News and photo source: www.wired.co.uk
Samsung and Apple’s rivalry for the hearts and minds of high-end phoners has now moved into the phablet arena with the Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus. But which should you buy?
The Galaxy Note 4 moves away from Samsung’s all-plastic aesthetic of yore, and despite having an extremely thin plastic back, it now clips onto a solid metal chassis, giving it a bit more heft and premium-style feel. The silver highlighting around the rim on both sides lends a bit of class too, though the weight has now increased from the Note 3’s 168g to 176g though it’s still a fairly svelte 8.5mm. On the back the camera’s LED flash doubles up with the Samsung heart rate and blood oxygen level monitor — something you won’t find on the 6 Plus.
The 6 Plus is a big change for iPhone, quite literally. The biggest phone that Apple has yet produced is every bit as sleek and slim as we’d expect — no aesthetic compromises seem to have been made to achieve the bigger dimensions. The premium grade metallic casing feels very classy and carries its size very lightly at just at 7.1mm thin and 172g. In fact, it feels even slimmer thanks to the curved edges. And those bending rumours? Yes, it’s possible, but it is with many phones if you don’t treat ’em right.
The Note 4’s screen is a bit of a gem. With 5.7 inches of Super AMOLED loveliness with strong, vibrant colours and sharp contrast, it offers a higher than full HD resolution of 2,560×1,440 pixels — that’s 515ppi which is just about as sharp as you’ll see anywhere this side of the LG G3.
In purely technical terms, the 6 Plus’s 5.5-inch screen falls short of the mark, with its resolution of 1,920×1,080 (401 ppi). It looks great, but the Samsung’s extra size while retaining such a high resolution gives it the edge here.
Both phones have these as a security option, but Samsung’s is a bit more fiddly to use. You need to swipe your finger rather than just touching it, and its ability to recognise us consistently wasn’t as reliable as that of the 6 Plus.
Apple’s latest A8 processor may seem a bit under-powered with a dual-core CPU clocked at 1.4GHz and backed by just 1GB RAM. On paper, the Note 4’s quad-core 2.7GHz backed by 3GB RAM would seem to have the edge, but in performance terms, there seems to be no real difference. Both are extremely fast, nipping through menus and opening apps in a twinkling. Both handled HD games with aplomb too, and though the Samsung’s extra power will allow you to keep handfuls of apps running without any noticeable slow-down, iOS’s strict organisation of apps means that it doesn’t require the same amount of grunt to produce equivalent results.
The Note 4 runs the latest Android 4.4 KitKat, with Samsung’s usual TouchWiz tweaks on top. For this version Samsung has eased up on the pre-installed bloatware but there are still loads of apps and widgets available for download from the manufacturer’s own app store, including Kids Mode and Dropbox (with 50GB free storage for two years for new users). There are still plenty of features to play with, including the shortcut menu that slides in from the right, but they’re designed to enhance your experience rather than get in the way — you don’t have to use them. And if it all gets too much, you can always switch to the stripped-down Easy mode.
The Multi Window feature adds an extra dimension to multitasking, so you can keep your web browser open at the same time as you’re reading your emails for example. You can resize the window for each and now you can open little pop-up windows too which you can move around the screen.
Phablets are designed to be used with two hands of course, and the Note 4 wears this fact on its sleeve with its S Pen stylus, now boasting over 2,000 levels of sensitivity which makes all the difference when you’re trying to draw detail.
The latest iOS 8 continues the clean lines of its predecessor but has also some significant improvements — so apps can now talk to each other at last, and the addition of Swype and SwiftKey keyboards help to bring it up to the ability that Android users have been enjoying for ages. For versatility, the Note 4 is ahead, but for simplicity and ease of use, the 6 Plus plays to Apple’s time-honoured strengths. And if it all starts to feel a bit, well, big, Apple’s new Reachability feature contracts the interface so it’s easier to reach with one hand.
The Note 4’s 16-megapixel camera has just about everything Samsung can throw at it, from basics like autofocus and the bright LED flash to a variety of modes including Shot and more and Dual camera. It also has Smart Optical Image Stabilisation, which helps to reduce the tendency to blur when there’s motion involved — especially useful when you’re recording 4K video.
There’s a 3.7-megapixel snapper on the front for video calls and selfies but for once the rear camera can also manage selfies — the selfie mode tracks your face and beeps a warning when you’re all in focus, then takes the pic.
Like its processor, on paper the 6 Plus’s 8-megapixel camera can seem a little underspecced. But it too boasts optical image stabilisation and is capable of taking some superb photos in good light. The front-facing camera comes in a little behind the Note 4 for resolution, with 1.2 megapixels.
Both cameras are capable of great pics, but the Note 4 has the edge for resolution versatility. The selfie camera’s better on the Note, whereas low-light photography really shines on the iPhone.
Each phone has a good-sized battery and in both cases we found that they could handle a day’s worth of heavy use fairly comfortably — not a lot to choose between them here, though the Note 4 also offers additional flexibility with its Ultra Power Saving Mode and fast charging abilities.
The Note 4 costs around £630, for which you’ll get 32GB of memory on board. The 6 Plus starts at £619 for the basic 16GB version, but that can rocket up to £789 for the 128GB version — quite a bit more than the 70-odd quid it would cost you to add a 128GB microSD card to your Note 4.
These are both excellent phones, and whichever you choose you’ll get a terrific screen, powerful performance and a fine camera. Scribblers and artists will get most out of the Note 4’s clever S Pen stylus but your preference is most likely to be decided by your fondness for each operating system — the enviable but limiting slickness of iOS or the versatility of Android. This will be the main deciding factor because in hardware terms, there ain’t a great deal to choose between them.