If you’re looking for a phone with a large screen, the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 5 are by far the best choices on the market right now. Both phones have gorgeous metal and glass designs, offer fast performance and long battery life, and capture excellent photos.
It’s tough to decide between the two — ultimately, it boils down to whether or not you prefer iOS or Android, and whether or not having extra features such as a stylus really matter to you.
But if your buying choice is more complicated than that, there are a few differences between the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 5 that you may want to consider.
Both phones will cost you a decent amount of money. The iPhone 6 Plus starts at $US750 off-contract, while the Note 5 starts at around $US700 without a carrier subsidy.
After spending a week switching between the two, here’s what I came away with.
- Both phones are gorgeous, but with the Note 5 you get a slightly larger screen packed into a phone that’s the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus.
- The Note 5’s screen displays colours more vibrantly than the iPhone, but it’s not any sharper than the iPhone’s screen even though it’s a higher spec.
- The iPhone is still much more simple to use than Samsung’s phone.
- The Note 5’s S Pen feels natural and the multi-window feature is useful, but Samsung’s version of Android is still too cluttered for me.
- Both phones take excellent photos. It’s a win-win here, but as is the case with the Note 5’s display, it’s camera also sometimes exaggerates colour.
The Galaxy Note 5 is the best-looking Note phone Samsung has ever made. The company added smooth metal edges and a glossy glass curved back to its design, which is a noticeable difference from the Note 4’s more rigid edges and faux leather back. The new phone looks a lot like the Galaxy S6, which is a good thing.
Although it’s made of metal, the phone is still incredibly light and thin. The case is the same for the iPhone 6 Plus, which features a uniformly slim and sleek design. Unlike the Note 5, the iPhone’s back is made of aluminium and the phone’s thickness is the same all around. This gives it a more consistent and clean look, as opposed to the Note 5 which varies slightly in thickness due to its curved back.
While I prefer the iPhone’s simplicity, it’s hard not to marvel at the way Samsung managed to pack such a large screen into a phone that’s essentially the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus. Samsung’s new phone has a 5.7-inch screen, which is slightly larger than the iPhone 6 Plus’ 5.5-inch screen. Despite this, Samsung’s phone isn’t any wider or taller than Apple’s because its bezels are so thin.
The only downside to Samsung’s new design is that since it’s glossy, it easily picks up fingerprint smudges.
Both phones offer sharp and crisp displays, but there’s one major difference. The Note 5 renders colours much more vibrantly than the iPhone, and it’s really noticeable when you compare the two phones side by side.
When watching the trailer for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II” on both phones alongside one another, colours look almost entirely different in some scenes. In one still image where the environment was covered in snow, Samsung’s phone rendered the scene with a blueish hue. The iPhone, comparatively, looked more white than blue.
The difference in colour was also really evident in scenes with lots of red, orange, and yellow colours. At the end of the trailer in the scene where the logo for the film is bursting with flames, the colours are way brighter on Samsung’s phone, while they were deeper and more muted on the iPhone. In the image below, you’ll notice the colours are bolder and warmer on the Note 5’s screen.
In terms of sharpness, both displays seemed equal. On paper, the Galaxy Note 5 should be much sharper and more detailed, since it crams in way more pixels per inch on the screen than the iPhone. The Note 5 has a screen resolution of 2560 x 1440, while the iPhone 6 Plus has a resolution of 1920 x 1080.
What it’s like to use them
The biggest difference between each phone isn’t physical — it’s the software. The iPhone is more simple and basic, but that also means it doesn’t do as much. Other than a few quick shortcuts that are accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, the iPhone’s interface basically only consists of app icons, the lock screen, and the notification drawer, which you can find by swiping down from the top of the screen.
Simply put, Samsung’s phone does a lot more. You can open more than one app at a time in a split screen view. You can also open an app in a realizable window on the home screen, the same way you would drag a window around your computer’s desktop. In my experience, these features came in handy occasionally. I usually don’t mind switching between apps when I need to, but in a few cases I found myself using split screen to keep my Google Hangouts chat open while scrolling through my Facebook feed.
The case is the same with Samsung’s S Pen, which is much improved this time around compared to the previous model. It’s easier to eject from the phone since it’s spring loaded (just please make sure you don’t insert it backwards), and it has a more premium design. I used Samsung’s S Note app to jot down notes during one of our staff brainstorming meetings instead of my notebook, and it felt smooth and natural, almost as if I was writing on paper. You can also write on the screen while it’s turned off with the Note 5, which makes it convenient to jot down ideas more quickly on the fly. The one drawback was that once you save and name a document in S Note, you still have to actually type in the name instead of handwriting it, which felt a bit awkward.
One of my favourite Samsung extras is the camera shortcut, which quickly launches the camera with two taps of the home button. The iPhone doesn’t have any camera shortcuts, other than the icon on the lock screen which allows you to launch the camera without unlocking the phone.
That being said, Samsung’s version of Android is still too busy for me. The home screen is simple enough, but once you swipe over to the second home screen you see Samsung’s Galaxy Gifts and Galaxy Essentials widgets on the top portion of the screen, which I have no use for. Swipe to the third home screen, and there’s a widget that takes over the entire screen for Papergarden, Samsung’s magazine store.
I generally prefer Google’s clean unmodified version of Android, which doesn’t come with any extras from phone manufacturers or carriers. Of course you can modify these and delete widgets you don’t need, but it’s still a slight annoyance that they’re there by default.
The iPhone isn’t completely void of this either — there are some Apple-made apps that I personally don’t use that I can’t delete, but they’re more subtle and don’t take up a lot of space on the home screen.
The fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy Note 5 also proved to be faster than that of the iPhone 6 Plus. It wasn’t a really noticeable difference, but the Note 5 was just a fraction of a second faster than the iPhone.
Another thing you can expect to get from both phones is excellent battery life. I usually get a solid day and a half out of both phones without charging them.
How the cameras compare
Both the Galaxy Note 5 and iPhone 6 Plus come with great cameras capable of producing detailed images, but there are a few differences to note. In my experience, the Note 5’s cameras makes colours appear bolder and more bright, similar to the way its screen renders colours more vibrantly. It also makes skin appear more smooth, but almost to the point where it seems unnatural.
Photos taken with the iPhone look a bit dull in comparison, but the colours seems to be truer to the scene. The camera in Apple’s iPhone is also exceptionally good at taking in light, since it’s able to capture images in which the subject is still visible even in low-light conditions.
Here are some camera samples from both phones:
This close-up photo of a bush was taken with the iPhone 6 Plus:
And here’s that same photo taken with the Note 5:
Here’s a near pitch black portrait photo taken with the iPhone:
Now here’s the Note 5’s version:
To be clear, both phones are excellent and would be an ideal choice for those seeking a large-screened phone. But, if you’re really trying to choose between the two, here’s what you need to know.
The Note 5 has an amazing screen and lots of features that make multitasking easier, such as its multi-window functionality and included S Pen stylus. Those are the two areas where it really shines over the iPhone.
The iPhone, on the other hand, is more simple and doesn’t come with any bloatware. Its software is less busy, which makes it easier to use from the moment you pick it up. It takes excellent photos, especially in low-light, and the general app ecosystem is more polished. That’s important if you care about getting the best apps as soon as they launch, since many apps such as Instagram, Vine, and Periscope were all available for the iPhone before they launched on Android.