Apple iPhone 6s Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5: the weigh in

The new Apple phablet is here, but how does it match up to Samsung’s fab five?

We’ve spent loads of time with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, but have only just been introduced to the iPhone 6s Plus during Apple’s mammoth reveal.

Before we let both these supersized superphones duke it out in a steel cage deathmatch, let’s see how they match up on paper.

An eye for detail

Apple must really believe that the resolution on their Retina HD display is quite enough, because the iPhone 6s Plus sticks to it’s predecessor’s 5.5in Full HD 401ppi screen. It does, however, come with the fancy new 3D Touch, which gives the screen pressure-sensitive functions, just like you find on the Apple Watch and new MacBook Pro’s Force Touch.

They’ve added functionality though, allowing the phone to differentiate between a light press and a more forceful one they’ve dubbed “Peek” and “Pop”. That means there are effectively three levels of touch input on the iPhone 6s Plus, if you include regular taps.

While the Note 5 isn’t quite so fancy, it does have the S Pen, which is far more precise. It also comes with several extra features of its own, which are centered around note-taking and sketching.

The main differentiating factor here is the Note 5’s sizzlingly spectacular screen. 5.7 inches of scrumptious Super AMOLED QHD means it isn’t just brighter, more vibrant, and has superior contrast, it’s way sharper as well, packing 518 pixels into it. Apple’s display is no slouch, but it just can’t compare.

Whatever it is, the Note 5 is the clear winner here – a screen is primarily for viewing, after all.

Big on looks

Unsurprisingly, the iPhone 6s Plus looks virtually identical to the iPhone 6 Plus, with all the changes made under the hood as per previous “s” models. We still think it looks slightly disproportionate as compared to the more pleasantly balanced iPhone 6s, but there’s no doubting Apple’s trademark high levels of finish and engineering. That rounded aluminium casing with matching curve-edged glass front still feels fantastic too.

Samsung, on the other hand, have upgraded the Note 5 from the Note 4 in the same vein as the S6, decking it out in premium metal and glass to appear absolutely gorgeous. While it doesn’t have the same radical curved display as the S6 edge+, Samsung have angled the glass on the back of the Note 5 in a similar fashion instead, letting it sit very comfortably in the hand indeed.

Both phones also sport fingerprint-scanning home buttons, and although Samsung’s iteration is impressively quick and accurate, the one on the iPhone 6 Plus already felt slightly better. Now, Apple claims the second-generation scanner on the 6s Plus is even faster, which should make the difference more pronounced.

Design is all a matter of personal preference, but we’re leaning more towards the iPhone 6s Plus on this one.

Brains and brawn

Details on the iPhone 6s Plus’ A9 processor are sketchy at the moment, with Apple quantifying performance in percentages, claiming the the 6s Plus has 70% faster CPU performance and a 90% faster GPU. What these figures are benchmarked against, we have no idea, so we’ll just have to wait till we can run proper tests on a review unit.

Traditionally, Apple’s never really packed their processors with raw power though, and we don’t even know how much RAM the phone’s got, though we suspect Apple hasn’t changed from having just 1GB, opting instead to use everything in a smarter manner.

It’s safe to say it won’t compare with the Note 5’s mammoth specs. Nobody else even comes close to Samsung’ Octa-core Exynos 7420 after all, seeing as it’s packing double Quad-core 1.5 GHz and Quad-core 2.1 GHz brains. Coupled with an awesome 4GB of RAM, it’s able to handle just about everything you can throw at it, and ask for more for the win.

What's the charge

Again, we don’t know how in quantifiable terms how big the capacity of the iPhone 6s Plus’ battery is. Apple does promise up to 12 hours of continuous Internet use and 14 hours of HD video playback, but again, we don’t really know what that means in real-world terms.

That’s identical to what they claim the iPhone 6 Plus is capable of, and that’s from a 2915mAh battery. That’s good news for us in any case, because it means they’ve mitigated whatever added drain the 6s Plus’ various hardware improvements bring with it.

That’s pretty close to the 3000mAh battery on the Note 5, and through our time with the unit, have found that it stands up pretty well to intensive usage. It gets through the basic smartphone day with ease, with the added benefit of Ultra Fast Charging to help you juice from 0-100 in just 90 minutes. You won’t get that on the iPhone 6s Plus.

Also, the Note 5 has built-in wireless charging, and it’s a faster version than that found on the Samsung Galaxy S6 at that. Based on these charging speeds and options, the Note 5 edges the iPhone 6s Plus once again.

Storage wars

We have no idea why, but Apple’s stuck to 16GB of internal memory on the entry-level iPhone 6s Plus. That’s woefully inadequate, especially given the 12MP camera and 4K video capability. However, it does have 64GB and 128GB options, which are probably much more useful in today’s world.

The Note 5 does start from 32GB, which Apple doesn’t have, but it only goes up to 64GB. This means power users who want to store more media in their smartphone will be disappointed.

This presents an interesting dilemma for us, since both phones seem to cancel each other out in terms of pros and cons – both don’t have microSD card slots too – so we’ll call it a tie.

When I cam around

Finally, today’s iPhones have broken free of the 8MP rear camera shackles that have been in place since the iPhone 4S from 2011. The iPhone 6s Plus now packs a 12MP iSight main camera, but retains an aperture size of f2.2, which should result in better images in any case. Since the 8MP one was already one of the best smartphone cameras around, logic decrees that the 12MP sensor upgrade should make it even better.

That’s still lagging behind the Note 5’s 16MP snapper with a larger aperture of f1.9 though, which is the same as the one in the Samsung Galaxy S6. Incidentally, both us and our readers chose that one as the best smartphone camera in the world, and the Note 5 actually improves upon it with added functions for 4K video and RAW image output.

On the front camera, er, front, Apple’s given their FaceTime HD camera a much-needed upgrade to 5MP from 1.2MP, which should be stellar in terms of images shot. It’s tied with Note 5 in terms of sensor size so we’d expect results to be pretty similar. All in all, the Note 5 takes it here.

Made for U and I

No prizes for guessing, but one runs iOS 9 and the other, an Android 5.1-based TouchWiz interface. iOS vs Android is a war so old and already fought on so many fronts that it almost seems a cop-out to say that it’s all subjective as to which is better.

Both are well thought out and silky smooth after undergoing much refinement, so it all boils down to what you’re looking for. The Note 5 packs one of the best Android Lollipop ports around, with Samsung adding value in terms of their own apps and features without sticking too much bloatware in it.

Meanwhile, iOS 9 on the iPhone 6s Plus comes with Siri, as well as integrated public transport directions on Apple Maps, yet doesn’t have any meaningful widgets that have delighted Android users for ages now. Transit directions have been on Google Maps for years already too. We’re willing to give the Note 5 a very slight advantage here.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 wins out against the iPhone 6s Plus in several areas, which should make it the clearly superior phone, at least on paper.

We’ll have to conduct an in-depth review of the iPhone 6s Plus before we can do a proper comparison and pass definitive judgement, but despite winning all these battles, Samsung might very well just lose the war.

After all, we’d be lying if we didn’t expect the iPhone 6s Plus to sell millions of units, giving Apple the crucial win that matters – sales. The phone hasn’t been launched yet though, so at this point, it’s all still speculation.

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