If there’s one company which can really stand up to Apple’s phablet might though it’s Samsung, and while the Galaxy Note 4 isn’t quite the latest in its line of sizeable smartphones it’s still a top tier handset that’s becoming ever more affordable. But is it mighty enough to match the iPhone 6S Plus?
The iPhone 6S Plus has a slim metal unibody, with slightly curved edges, just like the iPhone 6 Plus. It’s a premium design and a great looking one.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 doesn’t look quite as high-end, as while it has a metal frame the back is plastic. It has a leather-like look to it, but the texture isn’t really fooling anyone. Still, while it’s not as good looking (or feeling) as the iPhone 6S Plus, the Galaxy Note 4 still has a fairly premium design.
A 5.5-inch 1080 x 1920 IPS screen fronts the iPhone 6S Plus, for sharp, crisp visuals. That might sound good but the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a big and bright 5.7-inch 1440 x 2560 Super AMOLED display, so it’s both sharper and larger, making it preferable if you’re after a true phablet.
The extra size does make reaching the far corners a little harder, but given the inclusion of an S Pen stylus this is clearly designed as a two-handed device and the stylus opens it up to new modes of interaction, such as handwriting.
Power and performance
The iPhone 6S Plus is easily Apple’s most powerful handset yet, thanks to a speedy A9 processor. That’s a significant upgrade over last year’s already powerful model and should easily be enough to rival or even top the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, with its quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor and 3GB of RAM.
Neither of these phones skimp on the camera, with the iPhone 6S Plus packing a 12MP shooter on the back, complete with optical image stabilisation to counter shaky hands, while there’s a 5MP snapper on the front. We’ll have to put it through its paces but we were already nightly impressed by the camera on the iPhone 6 Plus and this looks to be an upgrade.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 meanwhile has a 16MP snapper on the back, also with optical image stabilisation, and a 3.7MP one on the front. The main camera fares brilliantly in well-lit scenes and even holds its own in low-light.
The different OS’s lead to some of the biggest differences between the phones, especially when it comes to apps, where iOS still arguably has the lead, and customisation, where Android definitely does. But they’re also both slick, polished and intuitive.
There’s a meaty 3220 mAh juice pack inside the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and it’s even removable. Actual life is around a day, with moderate use likely to leave you with roughly 20%-30% left by the time you go to bed.
As usual Apple hasn’t revealed the size of the battery in its new phones, but we’re hopeful that the iPhone 6S Plus will at least be a match for the older iPhone 6 Plus, if not slightly better, when it comes to battery life, so you’ll hopefully be able to get a minimum of a day from it.
Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is out now and can be found for around £420 ($ 540, AU$ 880), while the iPhone 6S Plus will be hitting shelves shortly for a starting price of £619 ($ 749, AU$ 1,229), so it’s quite a lot more expensive.
Despite being a year old the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 stands up surprisingly well to the iPhone 6S Plus. A big battery, a superb screen, a decent camera and a reasonable amount of power help it hold its own, while its S Pen lets it stand out.
But the build isn’t up to Apple’s standards (or indeed the standards of the newer Samsung Galaxy Note 5) and while the Note 4 has a fingerprint scanner it’s far clunkier than Apple’s Touch ID implementation.
So the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is perhaps a less refined phone overall, but being a year old it’s also a fair bit cheaper.