Mobile Technology

Quick look: iPhone 6 Plus vs. Galaxy Note 3

Gizmag takes a quick hands-on look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (left) and iPhone 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag takes a quick hands-on look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (left) and iPhone 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Back of the Galaxy Note 3 (with Samsung S View folio case) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Back of the Galaxy Note 3 (with Samsung S View folio case) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy Note 3, with its huge 5.7-in display (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Galaxy Note 3, with its huge 5.7-in display (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 3's S View case makes it feel more like a modern PDA (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note 3's S View case makes it feel more like a modern PDA (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
What do you know, we're comparing Samsung and Apple devices yet again (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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What do you know, we're comparing Samsung and Apple devices yet again (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note's S Pen (stylus) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note's S Pen (stylus) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 3 has a faux metal (plastic) band wrapping around its edge (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note 3 has a faux metal (plastic) band wrapping around its edge (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Bottom of the Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Bottom of the Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note's Air Command, a hub for activating the most useful stylus-based software (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note's Air Command, a hub for activating the most useful stylus-based software (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus has beautiful (and comfortable to hold) rounded edges (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 Plus has beautiful (and comfortable to hold) rounded edges (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus (left) and Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 Plus (left) and Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Backs of both phablets (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Backs of both phablets (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 3 (right) gives you 7 percent more screen real estate ... though both have their feet firmly planted in Enormousville (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note 3 (right) gives you 7 percent more screen real estate ... though both have their feet firmly planted in Enormousville (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy Note's stylus-based software isn't just gimmicks – it can be handy when you need to jot something down (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Galaxy Note's stylus-based software isn't just gimmicks – it can be handy when you need to jot something down (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Browsing Gizmag on the Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Browsing Gizmag on the Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag takes a quick hands-on look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (left) and iPhone 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Gizmag takes a quick hands-on look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (left) and iPhone 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPhone 6 Plus in landscape mode, where its screen rotates just like an iPad's (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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iPhone 6 Plus in landscape mode, where its screen rotates just like an iPad's (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus' Reachability (one-handed) mode (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 Plus' Reachability (one-handed) mode (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus' true rival: the upcoming Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 Plus' true rival: the upcoming Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPhone 6 Plus, in hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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iPhone 6 Plus, in hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus' smooth aluminum body (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 Plus' smooth aluminum body (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus is 7.1 mm (0.28-in) thick (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 Plus is 7.1 mm (0.28-in) thick (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The 6 Plus is the least comfortable iPhone in hand, but it also gives you much more display area (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The 6 Plus is the least comfortable iPhone in hand, but it also gives you much more display area (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Another look at the smooth design of the 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Another look at the smooth design of the 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

In 2011, Samsung created the first "phablet" with the original Galaxy Note. Now that Apple has a large-screened smartphone of its own, wouldn't it be nice to plop down the iPhone 6 Plus next to Samsung's flagship phablet (at least until next month), the Galaxy Note 3? Read on, for Gizmag's initial hands-on thoughts.

Both the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 3 are enormous phones. And though we're still getting ourselves acquainted with the iPhone 6 Plus, I think it's safe to say that these are both damn good – quite possibly terrific – mobile devices. If you want a phone with a screen so big that it can (potentially) allow you to offload your tablet, then this pair is a great place to start.

The Note's 5.7-in screen is still a little bigger than the iPhone 6 Plus' 5.5-incher (the Note's display gives you 7 percent more area). If you want not just big, but maximum screen real estate, then it's the better of these two choices.

The Note 3 (right) gives you 7 percent more screen real estate ... though both have their feet firmly planted in Enormousville (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 3 (right) gives you 7 percent more screen real estate ... though both have their feet firmly planted in Enormousville (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The Note also makes more economical use of its front face. The iPhone 6 Plus is 5 percent taller, despite having the smaller screen. You get more bezel on the iPhone, and I suspect its Touch ID fingerprint sensor has something to do with that.

The biggest difference, though, is the Note's stylus. We're seeing two fundamentally different approaches to a phablet: Apple's is basically a huge version of the iPhone 6, while the Note is more like a blown-up Galaxy S4 or S5 that also happens to use a pen.

Each approach has its place. I like the sense of precision and control that I get from the Note's S Pen. Its note-taking features (triggered by clicking the pen while hovering near the screen) can make for quick and handy memos, screenshots, searches and adding of contacts.

The Galaxy Note's stylus-based software isn't just gimmicks – it can be handy when you need to jot something down (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy Note's stylus-based software isn't just gimmicks – it can be handy when you need to jot something down (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The stylus also feels right at home on this size of screen. Phablets are difficult for anyone to use with one hand (more on that in a minute), so why not embrace their two-handedness and hold it like you would a pen and notepad? It makes sense.

While the iPhone 6 Plus doesn't ship with a stylus (and can only be used with crude capacitive styluses), it's still a pleasure to use. You don't get the notebook and pen type of experience, but it almost feels more like an iPad mini-mini than an iPhone Plus. Its design aesthetic is similar to the iPad mini, and Apple even threw in a few software touches that were borrowed from the company's iconic tablet.

Open the iOS Mail app on the iPhone 6 Plus, for example, and you'll see two panels. On the left, your list of messages. On the right, the currently selected message. The 6 Plus represents an uncharted (for Apple) middle-ground between the iPhone and iPad – and software touches like this help to accentuate that.

The iPhone 6 Plus' Reachability (one-handed) mode (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus' Reachability (one-handed) mode (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Apple also threw in a one-handed mode to help deal with the conundrum of using a huge phone with one paw. Double-tapping on the home button (lightly, rather than full presses) slides the entire screen down, so you can easily reach high targets. Apple is hardly the first phablet-maker to tackle one-handed mode, but its approach seems to be as good as any.

The Note 3 has a one-handed mode too, though if you're using the stylus, it isn't necessary. In fact, Samsung's one-handed mode switches off if it senses that you're using the S Pen. If you do need it, though, a quick gesture (swiping in and out from the edge of the screen) shrinks the entire display. It looks a bit more awkward than Apple's approach, but it does have the advantage of shrinking the keyboard. On the iPhone, the keyboard slides right off the screen.

The iPhone 6 Plus has beautiful (and comfortable to hold) rounded edges (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus has beautiful (and comfortable to hold) rounded edges (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The two have very different build qualities. The iPhone sports a beautifully chiseled aluminum unibody shell, with curved edges that are a pleasure to hold (the front glass panel even slopes off a bit). Though it's made of metal, the Plus still feels somewhat light – at least for its size. Compare it to another aluminum phablet, the HTC One Max, and it's practically a feather.

The Note 3, meanwhile, is made of a faux leather plastic, with a faux metal band wrapping around its edge. It sounds a little chintzy and – make no mistake – it won't win any contests for authentically premium materials. But it is very comfortable in hand. And if you allow yourself to (almost) forget that it's plastic, it makes for a snazzy professional-feeling PDA – especially if you're using a folio case, like the one pictured.

Bottom of the Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Bottom of the Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Performance is good on both devices, but the iPhone 6 Plus' UI actually feels a bit smoother out-of-the-box. I say "actually" because the Note 3 is toting a quad-core processor and 3 GB of RAM, compared to the iPhone's dual-core CPU with 1 GB of RAM. After rooting the Note and applying a few tweaks, my Note 3's performance is just as buttery-smooth as the iPhone's ... but, out of the box, I do notice ever-so-slightly smoother transitions on the 6 Plus.

Normally we'd delve into camera impressions and battery tests, but since we only recently got our iPhone 6 review units, it's too early to say much on those fronts. I can say that both new iPhones take terrific shots ... but, then again, so do most high-end Android and Windows Phone handsets that I've reviewed in the past year.

The iPhone 6 Plus' true rival: the upcoming Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus' true rival: the upcoming Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Of course the Note 3 isn't the iPhone 6 Plus' real rival. That title would belong to the Galaxy Note 4 (above), which will be hitting store shelves (at least in the US) on October 17. During my brief hands-on time with the Note 4, it looked like a fairly minor upgrade over the Note 3, but that isn't such a bad thing. In fact, the Note 3 is such a terrific device that it would have been nearly impossible to leap too far past it.

I'm a fan of large-screen smartphones, and I think these two – along with the LG G3 – are easily the best phablets you can buy today (the Nokia Lumia 1520 is great too, but Windows Phone's app disadvantage puts it a couple notches behind, in my book). The Plus and Note attack the product category from different angles, but they ultimately meet similar (extremely high) levels of quality. You just need to find which angle – pen and notepad or iPad mini-mini – works better for you.

The iPhone 6 Plus (left) and Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 Plus (left) and Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

This was just our quick look, but you can dig deeper by hitting up our Galaxy Note 3 review from last year, and our full iPhone 6 Plus review.

Both the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 3 are available now (though you might have trouble getting your hands on a Plus for at least a few more weeks). The iPhone retails for US$750 full retail or $300 on-contract, while the soon-to-be-supplanted Note 3 is currently hovering around $600-700 off-contract and $200 on-contract.

Product pages: Apple, Samsung

5 comments
Ever
Apple didn't release anything great or innovative, they just increase the screen size and added NFC. The iphone 6 plus is just an bigger iphone 6, practically no real advantages over the iphone 6 beside bigger battery. For sure the Galaxy Note 4 is way better than the iphone 6 plus, below some of the Note 4 Advantages over the iphone 6 plus: - You can use this phone as a notebook to write notes - Work like a mouse on your smartphone - Provides high precision when viewing websites on Desktop Mode - Same build quality (both are build on metal) - Better Screen Scratch Resistance (2.5D Glass Screen) - 4 % larger screen at the same phone size (5.7 in vs 5.5 in) - Higher screen Resolution (2560x1440 vs 1920x1080) - Higher PPI 28% (515 ppi vs 401 ppi) - Higher screen contrast and great visibility outside on Sun Light - Larger Battery and better battery life - Removable Battery - Multiples levels of Power Saving Modes - Faster charging (0% to 50% in 30 mins) - Better Camera (16 Mega Pixels with Image Stabilization vs 8 Mega Pixels with Image Stabilization) - Faster phone auto-focus due to a phase detection - 4K Video Recording - Better front facing camera (3.7 Mega Pixels capable of 1080p vs 1.2 Mega Pixels no 1080p) - 32 GB built-in storage + MicroSD Slot Expandable to 128 GB - UV Sensor - Heart Rate Monitor - Better multitasking because of Multi-Windows and with 300% MORE RAM (3 GB RAM vs 1 GB RAM) - MHL 3.0 (Mobile Standard that support 4K Ultra HD Video/Audio output while charging) - Notification Light - IR Blaster (Works as TV or Any electronic Remote Control) - Support Wireless Charging
Lewis M. Dickens III
Gosh, two reviews in one! I noticed with the 4 and 5 that I often had to cup my hand to reflect the sound into the microphone so that the listener could hear what I was saying. With the greater dimensions now, I suspect that the larger phones pick up speech better. Is this true? Does anybody know? Bill
tapasmonkey
Great comparison: thank you. My take... You can buy the Note 3 right now unlocked for 411 pounds for the 32 gb version as opposed to 619 pounds for the (non expandable) 16 gb iphone6 plus. As soon as the Note 4 comes out, the price for the Note 3 will drop to about 300 pounds (it has for all the last ones): that is a serious bargain. So basically half price. Chuck the Nova skin on it to get rid of all the Samsung Touch-Wiz cr*p and you've got an amazingly infinitely customisable interface (and of course there are tons more skins to take things even further, Nova is just the easy one for lazy people like myself). The iphone6 plus will no doubt wipe the floor with the Note 4 with their amazing camera quality, but even the Note 3 holds is no slouch if you fiddle around a bit in the settings: there's a lot to be said for 13 megapixels for heavy cropping. Personally I can't do without the proper stylus for sketching and note-taking, but that's not for everyone, so I'll leave that to one side, but it is nice to have for pretty much anyone, even if it's just for your shopping list. And the swap-able battery for long haul trips (pick spare ones up for a fiver one Amazon), always good. And it charges super fast, about 50% in an hour, very handy. I truly can't see a reason to justify the 6 plus, unless you're already hugely invested in Apple Store apps.
Ra Hans
After watching the drop test, and scratch test, then the comparisson with older versions of the iPhone in this video: http://youtu.be/1V6UovIqrqI I am not yet convinced if I want to buy it.
Neil
iPhone for the win: iOS gets the best apps and gets them first, the best user experience, the best customer service bar none, the best privacy (no google tracking unless you're daft enough to get one of their nosy apps), best security (no malware) and the best users.
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