A week before the Apple iPhone 6 Plus was introduced, as always, new product reveals beg to be compared in another great spec shootout.
This time, Apple’s iPhablet will square off with Samsung’s newest Galaxy Note 4 that was announced before IFA 2014 in Berlin. Has Apple made significant strides with the iPhone 6 against Samsung’s growing influence? Let’s get to it.
Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus comes with 5.5-inch liquid crystal display (or LCD) with Apple’s newly-named “Retina HD” screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Apple has also provided something of a stronger, durable glass in the iPhone 6 Plus (what Apple calls “ion-strengthened glass”), although the company doesn’t claim that the display utilizes Corning’s Gorilla Glass. We’re still curious about why it is that last year’s iPhone 5s bears Gorilla Glass 3 but this year’s display doesn’t bear Gorilla Glass 4 or something akin to it.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 features a 5.7-inch, Super AMOLED display that carries over from the Galaxy Note 3’s 5.7-inch display that features a Quad HD screen resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels.
In the category of the phablet, however, Samsung is King, so Samsung wins it here again with the 5.7-inch display and the new Quad HD resolution. Apple’s Retina HD resolution places it more on the level of Samsung’s Galaxy S5 than it does the Note 4.
While iPhone 6 Plus attempts to compete with Samsung’s Note line, it seems to be behind the times in terms of its screen resolution. We can see the need for Full HD screens with 5-inch displays, but anything that’s 5.5 inches across or more should have a bit brighter display. Apple has optimized the iPhone 6 Plus as it does always, but we think that the battery will take a hit because of the bright screen resolution. More on that below.
The iPhone 6 Plus features a 1Ghz, dual-core, 64-bit A8 processor that’s made for excellent graphics and fast gaming operations, and Apple has maintained its 1Gz dual-core configuration that seems outdated, to say the least, when you consider the inclusion of a second-generation 64-bit processor chip.
Some have said that Apple doesn’t need to play the “spec game,” as many claim Android manufacturers do, because it optimizes its hardware and software above all other manufacturers. We’re sure that Apple appreciates this confidence boost, but, similar to some opinions about Samsung’s Ultra Power Saving Mode, we still wonder: how is Apple optimizing its dual-core processor to make it faster than others? We’ve never been given details on this, but we think that Apple implicitly gives it away with the addition of its new “M8” motion coprocessor.
Have you ever wondered why Apple even needed a motion coprocessor in the iPhone 6 Plus (and 5s) in the first place? iPhones past have all worked well without the need of a motion coprocessor – and those iPhones (say, the 3GS, for example) still allowed you to play games, track your fitness activities, and so on apart from a motion coprocessor.
Apple said during the iPhone 6 Plus announcement that the motion coprocessor works to process and upload your fitness activity data to the server so that you can access it at any time. If this is true, however, the question should be raised: why do we even need a motion coprocessor at all? Isn’t the dual-core processor capable of handling these tasks?
If you’ll notice, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 doesn’t need a motion coprocessor – and it is built to handle S-Health activity tracking (calories, distance walked, fitness exercise times, etc.). The Note 4 utilizes a quad-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor that has been built to optimize gaming and graphics. While Apple’s dual-core processor comes clocked in at a speed of 1 Ghz, Samsung’s Note 4 processor is clocked at 2.7Ghz – nearly 3 times as fast as Apple’s. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 has four cores for its processor, while Apple’s has essentially three cores.
Did you notice the last statement? Apple’s iPhone 6 has three cores, although the company states that it has a dual-core processor (or two cores). The third core is the new motion coprocessor that’s been placed into the iPhone since the iPhone 5s.
In short, the dual-core processor, while good for basic tasks, is not built to handle multitasking capabilities. In truth, then, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 is better built to handle multitasking while sparing battery life. Apple’s two processors in the iPhone 6 Plus show the inadequacy of dual-core processors and their ability to handle multitasking. If this is part of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus optimization, we wish the company would at least explicitly admit that maybe Android’s done something right with its quad-core processor than to leave many an iPhone user thinking that dual-core processors can handle the same tasks as quad-cores and that “specs don’t matter.”
There’s no need to say it, but we will: the 2.7Ghz, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor defeats the 1Ghz, dual-core processor of Apple’s iPhone 6 – and the new A8 motion coprocessor is an implicit confession of the superiority of tri-core (three cores), quad-core (4 cores), and hexa-core (six core) processors.
Since we’ve already talked about the processor, it makes sense to dive into the battery next. The iPhone 6 Plus houses a 2,915mAh battery (or a little over 2,900mAh, nearly twice the size of the iPhone 5s battery). The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 houses a 3,220mAh battery that is only 20mAh above that of last year’s Note 3.
The winner here will come down to real performance and tests for many, but Apple was honest enough to come forward with what iPhone users can expect in the iPhone 6 Plus experience.
The 6 Plus can handle 14 hours of video playback, 12 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, LTE browsing, and 3G browsing. This comes out to 4 additional video playback hours, 2 additional Wi-Fi browsing hours, 2 additional LTE browsing hours, and 4 additional 3G browsing hours as compared to the iPhone 5s.
At best, you can expect an additional 2 hours (max) of battery life in most cases, which means that you’ll still be a “wall hugger” (to use Samsung’s popular pre-iPhone 6 commercial) with the new iPhone 6 models. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 has a battery size that’s nearly identical to last year’s model, and our real-time tests have shown that you can get at least 11 hours of battery life with heavy usage (lots of gaming, for instance), 25-35 hours with moderate usage, and as much as 2-2.5 days with light usage on the Galaxy Note 3. With a matching battery in the Galaxy Note 4, we don’t see why these results wouldn’t be replicated in the new Note.
Finally, the Galaxy Note 4 has something that the iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t: a Power Saving Mode and Ultra Power Saving Mode. We’ve experienced 6-7 days of battery life with the Ultra Power Saving Mode, and as much as 2-2.5 days with the regular, grayscale Power Saving Mode.
The difference between iPhone 6 Plus 2,915mAh battery and its 12-hour battery life versus that of the Note 4’s 3,220mAh battery and its 1.5-day to 2-day battery life can be attributed to the use of Samsung’s AMOLED display, which utilizes light from within the screen, as opposed to Apple’s iPhone 6 that must include an “ultra-thin backlight” behind the screen, as the company showed in the iPhone 6 anatomy on Tuesday.
The iPhone 6 bears an 8MP camera in both models, while the Galaxy Note 4 features a 16MP camera. The iPhone 6 Plus has optical image stabilization while, Galaxy Note 3 has digital image stabilization, but the company decided to provide optical image stabilization (OIS) with this year’s Galaxy Note 4.
As for camera performance, it remains to be seen. What we can say with certainty, however, is that a DxO Mark study comparing the Galaxy S5 from earlier this year with Apple’s iPhone 5s and other top-end smartphone models declared Samsung’s Galaxy S5 the winner by a few points over the iPhone 5s in terms of image and video quality. As for the Galaxy Note 4, time will tell. Since the Note 4 features a 16MP camera that now provides OIS, we have reason to believe that the race, although still neck-and-neck, will declare the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 the winner once more.
Some have said that an 8MP camera in the iPhone 6 Plus experience will do, but we just don’t understand how it is that anyone can say that an 8MP camera can provide the same image zoom quality as a 16MP camera – particularly when you consider that Samsung increased the digital zoom quality of the Note 4 from 4x in the Note 3 to 8x in the Note 4. Apple iPhone 6 Plus may have excellent lighting and photography, but the winner of the attention to detail category will still lie with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4.
The Galaxy Note 4 wins with its wider display (that has better battery efficiency than traditional LCD screens), a camera with better digital zoom and megapixel count, larger battery that provides more than double the battery time of the iPhone 6, and a processor that is built to handle multitasking better than the iPhone 6’s dual-core processor + additional processor for uploading motion data.
One major point that can be taken away from all of this is that, contrary to what many have said about the iPhone experience, specs do matter. From Apple’s wider displays, to a faster processor and motion coprocessor, to increased pixel sizes that “let in more light,” according to Apple, specs are important. The fact that we’ve just done this spec shootout gives the same testimony.
|Features||iPhone 6 Plus||Galaxy Note 4|
|Processor||A8 chip with 64-bit architecture, M8 motion coprocessor||2.7 GHz Quad-Core Processor 1.9 GHz Octa-Core (1.9GHz Quad + 1.3GHz Quad-Core) Processor|
|Main Memory||1GB of RAM||3GB RAM|
|Display||5.5-inch Retina HD with IPS technology (1920 x 1980 pixels at 401 ppi)||5.7 inch Quad HD Super AMOLED (2560 x 1440), 515 ppi|
|Storage||16GB, 64GB and 128 GB||32 GB, expandable up to 64GB|
|Camera||8MP iSight camera with Focus Pixels, True Tone flash and OIS, and 1.2MP front-facing sensor||16 MP rear with Smart OIS, 3.7 MP front facing camera with f1.9|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, 3G, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 GPS, NFC||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, 4G, LTE 6, USB 2.0|
|Dimensions||158.1 mm x 77.8 mm x 7.1 mm||153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5mm|
|Sensors||Touch ID, Barometer, Three-axis gyro, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor||Gesture, Accelerometer, Geo-magnetic, Gyroscope, RGB,IR-LED Proximity, Barometer, Hall Sensor, Finger Scanner, UV, Heart Rate Monitoring, SpO2|
|OS||iOS 8||Android 4.4.4|
|Colors||Silver, Gold, and Space Gray||Frost White, Charcoal Black, Bronze Gold, Blossom Pink|