Phablet showdown: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 v Apple iPhone 6 Plus

One clear winner

Workaholics and multimedia junkies alike are spoiled for choice when it comes to 'phablets'. Apple has finally given into demand with the iPhone 6 Plus, but can it possibly stand against the Galaxy Note 4 from Samsung? We put them head-to-head.

Can big phones be comfortable?

Apple’s signature style characterises the design of the iPhone 6 Plus. Place the iPhone 6 range alongside one another and it becomes abundantly clear the 6 Plus is a stretched iPhone. This is a big problem.

iPhones with screens smaller than 4.7-inches can pull off the abundant bezel as hands of all sizes can accommodate the heft. Keep the same design trend when you up the screen size to 5.5-inches and what you’re left with is a beast of a smartphone, something that will only ever feel comfortable in purses, bags or suitcases.

The iPhone’s uncharacteristic design shortcoming is where the Note 4 excels. The Samsung ‘phablet’ is the first from the company to be built upon a metal chassis — an exquisitely crafted chassis at that. And while the Note 4 has a larger, richer screen than its iPhone rival, Samsung has managed to package it in a body that is shorter.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Productivity

These phablets use their ostentatiously large screens to cater to different needs.

Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus uses its 5.5in, 1920x1080 resolution screen for multimedia. Apple’s App Store hosts music, movies and television shows; it’s little wonder the company deviated from custom to release a phablet.

Existing iOS business applications can be used on the 6 Plus, but the ordinary iPhone 6 can run them just the same.

The iPhone 6 Plus can use certain parts of the OS in landscape orientation.
The iPhone 6 Plus can use certain parts of the OS in landscape orientation.

Samsung’s Note range is something else. The smartphones pack an integrated and highly functional stylus, the S-Pen, and it can be used to perform a number of productivity-driven functions.

Also inching it ahead are its unparalleled multitasking capabilities, which make it possible to open a number of application windows simultaneously, or share the screen between two applications.

The icing on the proverbial cake is the matter of multimedia. The Note 4’s screen is larger at 5.7-inches and has a higher resolution at 2560x1440. Running open-source Android means it'll be compatible with music, videos and television shows from a number of content services.

Read more: Samsung M7 review: Wireless speakers that just work

The Note 4 then beats the iPhone 6 Plus at its own game.

The Note 4's split screen, multi-window and air command
The Note 4's split screen, multi-window and air command

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Spec-for-spec

The better camera?

Apple and Samsung play to their strengths when it comes to the cameras.

The iPhone benefits from Apple’s intelligent software. Photos look more natural and the camera user interface is simplistic enough that it makes ordinary modes a tonne of fun.

Samsung’s strength lies not in software, but in the hardware. The Note’s camera captures photos at 16 megapixels, which is double that of the iPhone 6 Plus, and the camera retains more detail in low-light situations. Megapixels aren’t everything, but they count.

These findings extend beyond still photos to recording of videos. The Galaxy Note continues to handle a variety of lighting conditions better than the iPhone 6 Plus as it produces less image noise, and it continues to do this at a higher resolution. The iPhone 6 Plus maxes at Full HD, while the Note 4 goes one further with support for UHD recording.

The photos below provide one clear example of the smartphones' low-light capabilities.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus: Notice how the tree at the end of the tunnel has been completely washed out
Apple iPhone 6 Plus: Notice how the tree at the end of the tunnel has been completely washed out

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: The Note struggles too, but it outperforms the iPhone 6 Plus in low light scenarios
Samsung Galaxy Note 4: The Note struggles too, but it outperforms the iPhone 6 Plus in low light scenarios

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4

What about battery life?

Good Gear Guide tests the battery life of every smartphone that goes through our laboratory. Interestingly we found the batteries belonging to the iPhone 6 Plus and the Note 4 delivered the same 26 hours under moderate use. Pushing the phablets heavily revealed the iPhone 6 Plus would last 14 hours, while the higher specced Note 4 scored 16 hours.

Further inching the Note 4 ahead of the 6 Plus is the inclusion of battery saving modes; one of which will keep the phone running on standby for 10 days.

Winner Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Biometric security

Samsung and Apple’s smartphones come equipped with finger scanners. The manufacturers have thrown their weight behind support for third party services. The Note 4’s can be used for online shopping with its certification for PayPal. Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus uses the finger scanner to buy content from iTunes.

Know that these two finger scanners aren’t equal. The finger scanner used by the Galaxy Note is less accurate and poorly implemented when it’s compared to Apple’s.

Apple’s Touch ID works quick enough that, if you press the home button once, it’ll activate the screen, run the finger scan and unlock the smartphone in one motion.

Winner: Apple iPhone 6 Plust

Final thought

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is a better phablet because it has been designed from the ground up with the category in mind. The large screen on the 6 Plus is great, though it feels like an elongated iPhone 6.

If you are deep in Apple’s ecosystem, with an iMac/MacBook and an iPad, then you'll have to settle for the 6 Plus.

Everyone else in need of a productivity beast with a dazzling screen: buy the Galaxy Note 4.

Be sure to read our full reviews for a scientific breakdown of our findings. Apple iPhone 6 Plus Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Do you agree with the verdict? Tell us in the comment section by clicking here

This author is on Twitter. Follow Tony Ibrahim

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Tony Ibrahim

Tony Ibrahim

Good Gear Guide

@slicktonyi

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