Droves descended upon Apple’s Cupertino campus today for our annual look at the manufacturer’s new iPhone refresh. Different this year, though, was the announcement of a second, larger smartphone, the iPhone 6 Plus. With a display measuring 5.5 inches, it’s clear that Apple’s tune is changing when it comes to ignoring the phablet category, and many see this new iPhone as a direct response to Samsung’s successful Galaxy Note line.
With the Galaxy Note 4 announced just last week, we thought a comparison between the two new devices was apt. Here’s how they stack up.
Display & Hardware
With the increase in size from the 4-inch display that graced the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s to the comparably massive 5.5-inch display of the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple has finally passed into the realm of true 1080p HD. Still, at 1920×1080 pixels, the new iPhone falls short of the Galaxy Note 4’s 2560×1440 resolution. The larger 5.7-inch display of the Note 4 results in a pixel density of 551ppi, greater than the 401ppi of the iPhone 6 Plus, a spec particularly important to Apple and their Retina display (in this case Retina HD) marketing.
In other areas, the iPhone 6 Plus pales in comparison to the Note 4. Apple aficionados gets Apple’s latest A8 processing platform. Apple was typically tight-lipped about the details, but early impressions are that the chip retains a dual-core CPU and sees modest increases in processing power over the previous generation of devices (somewhere in the range of 1.4GHz). It’s 25% faster than last year’s model and offers 50 times the performance of the original iPhone. But that’s comparing Apples to Apples, and we’re comparing Apples to…Samsungs.
The Note 4? Quad-core Snapdragon 805 processing (and in some cases octa-core Exynos). Apple rarely reveals the amount of RAM in their phones, but it wouldn’t be crazy to think they chose to stick with 1GB, the same as the previous generation. Compare that to the Note 4’s 3GB of RAM. It’s a spec Apple has been seemingly reluctant to upgrade in recent years.
Apple made a big deal about the addition of NFC to this year’s iPhone line, a technology that has been common in Android phones for several years at this point. It’s a foregone conclusion that the Note 4 benefits from an NFC chip. Apple, however, is heavily pushing a new mobile payments system associated with the tech, a feature that has taken a backseat on recent Android releases (though most, including the Note 4, are fully capable).
Software: Health & mobile payments
The new iPhone ships with iOS 8. The Galaxy Note 4 comes with Android 4.4 plus Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. Both Android and iOS have their benefits and shortcomings, so we won’t spend too much time expounding on the common features of the two. Suffice it to say, on a surface level the choice between operating systems ultimately comes down to preference.
Apple, however, did unveil a few intriguing wrinkles to their popular mobile platform with its latest release. Namely, the new iPhone and iOS 8 come with an increased focus on health tracking and mobile payments (via the aforementioned NFC chip). The Note 4 features the S Health app to meet the demands of health-conscious consumers, but its feature set admittedly looks a bit thin compared to what Apple is offering (including partnerships with health care providers).
Apple’s mobile payments platform Apple Pay is much like the Android counterparts we have seen before. It’s a standard tap-to-pay solution, but Apple’s decision to finally back a mobile wallet method is what many believe will rocket the concept into the mainstream. Its connection to the cards stored in your iTunes account brings the service to an already huge base of potential users.
Both devices feature security options that include a fingerprint scanner. While the scanner introduced with the iPhone 5s featured limited functionality, thanks to iOS 8 Apple is opening up its services to third-party developers, creating some intriguing potential new uses (including as part of the mobile payments system). Samsung’s scanner is improved in the Note 4 as well, and includes tie-ins to PayPal for another take on secure mobile payments.
iOS, in general, has become a bit more open in its latest release. Some would say a bit more Android-like, even. This includes Apple finally allowing users to install third-party software keyboards (something that has been core to Android for years) as well as better integration for sharing data with third-party apps and services.
For the previous two generations of the iPhone, Apple has stood pat at 8MP for their camera, choosing instead to focus on improving other qualities of the sensor. The iPone 6 Plus again does the same, sticking with an 8MP rating for its new-and-improved image sensor. The sensor boasts faster focusing, better tone mapping, and improved noise reduction capable of producing images like the one above.
On the other hand, Samsung has steadily been upping the megapixel count with each new device announced. While we can argue in the comments about the actual importance of that megapixel number versus other aspects of the smartphone camera, on paper the Note 4’s 16MP camera is, at least initially, more impressive than the iPhone’s stagnant 8MP sensor.
Without a chance to test both in person, it’s hard to say how they will stack up exactly. Samsung has impressed with the image quality of its recent devices, but Apple has long been lauded as the king of mobile photography, and the iPhone is their prince. We have reason to believe the iPhone 6 Plus will carry on this tradition, but the competition should be close.
Availability & Pricing
Apple’s new iPhone models go on sale via all major carriers in the US (Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T) as well as many more around the globe in just under two weeks on Friday, September 19th. As the larger, slightly more premium model, the iPhone 6 Plus will retail starting at $299 on-contract (compared to the 4.7-inch iPhone 6’s $199 on-contract pricing) for a 16GB model up to $499 on-contract for a whopping 128GB of storage.
As for the Note 4, exact release and pricing details have not been made available, but it is expected to launch globally later this fall for a similar compliment of carriers. All four of the US carriers are on board. The Note 4 could retail for $199 with its slightly more eccentric variant, the Galaxy Note Edge, priced at the $299 premium level.
So which wins head-to-head? Which has earned the right to claim your cold, hard cash? Sound off in the poll below.