Mobile Technology

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs. iPhone 6: A closer look

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs. iPhone 6...
Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the features and specs of the Samsung Galaxy S6 (and GS6 edge, pictured) with the Apple iPhone 6
Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the features and specs of the Samsung Galaxy S6 (and GS6 edge, pictured) with the Apple iPhone 6
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The curved Galaxy S6 edge in hand
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The curved Galaxy S6 edge in hand
iPhone 6 on top of the Galaxy S6 edge (both are nearly equally thin)
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iPhone 6 on top of the Galaxy S6 edge (both are nearly equally thin)
GS6 edge and iPhone 6
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GS6 edge and iPhone 6
The Galaxy S6 is very light for its size
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The Galaxy S6 is very light for its size
The glass back of the GS6 and the aluminum body of the iPhone 6
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The glass back of the GS6 and the aluminum body of the iPhone 6
Aluminum edge of the Galaxy S6
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Aluminum edge of the Galaxy S6
The iPhone 6 has a smaller profile
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The iPhone 6 has a smaller profile
A closer look at the curved screen of the GS6 edge
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A closer look at the curved screen of the GS6 edge
Two of the top flagships you can buy today
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Two of the top flagships you can buy today
Cameras of the two flagships
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Cameras of the two flagships
Both handsets are available now
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Both handsets are available now
Samsung's and Apple's flagships have more in common than ever before
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Samsung's and Apple's flagships have more in common than ever before
Though it isn't quite a strict copy, the Galaxy S6's bottom edge looks ... familiar
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Though it isn't quite a strict copy, the Galaxy S6's bottom edge looks ... familiar
Wirelessly charging the Galaxy S6
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Wirelessly charging the Galaxy S6
Apple's Touch ID
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Apple's Touch ID
Another look at the backs of the GS6 and iPhone 6
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Another look at the backs of the GS6 and iPhone 6
The 6.8 mm (0.27-in) thick Galaxy S6
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The 6.8 mm (0.27-in) thick Galaxy S6
The 5.1-in screen of the GS6
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The 5.1-in screen of the GS6
iPhone 6 with Touch ID sensor
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iPhone 6 with Touch ID sensor
The smaller iPhone 6 is a little easier to use with one hand
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The smaller iPhone 6 is a little easier to use with one hand
GS6 edge in hand
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GS6 edge in hand
Both phones slide fairly easily into a pocket (they aren't quite phablets)
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Both phones slide fairly easily into a pocket (they aren't quite phablets)
The Galaxy S6's 16 MP camera
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The Galaxy S6's 16 MP camera
The silver iPhone 6
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The silver iPhone 6
White Galaxy S6
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White Galaxy S6
The iPhone 6's screen is 85 percent as big as the Galaxy S6's
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The iPhone 6's screen is 85 percent as big as the Galaxy S6's
If wearables are on your radar, then your phone of choice will dictate your options: the Watch Urbane, left, requires and Android phone while the Apple Watch requires an iPhone
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If wearables are on your radar, then your phone of choice will dictate your options: the Watch Urbane, left, requires and Android phone while the Apple Watch requires an iPhone
Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the features and specs of the Samsung Galaxy S6 (and GS6 edge, pictured) with the Apple iPhone 6
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Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the features and specs of the Samsung Galaxy S6 (and GS6 edge, pictured) with the Apple iPhone 6
The Galaxy S6's much-improved fingerprint sensor
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The Galaxy S6's much-improved fingerprint sensor
Snapping a shot with the GS6's quick-launching camera
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Snapping a shot with the GS6's quick-launching camera
The Galaxy S6 edge (bottom) looks sharper than the Galaxy S6 (top), but costs an extra $100 for little more than cosmetic changes
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The Galaxy S6 edge (bottom) looks sharper than the Galaxy S6 (top), but costs an extra $100 for little more than cosmetic changes

If you're shopping for a new smartphone, there's a good chance that the Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 will be high on your list (and this year that also includes the curved Galaxy S6 edge). Let's go hands-on to compare the latest Galaxy and iPhone flagships.

Before we jump in, note that the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge are almost exactly the same phone. Unless we say otherwise, when we talk about the Galaxy S6, we're including the Edge in that too.

In past years, the iPhone vs. Galaxy decision came down to modern-sized screen, plastic build and lots of ad-friendly features you'll probably never use (Galaxy) vs. premium build, more streamlined software and tiny screen (iPhone). But with these latest versions, both companies addressed their biggest weaknesses, leaving you with a very different decision.

So this year we have three premium phones, with fairly comparable software and no shrimpy screens in sight.

The iPhone 6 has a smaller profile
The iPhone 6 has a smaller profile

The iPhone has a beautiful aluminum unibody build with rounded edges. It's classic Apple design, including the company's trademark lightness and thinness.

If there's something that Apple does well, though, there's a good chance Samsung is running the same race, trying to get every edge it can – so it shouldn't be surprising that the Galaxy flagships are very light and thin as well. The Galaxy S6 is just 7 percent heavier, and the Galaxy S6 edge a mere 2 percent heavier, than the iPhone 6.

When you factor in the Galaxy's larger size, it has the relative weight advantage.

iPhone 6 on top of the Galaxy S6 edge (both are nearly equally thin)
iPhone 6 on top of the Galaxy S6 edge (both are nearly equally thin)

Thickness is nearly the same, with the Galaxy S6 coming out 1 percent thinner and the Edge 1 percent thicker than the iPhone 6. All three phones get an A+ for slim and sexy.

Speaking of sexy, the Galaxy S6 takes a huge leap forward from cheap-feeling plastic to high-end glass and aluminum. If you're brave enough to use the GS6 without a case, then you'll look forward to grasping its Gorilla Glass 4 back in your hand. It feels smooth.

A closer look at the curved screen of the GS6 edge
A closer look at the curved screen of the GS6 edge

The Galaxy S6 edge is especially sharp-looking, with its screen sloping off into those curved edges. We don't see this dual-curve screen as much more than a cosmetic perk, but it does look better than its flat-screened sibling.

The Galaxy S6 edge (bottom) looks sharper than the Galaxy S6 (top), but costs an extra $100 for little more than cosmetic changes
The Galaxy S6 edge (bottom) looks sharper than the Galaxy S6 (top), but costs an extra $100 for little more than cosmetic changes

Though the iPhone 6 has a much bigger screen than any pre-2014 iPhone, it's still 15 percent smaller than the Galaxy S6's display. Both Galaxy and iPhone sit in a comfortable screen size range: big enough to be pretty immersive, but not so big they feel like slabs of ceramic tile in your hand.

That extra real estate on the GS6 and GS6 edge, though, is still noticeable – and welcome.

The iPhone 6's screen is 85 percent as big as the Galaxy S6's
The iPhone 6's screen is 85 percent as big as the Galaxy S6's

Overall screen quality is outstanding on all three phones, with great colors, contrast and brightness across the board. The biggest difference is pixel density, where the Galaxy S6 comes out 77 percent sharper than the iPhone.

If you look at the iPhone's screen by itself, it looks plenty sharp. It's only when you put it next to a Quad HD handset, like the Galaxy S6, when you'll realize it could look much crisper.

Apple's Touch ID
Apple's Touch ID

Though last year's Samsung Galaxy flagships had fingerprint sensors in their home buttons, that was still a big advantage for Apple, as you had to swipe your finger across Samsung's.

This year, though, the Galaxy S6 matches the iPhone with an excellent touch-based fingerprint sensor. Like with the iPhone, you just rest your finger on the button for a brief moment (from any angle), and the gatekeeper will let you in.

The Galaxy S6's much-improved fingerprint sensor
The Galaxy S6's much-improved fingerprint sensor

Apple's Touch ID still has a big advantage, though, in app support for the fingerprint sensor. There are some big-name apps that use Touch ID, including 1Password, Dashlane, Evernote and Dropbox. You can also use Touch ID in app extensions – for filling passwords in Safari and the like.

Samsung's sensor lets you fill passwords in Samsung's stock browser, but that's about it. Third-party app support is, at the moment, minimal.

Cameras of the two flagships
Cameras of the two flagships

Apple's and Samsung's flagships typically have some of the best smartphone cameras around, and this year is no exception. A year ago, one of the iPhone 5s' big advantages over the Galaxy S5 was how much faster you could launch its camera. This year those tables have turned, though, with Samsung's camera launching ridiculously fast – and with a shortcut that makes so much sense we're surprised other phone-makers weren't already using it.

When you want to snap a shot with the Galaxy S6 and GS6 edge, all you have to do is double-tap the home button to launch the camera app. It can jump from sleeping phone to snapped pic in less than two seconds. The iPhone is in good shape here too, but the best result we could get for it was around 3.5 seconds.

There's also no physical shortcut for launching the iPhone's camera; you'll need to slide the camera icon from the lockscreen (if you're waking your phone up), or tap the Control Center shortcut after swiping up from the bottom of the screen (when you're already using the phone).

Snapping a shot with the GS6's quick-launching camera
Snapping a shot with the GS6's quick-launching camera

Both cameras take great shots (for a smartphone, that is). In our tests, the Galaxy S6 performs a little better in low-lit conditions, brightening subjects and picking up a bit more detail in dark to very dark settings. The iPhone, meanwhile, appears to brighten up medium-lit (daytime, indoor) settings a bit more than the GS6 does.

On the whole, both are well above average quality for smartphone low-lit shots.

Neither will replace a DSLR, but we'd be happy to rely on either iPhone or Galaxy for daily smartphone photography – with a slight advantage to the Samsung phones for that ultra-quick, incredibly easy launching. The Galaxy S6 is also a little better for zoomed-in (or cropped) shots, with its higher resolution sensor.

GS6 edge and iPhone 6
GS6 edge and iPhone 6

None of the three phones are pushing battery life barriers, but our tests have the Galaxy S6 edge coming out at the head of the pack. In our video streaming test (over Wi-Fi, with brightness at around 75 percent) the Edge dropped 10 percent per hour. The Galaxy S6 came in just behind, at 11 percent per hour. The iPhone's battery dropped a bit faster, at 14 percent per hour.

You'll always want to take these tests with a few grains of salt (the luminance of "75 percent brightness," for example, varies from phone to phone). But our experience matches up pretty well with those results. Though Apple and Samsung may have put their light/thin oneupmanship game ahead of innovating on a battery life front, all three handsets are still doing pretty well there – with the GS6 and Edge, again, having a minor advantage.

Like several other Android flagships from the last year, the Galaxy S6 has fast charging capabilities. If you're almost out of juice, and you're using the stock Samsung cable, you can get it back to a respectable state after just a few minutes of charging. The iPhone doesn't have a quick-charge feature like this.

Wirelessly charging the Galaxy S6
Wirelessly charging the Galaxy S6

The Samsung phones also have wireless charging built in, so you can pick up a charging pad (either the Qi or PMA standard) to juice up just by resting your phone on top of it. And hey, if you shop at Ikea, you can even charge your Galaxy S6 by resting it on your Swedish couch's armrest.

The iPhone doesn't have built-in wireless charging, but if you use a case for your iPhone, you can still buy a wireless charging receiver that tucks inside of it (though this does have the side effect of taking up the iPhone's Lightning port).

Another look at the backs of the GS6 and iPhone 6
Another look at the backs of the GS6 and iPhone 6

The iPhone 6 is by no means a slow phone, as Apple continues its regular parlor trick of turning a dual core processor and 1 GB of RAM into airtight, silky-smooth performance (on an Android phone, those specs today would probably lead to a compromised experience).

With that said, the Galaxy S6 is an unusually fast phone. You can zip from app-to-app without the slightest bit of lag. The first time you use the phone, it's almost startling how fast it is.

As far as storage goes, the entry-level iPhone gives you 16 GB of internal storage while the Galaxy S6 starts out with 32 GB. You don't, however, get a microSD slot in the Galaxy S6, as you did in previous years' Galaxy phones (and of course iPhones have never supported memory cards either).

The curved Galaxy S6 edge in hand
The curved Galaxy S6 edge in hand

We don't have big complaints about either side's software (the Galaxy S6 has an Android Lollipop core with Samsung TouchWiz UI, while the iPhone 6 runs iOS 8). Despite some welcome improvements from Samsung this year – removing bloat for a more streamlined experience – the GS6's software does still feel a bit more disjointed than Apple's.

Some degree of that may be inevitable, considering the different approaches. On the iPhone, everything you see is either designed by Apple or a third-party app that you installed. On the Galaxy, you have Google's core software, including Google apps and services, but then you have Samsung's UI customizations and extra features on top of that. Throw in some Microsoft services and your local carrier's crapware of choice, and it's just a different experience than software that's all made by the same company.

It also leads to oddities like two different image gallery apps, two different email apps and three different messaging apps – all pre-installed.

This is all familiar territory when talking about iOS vs. Android, and Android has other advantages like more customization options. But the iPhone does still feel more like a whole widget, while the Galaxy phones are a bit like two or three artists painted on the same canvas.

If wearables are on your radar, then your phone of choice will dictate your options: the Watch Urbane, left, requires and Android phone while the Apple Watch requires an iPhone
If wearables are on your radar, then your phone of choice will dictate your options: the Watch Urbane, left, requires and Android phone while the Apple Watch requires an iPhone

As wearables start to get their moment in the mainstream spotlight, you might want to think about them when making this decision. If you want an Apple Watch, then you'll need an iPhone. The Galaxy S6, meanwhile, is compatible with Android Wear watches (like the new LG Watch Urbane) along with Samsung Gear smartwatches.

The Galaxy S6 also powers the excellent Gear VR virtual reality headset – which is basically the Oculus Rift's mobile sidekick.

Aluminum edge of the Galaxy S6
Aluminum edge of the Galaxy S6

Pricing is the same for the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6: typically starting at around US$650 full retail or $200 on-contract (just remember the Galaxy gives you double the storage for that price tier).

The Galaxy S6 edge has a $100 premium for the curved screen. Considering it's otherwise basically identical to the Galaxy S6, you have to ask yourself whether some extra cosmetic appeal is worth a Benjamin.

Two of the top flagships you can buy today
Two of the top flagships you can buy today

The Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge and iPhone 6 are all terrific phones, and we wouldn't hesitate in the slightest to recommend any of them. You do still get that bigger and sharper screen from the GS6, and a more logically-flowing overall experience from Apple, but neither phone has any glaring holes. Both are premium flagship phones that stand above most – if not all – of their peers.

For deeper dives on each phone, you can read Gizmag's full reviews of the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge and iPhone 6. And if you want to cast your net wider, you can check out our latest Smartphone Comparison Guide.

2 comments
Michael Lauzon
Let me get this out of the way first, I am an Android user, and only owned an iPhone once for approx. 24hrs. That being said, in regards to part of your sentence: '...phone has any glaring holes.' You should take a look at the following posts on the XDA forum: http://forum.xda-developers.com/galaxy-s6-edge/accessories/samsung-view-case-scratched-screen-t3107467
budbush
This is a an Apple S-6. No removable battery, No expandable storage. Why in the name of all that is satisfying would I buy a limited phone when there are so many other options out there? Buy a good/recent LG or Motorola and forget Samsung...forever.