iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 comparison review
So: Mr Samsung. You think you have a challenger to our beautiful iPhone do you? Well, let's take a look inside and see what this baby can do.
Recently at MWC we got the chance to spend some quality time getting to know the Samsung Galaxy S6. Let me say right off that bat that here at Macworld we are dedicated iPhone fans, and therefore designed to find fault with the best Androids. But we are not blind to the charms of the Samsung Galaxy range. Samsung is the only company whose products attract anything like the fandom of the Apple iPhones, and there is good reason for that.
So we were especially keen to put the Galaxy S6 up against our favourite ever iPhone, the iPhone 6. As you will see from our iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 comparison there is a lot to like about the Samsung. But we will be sticking with our iPhone. You may disagree: let us know in the comments below. But keep it above the waist, will you? There is no value in accusing us of being Apple fans. This is Macworld UK - of course we like Apple. (For more of this fun, see our piece: iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note Edge comparison.)
iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 comparison review: UK price and availability
The iPhone 6 now starts at £539 for the 16GB model. You will likely need more space than that (the actual usable space is closer to 12GB which will quickly fill with apps, photos, videos and music), and the 64GB will set you back £619, but you'll thank yourself for spending the extra for that superior stoarge capacity. £699 gets you a 128GB iPhone 6. And, of course, you can get the latest iPhone pretty much everywhere you can buy smartphones.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 will be available from 10 April in 20 countries, with the phone launching in more countries thereafter. Vodafone has already confirmed it will be stocking the S6, and we expect all other major UK operators to do the same.
Samsung has not yet unveiled the UK pricing for the Samsung Galaxy S6, but MobileFun is now accepting pre-orders at £579 for the 32GB version. That's pretty much where we expect it to be - a premium price, but cheaper than is the iPhone. (See also: iPhone 6 Plus vs Galaxy Note 4 comparison review.)
iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 comparison review: Design & build
Samsung has paid Apple the ultimate complement, and made the Galaxy S6 look like the iPhone 6. Indeed, at first glance you'd be forgiven for mistaking the Samsung Galaxy S6 for the iPhone 6. Its rounded edges with brushed metal look almost identical to Apple's flagship.
Flip the S6 over and you'll spot a major difference: Samsung has gone for a mirrored finish rather than the brushed finish you'll get with the iPhone 6. Samsung describes the effect as a "unique visual texture that reflects natural light". We're not keen on it – it's blinding, and not in a good way.
Great for checking your makeup, this mirrored finish picks up fingerprints within minutes. There are four colours to choose from, though, with the white and black models much less prone to fingerprints and eye-aching mirror effects than the blue and gold models.
The S6's metallic back is made with Gorilla Glass 4, just like the display. Gorilla Glass 4 is designed to be super-durable, but if something should happen to the back of your S6 you won't find it as easy to fix as with the previous models, because Samsung has made the decision to go for a unibody design and therefore no removable back. That, of course, also means that there is no access to the battery.
It does feel light and comfortable to hold and not too big, though, weighing 138g and measuring 6.8mm thick (that's .1mm thinner than the iPhone 6 but 9g heavier, in case you're wondering).
A big downfall to the S6, and incidentally another way that it's similar to the iPhone 6, is that the S6 doesn't appear to be waterproof. Samsung only introduced the waterproof design with the Galaxy S5, so the decision to sacrifice that extra durability that many people loved about the previous model is a surprising one.
Look: we like the way the iPhone 6 looks. But it has to be said that the Galaxy S6 is a big improvement on previous Samsungs. Just ditch the mirror, guys, this isn't the 80s. (Related articles you might like: iPhone 6 review | iPhone 6 release date | iPhone 6 Plus release date | iPhone reviews.)
iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 comparison review: Display
The Samsung Galaxy S6's display is stunning, at 5.1in and 577ppi, it's one of the best screens we've seen so far on a smartphone. It's has a Quad HD 2560 x 1440 resolution. It's arguably a bit unnecessary on a screen of this size, but there's no denying that it looks amazing.
As mentioned previously it's made with Gorilla Glass 4, so should prove to be tough and durable, and is Super AMOLED as can be expected from a Samsung flagship.
The iPhone 6's 4.7in display is nothing special on paper. It is an LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen. You get, as you would expect, shatter proof-glass with an oleophobic coating. Into this display is packed 750 x 1334 pixels, making for a pixel density of 326 ppi. So the Galaxy S6 is measurably sharper.
The pixels aren't packed any tighter on the iPhone 6 than on the iPhone 5, there are just more of them because the screen is 110 pixels wider and 198 pixels taller. In real terms this means that if you can tell the difference between the Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6 display - and we can - you will notice the change here.
This is very much an iPhone screen: sharp and colourful, with realistic colour reproduction and good viewing angles. It doesn't have the brighter-than-bright colours of a Samsung OLED, or the staggering detail of a QuadHD display, but the high contrast and realistic colours mean you're not going to be disappointed.
Honestly, we are happy with the iPhone 6 display. But there is no getting away from the fact that the Samsung's is an amazing screen.
iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 comparison review: Hardware & performance
Inside the Galaxy S6 you'll find an Octacore Exynos processor, paired with 3GB RAM. During our time with the Galaxy S6 we found it brilliantly fast, with apps launching pretty must instantaneously every time. We're looking forward to getting the S6 into our labs for some full benchmark testing, as we're expecting some impressive results.
Not for Apple Samsung's boasting about octacore processors and multiple megs of RAM. Apple likes to boast about odd specs such as 64-bit and 'Retina' displays, but it tends to avoid getting into hardware arms races. The iPhone 6 is no exception.
It comes with a dual-core Cyclone (ARM v8-based) CPU, known as an Apple A8. This chip runs at 1.4 GHz, has PowerVR GX6650 hexa-core graphics, and is paired with 1GB RAM. On the face of it this is not an amazing specification, but in our tests as ever the iPhone 6 was a top performer. Everything feels zippy and responsive. Even intensive gaming. But we shouldn't be surprised: it was the same with the iPhone 5s.
The iPhone 6 also sports a new version of its motion coprocessor, the M8. This chip collects sensor data as you use your iPhone, even if the A8 processor is resting. Using the new iOS 8 Health app you can wonder at graphs showing your daily steps, but you need to either carry your phone on your person at all times or use a separate activity tracker and a variety of other apps to get a complete picture.
These are both superfast handsets that will be able to handle everything from zippy general performance to intensive gaming. When we have the Galaxy S6 benchmarks we expect they will be faster than are the iPhone's. If that is your thing, knock yourself out. But in real terms there is little to see here. Read: iPhone 6 Plus rivals
iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 comparison review: Storage
In terms of storage, you might be surprised to find that there's no microSD card slot in the Samsung Galaxy S6. The company has decided to take another leaf from Apple's book, but a leaf that is likely to disappoint many of its fans. The ability to add an SD card may damage performance, as Apple seems to think. But alongside the replaceable battery it was a key differentiator from Apple's more locked down experience.
Instead, you'll need to decide on the storage space you'll need when you buy the S6. Samsung seems to have been smarter with its starting space than Apple, opting for 32GB instead of the small 16GB of the iPhone 6's starting model, and then also offering 64GB and 128GB models.
We can't see the point of the 16GB iPhone, but otherwise these are broadly the same specs. No real competition here, now that Samsung has ditched the expansion slot.
iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 comparison review: Cameras
We were really impressed with the Galaxy S6's camera during our testing. Samsung has given the S6 an excellent 16Mp snapper on the rear paired with an LED flash, and a 5Mp camera on the front for some pretty good selfies, both with an f/1.9 aperture.
That rear-facing camera has optical image stabilisation and some good auto-focusing features, including tracking and selective focus. There's also auto real-time HDR (this applies to the front-facing camera, too), as well as low light video capabilities, slow motion, fast motion, IR Detect White Balance and more.
Handily, a simple double click of the home button on the S6 will launch the camera from any screen.
Apple has clearly eschewed the megapixels arms race in speccing up the cameras for the iPhone 6. The main, rear-mounted camera is an 8Mp snapper that captures 3264 x 2448 pixel images. It has a 1/3in sensor, and offers face-detection, autofocus, and a dual-LED flash. Video is captured at 1080p and 720p, at 60fps and an amazing 240fps slo-mo. (It's worth pointing out that if you keep your iPhone in a case, there's no need to worry about the fact the camera sticks out slightly as it's usually slimmer than a case. Those who prefer their iPhones naked might be annoyed that it wobbles on a flat surface.)
That 8Mp sensor doesn't sound like much, and Apple is right when it says we shouldn't worry. Fact is, the iPhone 6 takes excellent photos. While the iPhone 6 lacks the optical stabilisation of the 6 Plus, it's still capable of sharp and detailed images with great exposure and accurate colours. If it had an optical zoom, it could almost replace a dedicated camera. What's important is that you'll have a great camera on you all the time if you buy an iPhone 6.
These are two great camera phones.
iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 comparison review: Software
The classic question: Android vs iOS. Let's get this out there - Android is actually really good these days.
The Galaxy S6 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop, as can be expected. It's overlaid with Samsung's TouchWiz UI. There's the S Health 4.0 app, which will track your activity thanks to the various sensors including a barometer and is also used in conjunction with the heart rate scanner on the rear of the device.
One interesting thing is that the S6 comes with Microsoft Apps pre-installed, and you'll get OneDrive with 115GB of space for two years, as well as Microsoft's OneNote app. Samsung KNOX is present with security features including Find My Mobile.
In all the Samsung Galaxy S6 software experience is good. As with all Android you get a little feature bloat, especially where Samsung meets Google. And you get the opportunity to tweak things and add your own launcher, without rooting the phone. There is a little more customisation with Android, and the Google Play app store contains pretty much everything you could want.
And yet we still prefer Apple's more locked down and curated iOS. In principle it is more secure, in practice there is none of the occasional lag caused by less than perfect code. And we know that we will get the next upgrade when it comes. With Android you can choose from where you buy apps and media, but with Apple the experience is marginally smoother. And that is the choice - we choose Apple, you may go Android.
Samsung's new Samsung Pay is made available thanks to the NFC chip, too, though it isn't set to launch in the US until the second half of 2015 so won't arrive in the UK for a long time. See also: Apple Pay. Let's move on.
iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 comparison review: Battery life
Samsung representatives claim that just 10 minutes of charging time will give you four hours of battery life, and there's optional wireless charging available too.
The battery itself is 2,550mAh. Samsung provides an Ultra Power Saving Mode for prolonging that battery life further. We'll be bringing you full battery tests soon.
The iPhone 6 has a non-removable Li-Ion battery, and Apple makes some fairly bold claims in its behalf. We won't repeat those, as it's more useful to say that we usually manage two days' use before needing a recharge. And that's not exactly light use: we make copious use of email via 4G on our commute, and it gets plenty of other use for web browsing and the odd game. Obviously your mileage will vary: if you're an intensive gamer, you'll need to recharge every day. If you're the cautious type that doesn't like to leave the house with less than 50 percent remaining, you might find yourself recharging every night.
It would be unfair to compare these two for battery life at this stage. Honestly we expect them to be broadly the same. See also: Just another opinion about Apple's new iPhones.
iPhone comparison reviews
If you've enjoyed this article, perhaps you'd be interested in more iPhone buying advice? We've written a series of comparison reviews, which set various combinations of iPhone against one another, head to head:
- iPhone 6s vs iPhone 5s
- iPhone 6s Plus vs iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s vs iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6
- iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus
These may be useful if you're trying to device between two specific iPhone models.
iPhone buying guide, autumn/winter 2015
And for a broader look at Apple's current iPhone range, take a look at our iPhone buying guide video for autumn/winter 2015:
Or, if you'd prefer to see our buying advice in written rather than video form, head over to our iPhone buying guide article.
But now, on to the verdict!
The Samsung Galaxy S6 is quite a handset. It has a fabulous screen, fantastic cameras and the power and speed that at least matches the iPhone 6. It does, however, have its flaws, including that super-shiny design. The iPhone 6-like edges are also likely to draw some unwanted negative attention from Apple fans. Ultimately it is a question of price, and whether you prefer Android or iOS. For the reasons outlined in the software section we prefer iOS, but we are very impressed with this Android.