iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6: Which of the best phones of 2015 should you buy? Here's our verdict on the battle of the Apple and Samsung flagships
For the first time in a long time, we finally have a flagship worthy of comparison with the iPhone 6.. Although Apple has now officially revealed its 2015 flagship duo in the shape of the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus.
So if you don't go for the new iPhone and had to spend the money to upgrade, which is the one handset you should go for?
We've been using these two fine smartphones since they launched and still use them now. So we have a pretty good idea of what they're good and bad at doing. Unlike last year's shootout of the S5 vs iPhone 6, it's not as clear cut.
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Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6: Design
Samsung Galaxy S6: 6.9mm thick, 138g, aluminium unibody and glass panel, White Pearl/Black Sapphire/Gold Platinum/Blue Topaz
iPhone 6: 6.9mm thick, 129g, anodised aluminium back, Space Grey/Silver/Gold
Both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 mark a radical rethink of the design philosophies for their flagship phones. The iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus, show a delayed decision to follow the trend of phones with larger screens. Samsung's changes are even more of a departure from previous phones. Following years of dubious design and material decisions aimed at its preference for using plastic made to look like something else on top-end phones, it's finally decided to deliver something that feels worth its cost. The S6 is the luxuriously-made phone many have been clamouring for.
As a result, it's made choosing between the two more difficult than ever.
With the Galaxy S6 Samsung has delivered a phone that can finally rival the iPhone in terms of design, build-quality and materials used. From the front, the S6 could be mistaken for the S5 or even the S4. Closer inspection shows some big changes, though. The physical home button has grown to accommodate the improved fingerprint sensor, the screen bezel has narrowed significantly down the sides, while the top and bottom edges of the phone elegantly curve to create the more attractive look.
Related: Samsung Galaxy S7 vs S6
Pick up the Galaxy S6 and you'll quickly notice the flat aluminium edge and the Gorilla Glass back. The plastic and textured removable back from the S5 have gone completely and we don't miss them one bit. A non-removable back means you can no longer swap out the battery, but Samsung has added wireless charging support to soften the blow. One of the more unsightly elements of the S6's design is the protruding rear camera. It doesn't impact on the way you use or hold it, but we'd prefer it if wasn't so prominent.
The reason the S6 finally feels like a phone you'd be proud to show off is because it clearly takes some inspiration from the Apple's handset. The iPhone 6 was first with the aluminium trim and Samsung has even positioned the headphone jack, charging port and single speaker to the bottom of the phone just like the iPhone 6. Button placement is near identical too, so making the transition between the two handsets should be seamless, from a hardware perspective at least.
Apple's curved aluminium unibody design makes the iPhone 6 a little nicer to grip but apart from that, there's very few reasons to pick it over the S6's design. It's very close in the design stakes. We'd be inclined to say the S6 wins this round, but after living with it for a few months, there's definitely an issue to address and it's to do with that glass back. We've had two handsets and even with the smallest drop it has cracked. Now, we're not saying everyone will have the same issues, but it's clear that going for a glass-back phone has its potential drawbacks.
If you're basing your decision on build quality, then the iPhone 6 is the outright winner here.
Related: Samsung Galaxy S6 vs S6 Edge
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6: Screen
Samsung Galaxy S6: 5.1-inch, QHD '2K' Super AMOLED, 577ppi, 536 nits brightness
iPhone 6: 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750 IPS LCD, 326 ppi, 504 nits brightness
Size is the first big difference when comparing screens. The S6 packing a significantly larger screen, which means more room for enjoying your videos and browsing the web.
The next is resolution. The S6 also benefits from the same resolution upgrade as the Note 4 and as a result is sharper than the iPhone 6's display. There's still a debate about how useful 2K displays are on a small screen and most will probably not appreciate the differences. If your desperate for cutting-edge tech then the S6 is the winner here. Unless you look very closely, though, you won't notice the difference in sharpness.
There's differences in the display technologies as well, and these have a bigger impact. While Apple uses LCD, Samsung opts for OLED and as a result the S6 delivers perfect black levels and impressive contrast ratio that make it more suitable for watching films. The slightly over saturated colours you get with the S5 is not as problematic this time round on the S6, particularly when you choose a more tasteful colour setting. The iPhone 6 on the other hand delivers strong viewing angles and good colour accuracy.
So yes, the iPhone 6 has a great screen, but the S6 is offering something new and innovative with its 2K display and wins this round.
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6: Performance
Samsung Galaxy S6: Exynos 7420 64-bit octa-core, Mali T760 GPU, 3GB RAM
iPhone 6: Apple A8 64-bit dual-core 1.4GHz, PowerVR GX6450 GPU, 1GB RAM
The iPhone 6 features Apple’s punchy A8 CPU, a dual-core 64-bit chip with a seriously swift GPU attached and backed by 1GB of RAM. This is a different approach to that taken by Android chip makers, who typically go for a quad-core GPU and at least 2GB of RAM.
For the S6 Samsung opted against using the Snapdragon 810 processor found inside the LG Flex 2 and HTC One M9 in favour for its custom chip. The 64-bit Exynos 7420 chip offers a very similar octa-core set-up to the aforementioned Snapdragon 810 and delivers a slick, overall performance.
Elsewhere, the Samsung Galaxy S6 features 3GB of RAM - that’s three times the amount found in the iPhone 6. More important here, however, is the speed of that RAM. The Galaxy S6 is the first phone to feature DDR4 memory, which is 80 percent faster than the iPhone 6's DDR3.
When you compare the Geekbench 3 multi-core benchmark tests, the S6 comes out on top but numbers only tells half the story. In day-to-day performance both are extremely quick and slick and our usual complaints of TouchWiz slowing things down isn't apparent on the more streamlined version Samsung has adopted for the S6.
Geekbench 3 multi-core scores
Samsung Galaxy S6 - 4116
iPhone 6 - 2933
We'd call it a draw. You should have no real complaints with either phone for both basic and intensive tasks.
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6: Storage
Samsung Galaxy S6: 32GB, 64GB and 128GB, no micro SD card support
iPhone 6: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB, no micro SD card support
Samsung has caused a bit of a stir by dropping micro SD support with the Galaxy S6 - the first of its flagship range to do so. It's clearly emulating Apple's approach here, which is all about providing a more streamlined and speedy approach to storage.
Samsung still wins this round despite that omission, simply by virtue of the fact that it has dropped the 16GB allotment and adopted 32GB as its starter specification, while Apple has done the opposite.
If you compare SIM-free prices, the 32GB S6 costs around the £550 mark, while the 16GB iPhone 6 is priced in at around £540. If you for go for the top 128GB models, the S6 will cost you roughly £730 in comparison to the iPhone 6, which is around £680. So if you go for the entry level, the S6 will give you more storage for the money, but the top end is significantly more expensive than the iPhone 6.
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6: Software
Samsung Galaxy S6: Android Lollipop 5.0.2 with TouchWiz UI
iPhone 6: iOS 8.4
Android or iOS? That's the big question you need to ask yourself when deciding between the S6 and the iPhone 6. This will shape how you use the phone on a daily basis.
Historically, Apple's mobile operating system has been the one to go with if you value a phone with the smallest learning curve and slick experience. You can pick up an iPhone and it won't take you very long to work out what's what. Android gives you the greater customisation but with Lollipop, you also get a more polished navigation experience as well.
Samsung of course doesn't use stock Android like a Moto G or a Nexus 5. Instead it has its own TouchWiz user interface layered on top. It's an approach that's drawn widespread criticism for its heavy-handed additions, unnecessary apps, and needless tinkering with its solid Android underpinnings. Samsung has improved matters with the Galaxy S6, scaling back the bloatware and it's a much better phone to use as a result. Core Android Lollipop features now shine through and it's generally a much cleaner UI to navigate.
With the latest version of iOS, Apple has added some big features, some which have been present in Android for some time. You now have more actionable notifications, widgets inside the Notification Tray and third party. While it can't match Android for customisation, it still delivers where it matters. It's slick, easy to use, and has the better quality app store. The latest iOS 8.4 update also delivered Apple Music, the company's first music streaming service.
Samsung has definitely made significant improvements with its software approach but we'd say Apple wins this round.
Related: iPhone 6 vs iPhone 5S
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6: Fingerprint scanners
Samsung Galaxy S6: Fingerprint sensor (PayPal certified)
iPhone 6: Touch ID: Touch ID fingerprint sensor (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX certified)
When Apple introduced its fingerprint sensor baked into the iPhone 5S's home button it was an alternative way to secure your phone and reduce the time it takes to tap in that unlock code. Its uses have now evolved and now it can be used with third party apps, make purchases in iTunes and is integrated into the NFC-based Apple Pay mobile payment system.
Samsung followed suit in the S5, placing a similar sensor on its home button. It was nowhere near as reliable as Apple's Touch ID and thankfully that's changed on the S6. Now you can tap your finger on the home button instead of swiping and as a result it's more reliable. Like Apple, it will make it easier to make PayPal transactions and additionally can use the biometric data to log into certain websites. What is done with that data is not entirely clear however and potentially raise some serious data issues.
While Samsung's fingerprint sensor has improved massively from its first appearance, Apple's Touch ID feels more robust and while it's not without its own security concerns, it is more useful to have.
Related: Samsung Pay vs Apple Pay
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6: Speakers and earphones
Samsung Galaxy S6: Single speaker on bottom edge
iPhone 6: Single speaker on bottom edge
Smartphone speakers in general offer average sound quality, especially if you want to watch a film or listen to some music sans headphones.
With the S6 and the iPhone 6, the speaker positioning is the same, which means there's a tendency to cover and muffle the sound. When it's free to pump out music, a more public phone call, the S6 has the better speaker of the two.
It's louder than the iPhone 6 and offers much cleaner audio. It still lacks the same stability at top volume and the warmth HTC's dual-front facing speakers are capable of.
Both Apple and Samsung throw in a pair of earphones in the box, but you'd want to invest in something better if you can. While Apple has re-designed its Earbuds, the most important quality, which is the sound, has not really improved. Samsung uses an almost identical design and offers a little more quality, but again, we'd say buy a pair of decent headphones instead.
This is another round for the Galaxy S6.
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6: Camera
Samsung Galaxy S6: 16-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera, single LED flash, optical image stabilisation
iPhone 6: 8 megapixel, phase detection, dual LED 'True Tone' flash
Having a good phone camera means a great deal for most when buying a phone and thankfully both Samsung and Apple do a fantastic job with their cameras. They both take great photos and are easy to pick up and start shooting.
The S5 had one of our favourite cameras last year but there was certainly room for improvement. Samsung has taken slightly tweaked the setup used for the Note 4 and dropped it into the S6. As a result you can still take sharp, vibrant images quickly and then get them shared on Twitter and Facebook in no time. HDR is still a standout feature here as well, while the addition of optical image stabilisation means you get a helping hand in low-light conditions. While it doesn't entirely eradicate the image noise, you can grab clearer, more rewarding results.
On paper, some will compare Apple's 8-megapixels to Samsung's 16-megapixels, but in reality that doesn't give you a true insight into the iPhone 6's performance. Apple makes the very best of its setup and you can still get great, natural photos with many of the same qualities you'd associate with the S6. It does lose out to the S6 for low-light shooting, sadly because it lacks the optical image stabilisation the iPhone 6 Plus did get.
On the whole, these are two fantastic cameras. If taking photos in more challenging lighting conditions is something you value more, the S6 is for you. For a combination of simplicity and image quality, the iPhone 6 is the one to go for. Either way, these are two phone cameras that won't let you down.
The S6 also has the better front-facing camera, if you're into selfies.
iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6: Photo comparison
iPhone 6 photo low-light photo sample
Samsung Galaxy S6 low-light photo sample
iPhone 6 close-up photo sample
Samsung Galaxy S6 close-up photo sample
iPhone 6 HDR photo sample
Samsung Galaxy S6 HDR photo sample
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6: Smartwatches
iPhone 6: Apple Watch
Whether you think they’re useful or not, smartwatches are here and both Apple and Samsung have made them for those times when you don’t want to reach into your pocket to use your phone.
Apple has the Watch, which comes in three models. It’s the most expensive smartwatch you can buy right now even if you go for the cheapest Sport model. Samsung has been churning out the smartwatches and the latest is the feature-packed Gear S.
If you value design, then the Apple Watch is a significantly more attractive smartwatch than the Gear S. The Gear S is huge in comparison but is more capable of being used as a standalone device thanks to the built-in SIM card slot.
Related: Apple Watch tips and tricks
Both have fantastic touchscreens so visibility and responsiveness isn’t an issue here. It’s software where the Gear S and somewhat unsurprisingly the Apple Watch lets us down. It’s an unintuitive and buggy experience across both. While Apple has the significantly bigger pool of optimized apps, many are broken or still a limited.
There's the battery life issues to contend with as well. It’s more of an issue with the Watch, but the Gear S will struggle to get past a couple of days, especially if you’ve got a SIM card packed into it.
If we had to choose between the two smartwatches, then Apple would win it for design and app support. The Pebble, would actually get our vote because it works across both platforms, has great battery life and has an operating system that makes a lot of sense.
Bottom-line though, it’s not essential and you can get through life without one around your wrist.
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6: Battery Life
Samsung Galaxy S6: 2550 mAh non-removable battery, wireless charging
iPhone 6: 1810 mAh non-removable battery
When you compare the Galaxy S5 with the iPhone 6, there was only one winner and that was the S5. It had the bigger battery and the benchmark tests proved it had the capability of going much longer than Apple's smartphone. That being said, the iPhone 6 has made big improvements thanks to a more efficient setup.
Living day-to-day with them, the S6's stamina levels are nowhere near as good as the S5, but compared to the iPhone 6 it just about beats it. There's not much in it though. You can get a normal working day (8am to 6-7pm) out of them both but it'll be a hard push keeping either alive if you stayed out for the night. Samsung does offer a very useful power saving mode that restricts the battery draining features but will still let you make calls and can push things a little further.
The S6 and the iPhone 6 can see noticeable drop offs when you're streaming music, watching video or browsing the web for 20-30 minutes. In standby modes, though they reserve those battery powers well.
When the battery is dead, the S6 is a quicker to get back up to 100%. That's down to Samsung's rapid charging technology, which works in a similar fashion to Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 technology found on the LG G Flex 2. It takes an hour and twenty minutes to go from 0%-100 while the iPhone takes around 3 to 3.5 hours. There's a workaround to getting that down to 2 hours if you use a 2.1-amp charging cable that comes bundled with Apple's iPad.
Samsung additionally offers wireless charging, something Apple has yet to embrace for its smartphone range. The S6 will work with all wireless charging formats including the more common QI, letting you use other third party charging devices. The problem here is that you don't get the same level of charging speed as you do from the mains.
So, do you go S6 or iPhone 6? This is the closest it has ever between the two flagship phones. Where Samsung has made striking changes with design, Apple has slightly underwhelmed with the transformation from iPhone 5S to iPhone 6. But that's not to say that we haven't grown to like it. That glass back on the S6 is an area of concern as well, so if you're clumsy, it might be a reason to go iPhone. For screen quality, the S6 wins but 2K over a Retina display won't matter to most. Both offer slick performances, significant software improvements and have two of the best smartphone cameras you can lay your hands on.
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Price does becomes a factor here though. Go for the most expensive S6 SIM-free and you are paying more than you would for the most expensive iPhone 6. A look at contract deals suggest you'll pay £4-5 a month extra for the S6 if you were choosing between the smallest storage options.
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When you count up the little wins, the S6 comes out on top. It's the most attractive Samsung flagship and has all of the cutting edge features to back up its metal look. If you want cutting-edge, then Samsung in our eyes, is the one to go for right now. The iPhone 6 is still fantastic phone in our book, and battery-life aside, makes the changes where they matter most.
iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6: Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.