A question that I’m asked quite often is, which handset is best for network, especially for people who live in areas with spotty coverage (at best). For several years, this has been relatively easy to answer as Samsung’s flagships usually had better coverage and signal strength than its rivals but as we covered earlier this year, the change in build on the Galaxy S6 resulted in Samsung slipping down the list.

With handsets reaching a plateau where specs are mostly similar across devices, a purchase decision can often be dependent on things like the network performance, so which of these four flagships has the most reliable network connection?

With six months between the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy Note 5, has Samsung improved the antennae? Is the LG G4 top of the pile or does Motorola’s Moto X Style (Pure Edition) or Sony’s new Xperia Z5 take the crown? What about the iPhone 6S, can Apple’s latest smartphone profess to be the better than the rest? Let’s find out.

N.B. All handsets were tested using the same network – EE, which supports speeds of up to 300Mbps in the London area – and at the exact same time. The results below are based on a sample of 52 tests in 11 different areas spanning a distance of 170 miles.

Network Switch Rate

samsung galaxy s6 vs iphone 6s aa (11 of 20)

One problem with most current LTE networks is that VoLTE (Voice Over LTE) isn’t supported in large parts of the network, meaning handsets need to switch down to a 3G connection when attempting to make a call while connected to an LTE connection. Often, the time taken to locate and switch to a 3G network can result in a dropped call; both, when making or receiving it.

The purpose of this section was to test the handset’s ability to switch from LTE to 2G/3G and vice versa, while also determining which handset remained connected to the fastest network for longest. During our testing, we found the following:

 Xperia Z5LG G4Galaxy Note 5iPhone 6SMoto X Style
Average Time taken to switch to fastest network
(lower is better)
69 seconds56 seconds59 seconds70 seconds61 seconds
Time connected to fastest network
(higher is better)
66 seconds68 seconds74 seconds108 seconds76 seconds

The network switch rate on the Galaxy Note 5 has certainly improved since the Galaxy S6 Edge in our last test, but the LG G4 still shines through. It’s quite interesting that the iPhone – which has been pretty bad in past tests I’ve conducted – has improved a large amount in the largest generation, while the Moto X Style proves to be much better than Sony and Apple’s finest.

Antenna Strength

This section tests how strong the antennae performance on each smartphone actually is. To test the antenna strength, we used the figures reported in the Settings > About Phone > Status screen. A signal rating of -60 dBm is recognised as near perfect while anything above -110 dBm is considered call-dropping quality.

Our testing shows that:

 Xperia Z5LG G4Galaxy Note 5iPhone 6SMoto X Style
Average antenna strength-96.50 dBm-76.83 dBm-83.17 dBm-98.33 dBm-87.00 dBm
Ratio of average connection
(LTE:3G - rounded off)
Occurrences of zero signal (out of 52 tests)24315

This test produced very interesting results but for different reasons: the LG G4 tops the antenna strength test but tends to switch to the lower 3G speed more frequently, while the iPhone 6S has a weak antennae, but is capable of holding the faster LTE connection for longer and accesses the LTE coverage more frequently than the others in the test. A very interesting set of results, which show that a stronger antenna isn’t a precursor to better coverage and stability.

LTE Speed Tests

Now to [what is probably] the most important aspect to smartphone users; LTE data speeds. This was a simple test to conduct; each handset was using the latest version of Ookla’s SpeedTest application and was connected to 4G.

Our testing found:

 Xperia Z5LG G4Galaxy Note 5iPhone 6SMoto X Style
Average speed test: download56.31 Mbps56.52 Mbps53.14 Mbps52.18 Mbps55.04 Mbps
Average speed test: upload25.82 Mbps25.15 Mbps26.88 Mbps25.87 Mbps33.66 Mbps
Fastest LTE speed recorded:83.94 Mbps83.31 Mbps79.58 Mbps77.23 Mbps71.49 Mbps

The results are certainly interesting and again, it seems that Samsung has slightly improved the LTE throughput in the Galaxy Note 5 (compared with the S6 Edge in our previous test). Past Sony handsets haven’t traditionally been the fastest on data throughput but quite surprisingly, the Xperia Z5 ranks highest for its overall data speeds (based on an average of the ranking of the three data speed tests).

LG’s G4 is narrowly pushed into second with the Galaxy Note 5 and Moto X Style coming joint in third and the iPhone 6S rounding off the data section in fifth place.


Deciding which smartphone is the best is certainly difficult as each excels in different areas but to make this as fair as possible, for each of the 8 individual tests, we’ve ranked each smartphone in order so first place gets 5 points, second gets 4 and so on. Totaling all the scores gives us this result:

DeviceTotal PointsRankingAverage Points per test
Sony Xperia Z5225th2.75
LG G4252nd3.13
Galaxy Note 5261st3.25
iPhone 6S234th2.88
Moto X Style243rd3.00

The rankings are actually quite interesting as, although it doesn’t come first or fifth in any of the tests conducted, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 wins for overall consistency, yet the Galaxy S6 Edge came last in our previous comparison. Next up, is the LG G4 which tops a few tests but is relatively inconsistent (and also came second in the last test), while in third is the Moto X Style, which is a consistent performer but doesn’t top a single test.

Fourth brings us to the iPhone, which does well to hold a connection but doesn’t have the strongest antennae while rounding off the test in fifth is the Sony Xperia Z5, which is either in the top two or the bottom two in each of the tests. The biggest thing to take away from this test is clearly that high data speeds is not directly linked to antennae strength but rather, a combination of all-round network performance.

What do you think? How important is LTE performance and network resilience to you? Let us know your views in the comments guys!

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