Saturday 10 December 2016

Superphones Apple's iPhone 6 v Samsung's S6 - which is best?

Published 12/04/2015 | 02:30

'For camera, screen quality and power, Samsung is the clear choice'
'For camera, screen quality and power, Samsung is the clear choice'

Last year, there were a half-dozen smartphones in with a shout at being top dog. This year, it has narrowed to a clear face-off between the two biggest beasts: Apple and Samsung.

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Forget HTC, Sony or Nokia. They all make decent handsets. But at this moment, they're unarguably eclipsed by two particular superphones: Apple's iPhone 6 and Samsung's S6. Between these two, which is best?

I've had considerable time with both models. For camera, screen quality and power, Samsung is the clear choice.

For the 'ecosystem' of apps, work software and integration with other Apple devices in your life, the iPhone is the obvious pick.

Still wondering which to pick? Then let's take an 'idiot's guide' look at the actual things each is best at and which might matter most to you. I've prioritised them in order of what matters to me most.

1 Screen

This is vital - how clear, bright and smooth is the screen? Apple's 4.7-inch display is really good. But Samsung's 5.1-inch screen is absolutely magnificent with incredibly vivid detail and colour. (This is backed up by the geek measurement of 'pixels per inch', where the Samsung rates 25pc higher than Apple.)

Chalk one up to the Koreans. But there is one exception: the iPhone 6 Plus. For lovers of big screens (like me), it's worth sacrificing some quality for a bigger display. And the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus qualifies here.

2 Camera

Your phone is now your camera, so this feature is really important. Again, Samsung's S6 beats the iPhone 6 in the photos I took.

It's not just that the S6 has more megapixels: its 16 megapixels isn't directly comparable to the iPhone's 8 megapixels as the latter opts for 'bigger' pixels, which should give it an edge. But no, the S6 produces slightly sharper images overall than the iPhone's. One caveat: the iPhone 6 Plus has a gorgeous slow-motion video feature that is great fun to use.

3 Battery life

Is there a more irritating shortcoming than weak battery life? Both these devices have decent, day-long batteries that usually lasted a day for me. And I use my phone a lot. No clear winner here.

4 Physical design

Life is too short for ugly phones. And both these devices are very, very handsome. Again, there's no clear winner on this metric.

5 Ecosystem and apps

For some, this will be the most important consideration. But because I use a lot of Google products (Docs, Gmail, Maps) everyday as work tools, integration with office software and other Apple products isn't a dealbreaker. But it will be for others - especially those who want to use their phone with their office email or enterprise software.

Most businesses (and IT support depts) I know default to the iPhone as the standard work mobile device, which means you're at a disadvantage if you turn up with a Samsung S6 and want to use your work apps.

And that's not to talk of personal popular apps, where the iPhone is still ahead on new releases. (Take the much-hyped Periscope or Meerkat apps released this month - neither is available on Android. Nor are apps such as Microsoft's Word and Excel. Nor fun apps such as Hyperlapse from Instagram.) There isn't a huge apps gap, but there is one, nonetheless.

6 Accessories and smartwatches

Are you going to buy an Apple Watch? Then you have to buy an iPhone. There isn't quite as compelling a case to be made for Samsung's S6 as a companion for any of its Android smartwatches, as none are must-have devices.

Samsung does have some nice advantages, such as its wireless charging capability (it has adopted the main industry standards, meaning you can buy wireless charging furniture in Ikea that will work with it.) But overall, Apple has the edge for accessories.

7 Payment technology

I think that wireless payments using Apple Pay are going to be a big deal over the next 12 months. And Apple is the clear leader already here. So if this is important, it has to be the iPhone.

8 Other technical specifications

Samsung's S6 model comes with more storage (32GB) than the iPhone 6 base model (16GB) and this is somewhat important - 16GB is just not enough for software updates and photos.

And so... if you don't have a specific work phone policy and are not tied into an Apple ecosystem at home, the Samsung S6 probably edges the battle between the two handsets.

But if you care about apps, payments and accessories or want to set up a system with your family or need to fit in with work software, the iPhone 6 is your best bet.

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