and the Flipboard-powered My Magazine may come in handy or simply serve as additional tat you don’t need or want. On the whole it’s a big improvement over older Sammys, but whilst they’re sort of meeting in the middle, iOS is still the cleaner, easier experience to navigate here.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Apple iPhone 6 Plus: Performance
Looking at real-world fluidity there’s little to tell these guys apart. Samsung’s own Exynos 5 octa-core chip isn’t at the top of its class, but it’s more than capable of delivering a smooth, solid user experience and it can handle 3D games without trouble either, no doubt helped by the relatively modest 720p HD resolution.
Apple’s new A8 chip promises 50 per cent greater graphical performance over last year’s A7 and whilst we can’t tell by eye how much better it is, 3D titles like Asphalt 8 look great and feel responsive.
For one reason or another, be it the Full HD resolution on the 6 Plus or the Alpha’s optimisation troubles, both phones very occasionally may stutter or drop a few frames, but in neither case will this cause too much of a sting.
On the connectivity front despite Apple’s best efforts the Alpha has the iPhone beat. One of the few phones to support faster Cat 6 4G LTE-A and of course fully-fledged NFC make it somewhat of a powerhouse.
Whilst the 6 Plus will offer Cat 4 4G support in more countries across the globe (provided you can find it), NFC is also now part of the iPhone experience too, but it’s confined to its creators new wireless payment service – Apple Pay, which isn’t out in the UK until next year.
Both phones also boast tools for fitness tracking and fingerprint sensors for added security. The built in heart-rate sensor will be a cool, but seldom-used tool for Alpha owners, whilst the Touch ID sensor on the 6 Plus is a major convenience, not to mention easier to use and more reliable than Samsung’s swipey effort.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Apple iPhone 6 Plus: Camera
Flip both phones around and you’re treated to two great imaging experiences. Apple’s latest snapper still holds onto an 8-megapixel sensor size, but is the first of its kind to feature optical as well as digital image stabilisation. This makes for great stills in low light, smooth Full HD video recording and helps when capturing 240fps slow-motion or time-lapse footage as a result of iOS 8.1’s new camera modes.
The Alpha meanwhile forgoes the funky time-lapse feature and instead can film in slow-mo or fast motion for super-smooth playback. It’s a more hands-on camera experience and there are multiple modes and options to tweak and toy with.
Although it’s not as user friendly as the Plus’s camera experience, some might appreciate the fact that there are more pixels to play with thanks to the larger 12-megapixel sensor and its ability to film in 4K.
Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Apple iPhone 6 Plus: Verdict
The decision ultimately falls to the size of the phone-shaped hole in your life. We’d swing towards the iPhone 6 Plus for its premium design work, gorgeous display, great functionally and clean user experience. That said even the cheapest model is still 60 quid more than the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and that only affords you half the internal storage (16GB rather than 32GB).
If you’re swaying towards the Alpha, take comfort in the fact that it’s one of the most well-built Samsung handsets to date, boasts a robust camera experience and is absolutely brimming with features and connectivity options. Not to mention, it’s more affordable.