Clash of the phablets: Apple v Samsung

Clash of the phablets: Apple v Samsung



    Oct 24, 2014

    Clash of the phablets: Apple v Samsung

    IF YOU can't beat them, join them.

    The world's two biggest smartphone manufacturers each has a premium flagship phablet vying for your attention: Apple's iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung's Galaxy Note 4.

    But which is the right one for you?


    The iPhone 6 Plus undoubtedly sports a more premium aesthetic with its aluminium unibody chassis and curved glass display trumping the Note 4's metal frame and faux leather back.

    While the 6 Plus may look nicer, the Note 4 is easier to hold. Its squarish profile with chamfered edges means you have a sturdier grip, and the faux leather back provides a softer, less slippery surface than the smooth aluminium of the iPhone.

    The 6 Plus also has its "bendgate" issues, which might matter especially if you plan to pocket your device for long hours.


    Looking at the spec sheet, the Note 4 obviously has the upper hand here, both in terms of its larger 5.7-inch display size and its higher 2,560 x 1,440 QHD resolution.

    However, the difference in clarity is impossible to tell in actual real-world usage - brightness and contrast are comparable on both phablets.

    The only noticeable difference is that colours on the Note 4 are slightly more saturated, which you may or may not prefer. It's also worth noting that most apps and content are not optimised for use with QHD displays, so there's not actually as much benefit to a higher resolution display as you might think.

    As for the Note 4's extra 0.2 inch of screen real estate, it's noticeable but not a game changer.


    This one is highly subject to personal preference. If you like simplicity, Apple's iOS 8 keeps everything streamlined and smooth. Its menus are easy to navigate and well-designed, but with limited options overall.

    On the flip side, Samsung's TouchWiz interface includes absolutely everything you can think of (plus a few you would never think of).

    The Android OS offers more options for customisation and, if you're prepared to put in the time, you can customise it to almost anything you want it to be.

    In terms of phablet features, the 6 Plus has a handy Landscape mode (it's specifically designed for this layout) that rotates the entire user interface sideways when the phone is held in landscape orientation, which makes it feel like a mini-tablet and enhances some content.

    The Note 4, meanwhile, has the S Pen stylus and its suite of related features, which offer a lot more productivity options.


    The Note 4 is fitted with a 16MP shooter with optical image stabilisation, while the iPhone 6 Plus has an 8MP camera, optical image stabilisation and phase detection autofocus, which speeds up focusing.

    In our test shots, both cameras performed very well, but we found colours to be slightly more vivid on the Note 4. It was slightly better at capturing fine details, which also makes it easier to crop and re-frame pictures.

    But the 6 Plus focused faster, especially in low-light conditions.


    The Note 4 has the best battery life among phones available today, lasting close to 15 hours in our video looping battery benchmark.

    Its battery can also be switched out, giving you more versatility for long road trips or other occasions where you won't be able to recharge your phone.

    It's worth noting that the iPhone 6 Plus' battery life is still very respectable, lasting nearly nine hours in our video looping benchmark, and both phones will easily last you the entire day under normal usage conditions.


    The Note 4 comes with 32GB of built-in storage for $1,088. But you can easily expand this with up to 128GB of microSD storage.

    The 6 Plus has no expandable storage, but is available in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB options. The 128GB model will set you back a whopping $1,448.


    Both the 6 Plus and Note 4 are fantastic phablets and you won't go wrong with either.

    If you're torn between them, you need to look at your usage patterns and prioritise what's important to you.

    The 6 Plus has a more aesthetically pleasing build and finish, with incredible attention to detail and lots of subtle design accents, like matching torx screws and a curved-edge display that looks and feels luxurious.

    But it's not actually the most comfortable phablet to hold as its thin edges and smooth aluminium back make it slippery. You'll also have to be extra careful not to accidentally bend it by sitting on it. Of course, you can negate some of these aspects by getting a protective case for the 6 Plus.

    Feature-wise, iOS is simple and easy to use, but doesn't offer much customisation. Landscape mode adds some interesting new content-viewing options, but overall productivity on the 6 Plus is fairly limited.

    The 6 Plus is the phablet for you if you value aesthetics and want the best-looking phone out there, provided that your usage pattern doesn't usually exceed Web browsing, messaging, taking and viewing photos or videos, and playing games.

    The Note 4 isn't as good looking, but is easier and more comfortable to hold. Its Android OS and Samsung TouchWiz interface give you a massive amount of customisation, and its S Pen stylus adds a whole array of interesting productivity options.

    The Note 4's larger display size, extra long battery life and 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor make it a workhorse. But to get the most out of the Note 4, you actually need to use these features.

    If your usage pattern involves spending all your time glued to your smartphone, and includes activities like writing documents, and sending and replying to lengthy e-mail, as well as editing spreadsheets, pictures and other productivity tasks, the Note 4 will serve you well.

    However, if you're not interested in, or feel overwhelmed by all the features the Note 4 has to offer, you might be better served with the 6 Plus.