The intense rivalry between Samsung and Apple in the smartphone world is well documented, and comparisons are bound to be made between their latest offerings. With the sixth iterations of their respective flagships, even if only in the nomenclature when it comes to the Apple smartphones, the competition is as heated as ever.
Following the announcement at MWC 2015, we managed a quick look at the Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6. But after picking up the device and giving the Galaxy S6 the full review treatment, we now have the opportunity dive into a more detailed comparison between the Samsung flagship and both of Apple’s latest smartphones. Here’s an in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6 and 6 Plus!
Metal is the order of the day for both Samsung and Apple, with Samsung finally taking their design language and build quality in a new direction. The metallic inclinations are more so in the case of the Apple devices though, with their full metal unibody design, while the Galaxy S6 features a metal frame that holds together two glass panels up front and at the back.
Of course, the Galaxy S6 still retains a lot of what has defined Samsung devices, especially by keeping the classic button layout, with its fingerprint reading tactile home button flanked by capacitive Recent Apps and back keys up front, along with the power button and volume rocker being placed on the right and left respectively. What is being hotly debated about this latest Galaxy S is the lack of a removable backing, which results in no access to the battery, along with the removal of expandable storage, both previously common features.
On the back there is still a heart rate monitor, and the camera sticks out quite a bit, but there is little to really clutter the form factor of this phone. Handling is as good as ever with a 5.1 inch screen, and the device has a lightness and thinness to it that keeps it really nimble for one handed usage. Despite the fact that the headphone jack, microUSB port and speaker grill have all been moved to the bottom, this still looks and feels very much a Samsung device, through and through.
When it comes to its competitor, the iPhone 6 also marked a change in Apple’s design language. A larger 4.7-inch display finally makes its way to the main model, with the iPhone 6 Plus boasting an even larger 5.5-inch screen for those who really want that extra screen realestate. Focusing mainly on the smaller model, the now Apple-esque metal construction keeps the phone looking and feeling really nice, while also retaining its own signature button layout of the home button up front and the volume rockers and silence toggles on the left side. The power button has been brought to the right side this time around though, to accommodate the larger size.
With the iPhone 6 just 0.1 mm thicker than the Galaxy S6, both of these phones are very similar in the handling experience they offer, with the iPhone getting a slight bump in ergonomics because of its comparatively smaller screen size. For any Apple veteran, it’s hard not to appreciate what the company did with their refined and now larger offerings in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
On the other hand, Samsung veterans will still be split due to the compromises that the company had to make with this new design. Users who hated the plastic construction of Galaxy devices will applaud this change to metal and glass. That said, anyone that wants to have full capabilities like replaceable batteries and expandable storage will likely find Samsung’s decisions with the GS6 to be a step in the wrong direction. Nonetheless, metal is the way to go for both of these devices, and it’s a personal choice as to which company rocks it better, but we like both, and applaud Samsung for finally making a substantial change in design.
As already mentioned, the iPhone got a bump up to 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches in the 6 Plus, basically flanking the middle size of 5.1-inches of the Samsung Galaxy S6.
Adhering to their original company philosophy of pixel density, Apple keeps the resolutions of both fairly low compared to many new Android counterparts, keeping the iPhone 6 at a 1334 x 750 resolution with a pixel density of 326 ppi, though the 6 Plus does get a 1080p display with a pixel density of 401 ppi. As Android manufacturers continue to push the boundaries of specifications, Quad HD is the new flavor, with the 2560 x 1440 resolution delivering an amazing 577 ppi.
If you are looking for a great display experience, you’d be hard pressed to find flaws in many of these devices, unless you’re really spec hungry. The Galaxy S6 manages to have a high powered display without sacrificing how well it performs, and with such a high pixel density, everything from media to text looks gorgeous under the great contrast levels of a Super AMOLED display. The Apple phones don’t suffer from any sharpness issues due to their resolutions, though their IPS LCD constructions may not be as pleasing to the eyes of Super AMOLED fans.
Users who want to have a very good media experience with the iPhones would likely opt for the larger 6 Plus for its real estate, while the Galaxy S6 toes the lines of comfort and size with its 5.1-inch panel. Super AMOLED continues to really prove itself as a great display experience, and it is a feather in the cap of Samsung, but Apple’s retina displays definitely hold their ground as a display tech with a rich pedigree.
It may sound like an excuse nowadays, but these two ecosystems bring with very different processing packages and associated performance experiences, no matter how you look at it. Though this has always been the general line for comparing Android and iOS, this new crop of flagship devices out of the Android camp seem to be getting the speed upgrade that some believe it has been in need of.
With the Galaxy S6, Samsung opted for a different processing package from the otherwise expected latest Snapdragon from Qualcomm, instead favoring their in-house 2 GHz octa-core Exynos 7420 processor as a replacement, backed by the Mali-T760 GPU and 3GB of RAM. Android 5.0 Lollipop can take quite a bit of the credit here as well, and the Touchwiz UI has been furthered optimized by Samsung. The end result is one of the most fluid experiences that the company has ever put out. Stutters are nearly non-existent, and movements through the interface, and even among different apps, in either the recent apps screen or through the multi-window feature, are as smooth as ever.
In the latest iterations of their smartphone, the 1.4 GHz dual-core Apple A8 with 1 GB of RAM is able to sufficiently power Apple’s operating system with few problems. This disparity in processing packages is the main reason why it’s clear Android and iOS are completely different beasts.
As an operating system catered to just one platform of devices, it makes sense that Apple would optimize iOS fully, and the result is an experience that has thus far stood the test of time for Apple veterans. But Android seems to be in a bit of a renaissance, led by the different OEMs who we feel are starting to step up their game in the performance department, and Samsung deserves quite a bit of credit for closing the gap between its version of Android and iOS.
Hardware takes on a similar story for these phones, especially considering Samsung’s new compromises. Both phones come without expandable storage, so paying for 32, 64, or 128 GB options are up to the user.
Both devices sport fingerprint readers integrated into their respective home button, and this time around Samsung made it a press type rather than swipe, which is definitely the better implementation, and something that Apple has used for a couple generations now. As such, turning on either phone is a simple matter of hitting the home button and leaving the finger there to be read.
Speakers on both of these devices are on the bottom now, which was the headline design similarity between these two, but the truth remains that Samsung finally brought the speaker away from the back and put it in a better space. In our testing, the Galaxy S6 speaker sounded a bit louder, though in either case, we’d prefer to have headphones in much noisier environments.
Finally, when it comes to the battery, Samsung might have lost its edge a little bit by encasing the battery, but its longevity is about where Android veterans can expect it to be. A day and a half could be had if power saving modes are taken advantage of, but fast charging is probably the tool most users will benefit from with this 2,550 mAh unit. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus haven’t gotten too many high notes on battery, and that’s something Apple users are used to in their respective camp as well. Respectable numbers of around 12 hours of battery life with moderate daily usage are observed in both of these phones.
The lack of certain features for both of these phones have displeased plenty of users in either camp, and perhaps in this section, it’s a bit clearer how neck and neck these phones are slowly becoming in their current iterations.
When it comes to the camera, features that are found in the Samsung Galaxy S6 are split in the two versions of the iPhone, mainly with regards to OIS, that is only available with the iPhone 6 Plus. To even out the playing field a little bit, all the sample pictures are all from from the 6 Plus. After all, if you want OIS between the Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6, the Samsung smartphone is the obvious choice.
That said, while OIS will help with stabilization in both photos and videos, both iPhone models deliver quality photo and video taking experiences. The camera application is pretty minimalistic though, with swipes controlling the mode, with there being few extra settings aside from filters and automatic HDR. Slow motion and time-lapse are fun additions to the camera experience, and I have seen some really nice examples from both effects.
The Samsung Galaxy S6, on the other hand, has plenty of options to enhance photos, though the main story is the inclusion of f/1.9 apertures and auto-HDR that is available with both cameras. Indeed, selfies from both phones are pretty good, and this is evidenced in the Apple camp by just how many iPhone self portraits are all over social media. The Galaxy S6 brings a lot of customization to pictures, including the option to change picture and video sizes, and a Pro mode even brings the ability to manually focus the shot, along with all other options typical of a manual mode. Panorama and slow motion video are available with the Galaxy S6 as well.
Samsung Galaxy S6 camera samples
Picture quality might be as neck and neck as they have ever been, with Samsung bringing their A-game to contend with the historically well regarded Apple picture quality. Images captures with either camera have great color reproduction, and details in all but the dimmest of situations remain well captured. Sharpness is at its best in these newest versions of their respective lines, and it seems Samsung has opted to keep noise reduction to a minimum, so pictures are more accurately depicted, rather than smudged out by bad post processing.
iPhone 6 Plus camera samples
Low light performance favors the Samsung Galaxy S6, as it manages to get good detail without too much noise in plenty of darker situations, though some fiddling with the exposure compensation will be needed to keep things from going uneven. As Samsung further closes the gap in camera quality since the great performer of the Galaxy Note 4, it seems the only real problem the iPhone has here is a smaller sensor at 8 MP, as the Galaxy S6 demonstrates that its larger 16 megapixels sensor captures a bit more detail for its better post processing to work on.
You won’t have a bad time with either of these cameras when it comes to quality. For shooting options, both provide some compelling versions of their own creative modes, but if what you want is more freedom in catering your shot, the Galaxy S6 is definitely the better choice.
In software, we get some key enhancements in both versions of these respective interfaces, with one updating its look a bit, and the other finally getting the speed boost we’ve been waiting for.
Starting with the iPhones, the Apple OS got a pretty significant upgrade in iOS 7, continuing to bring its control center for easy access to settings, a notification dropdown for stocks, scheduling, and general happenings, and a more holo-like look all around that has helped keep the long standing operating system from looking too long in the tooth. Granted, there have been updates to iOS 8 recently, but these updates focus mainly on the Apple Watch and a new suite of health applications that we have yet to really put through its paces. All in all, iOS veterans remain satisfied with their flavor of smartphone operating system, even with its lack of an app drawer, a mainstay of Android.
On the back of the newest version of Android, Touchwiz has finally received the update that we’ve been waiting for. Coupled with the in-house processing package in the Exynos 7420, this version of the Samsung interface is both smoother and slimmer. Many of the different features that cluttered the operating system in the past are no longer here, like the air gestures. Some of the special features like the MultiWindow and the S Window do remain, albeit without the annoying tutorials all over the place that used to push these capabilities in the user’s face.
Samsung’s UI does get some aesthetic changes as well, including a few new transitions and effects that are somewhat akin to the ones found originally in iOS, but they also suit this version of Touchwiz very well. S Health itself has been updated, though how it stacks up against the medical suite in iOS remains to be seen. Ultimately, the Galaxy S6 is a phone that takes the Lollipop enhancements and puts its own flavor on it. With the Galaxy S6 and the latest Touchwiz you finally get a proper, reliable experience from Samsung’s UI, which of course, can be bolstered by extra features if you want them, by digging a little deeper.
Ultimately you will already know which of these operating system suits you. Apps and capabilities between them are largely the same, unless you’re looking to multitask the Samsung way, but in the end the main story here is how Samsung has really done something great with their UI
|iPhone 6/Plus||Samsung Galaxy S6|
|Display||4.7-inch IPS LCD|
1334 x 750 resolution, 326 ppi
5.5-inch IPS LCD
1920 x 1080, 401 ppi - iPhone 6 Plus
|5.1-inch Super AMOLED
2560 x 1440 resolution, 577 ppi
|Processor||1.4 GHz dual-core Apple A8||Exynos 7420|
|RAM||1 GB||3 GB|
|Storage||32/64/128 GB||32/64/128 GB|
|Camera||8 MP rear camera|
1.2 MP front-facing camera
with OIS for iPhone 6 Plus
|16 MP rear camera with OIS
5 MP front-facing camera with 90 degree wide angle lens
Bluetooth 4.0, NFC (Apple Pay only), GPS+GLONASS
Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS+GLONASS
|Networks||3G/4G LTE||LTE cat 6 300/50|
2,915 mAh - iPhone 6 Plus
WPC and PMA-compatible wireless charging
|Software||iOS 8||Android 5.0 Lollipop|
|Dimensions||138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm|
158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1 mm
172 grams - iPhone 6 Plus
|143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
|Colors||Space gray, silver, gold||Black, white, gold, blue|
And so, there you have it – the Samsung Galaxy S6 vs the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus! Both of these phones bring their bang for huge buck, as flagships like these do run a very pretty penny. You’ll be paying a lot for either of these phones off contract, and even more so if you opt for the larger storage options.
Some users will lament the changes Samsung made because a couple key features, the replaceable battery and expandable storage, are what got cut to trim down the overall experience of the Galaxy S6 into one that we’re actually happy to recommend to users new and old. These changes aren’t exactly seen as compromises in the eyes of Apple users though, who have had to contend with embedded batteries and fixed storage for years now. What has seemed to work for iPhone users will have to work for Galaxy users going forward, and that’s what will continue Samsung’s polarizing nature.
The best way of looking at these two phones is how the race between them has gotten much closer, perhaps neck and neck. So, if you want either a smaller or bigger screen with the proven power of iOS, the iPhone is for you. For a more powerful screen and more robust camera experience powered by a renaissance in design and software, Samsung has done some great things to start off the flagship season of 2015. And we’re certainly very excited to see where these two flagship lines go next.