The best selfie phone: Galaxy S6 vs LG G4 vs iPhone 6 vs One M9 vs Xperia Z3 vs Note 4 vs Nexus 6

Ah, the venerable Selfie! So popular is its usage today that it's easy to forget that the word would have meant nothing to people even 10 years back. And yet, as if of nowhere, everyone is now in on the new trend. Sure, you may not be into this whole selfie thing, but the facts are that more people than you probably realize are very much part of the social phenomenon. One survey for example, commissioned by Samsung, found that over a third of photos taken by Britons aged 18–24 were selfies. According to the study, Brits take almost 2 billion photos a month, so that means some 700 million selfies coming out every 30 days, from just that one country.

But while selfies initially started out as such, they're no longer the exclusive domain of the younger demographic. President Obama takes selfies. Ellen DeGeneres took one with a number of A-list actors after the Oscars in 2014. Heck, even Pope Francis popped the papacy's cherry with a selfie taken with fans. And, as much as you wouldn't want to believe it, with each passing day the chance of you spotting a selfie inside one of your parent's camera roll increases. The selfie is now ubiquitous. No surprise Time magazine put selfie on its list of buzzwords at the end of 2012, and even the people behind the Oxford English Dictionary felt compelled to both add it to its glossary and crown it as the Word of the Year 2013.

And what lies at the heart of this selfie frenzy? Smartphones, of course. Our turf.

For the third consecutive year, we'll be taking a look at what the best-of-the-best in the industry have deemed sufficient to meet this new demand for quality selfies. Back in November, when we last examined the landscape, we noted that manufacturers were making steady progress in this area, and were paying more attention than ever before to this little part of the puzzle. This continues to be the case today, with better and better camera stacks being used in the slot up front. Here's an overview of the hardware on board our contestants today:

Galaxy S65MP1440p@30fpsBeauty shot, Dual camera, Face detection, Virtual shot, Effects, HDR, Selfie panorama, Effects, Animated GIF, Sound & shot, Interval shot
LG G48MP1080p@30fpsBeauty shot, Burst shot, Gesture shot, Cheese shutter, HDR, "Flash" mode, Dual camera/Dual video recording
iPhone 61.2MP720p@30fpsBurst shot, Face detection, Effects
HTC One M94MP1080p@29fpsBeauty face, Voice Selfie, Auto Selfie, Face detection, HDR, Portrait mode
Xperia Z32.2MP1080p@29fpsBeauty shot, Burst shot, Face detection, Dual camera, Smile shutter, Image stabilization, HDR, Sound Photo, Effects, AR effects, Soft skin effect
Galaxy Note 43.7MP1440p@29fpsBeauty shot, Burst shot, Dual camera/Dual video recording, Selfie panorama, Sound & Shot, Voice shutter, Exposure correction
Nexus 62MP1080p@30fpsLens Blur, Exposure correction

Like before, we'll be taking a closer look at the quality of these snappers by dissecting selfies and judging imperatives such as proper exposition, color reproduction, fine detail, and even low light performance, within various scenarios. In contrast to our traditional rear camera comparisons, however, flattering portraits, even if at the expense of some color fidelity, will be scored higher. It's a selfie, after all.

Field of View

Only two phones on our list support selfie panoramas, and both are from Samsung's camp — the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 4. As you can imagine, this will limit your ability to snap wide-angled enough images that would, if need be, allow for the inclusion of more people into the shot. That's why a selfie camera with a larger field of view (FoV) can be seen as advantageous.

Like last year, we thought we'd run some tests to determine which of our contestants' front snappers captured the most of any scene. Just two phones on our list shoot in a 4:3 aspect ratio — the Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6 — while the rest do 16:9. As you're about to see, aspect ratio by itself doesn't mean a larger FoV, as though the Galaxy S6 grabs the title, it is followed by a whole bunch of 16:9 cams. The selfie camera you can expect to capture the least of the scene in front of it is the Nexus 6's. And that's just one of its problems, as you're about to see.

Strong light

As is the case with any camera, when light is abundant, everything is A-Okay — even when talking as tiny sensors as the ones embedded into the front of smartphones. Not everything is peachy, though, and most of the phones on the list exhibit some idiosyncratic, if relatively consistent, behavior.

Starting with the Galaxy S6, we observe that despite the rich-in-detail and fairly dynamic selfies it produces, they're nevertheless quite soft, and skin textures look as if airbrushed, even with Beauty mode turned off. As for the One M9, which finished on top in this category, we've got to hand it to HTC — selfies are looking great, and for a few reasons. First and foremost, the camera algorithms don't seem to shy away from touching up photos, and in somewhat imperceptible ways. Images are quite dynamic, skin tones are flattering, and we just can't take our eyes off the subject, courtesy of the slight bokeh effect that only the M9's camera produces. Thanks to it, you are at the center of the composition, and that's a big win for a selfie camera.

Despite having the least impressive-sounding front camera, the Apple's iPhone 6 again proves that numbers don't always matter. Its selfies aren't perfect — they're very warm, for example — but the stills are dynamic and quite attractive on the whole. At times, however, said warmness can be a tad too much (slide #4 below).

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Nexus 6 and Xperia Z3, both of which proved markedly inferior to their counterparts. With the former, we're mostly talking about a combination of poor dynamics, dull color reproduction, and unpleasantly contrast-y photos. Sony's Z3 is even worse, however, for its selfies come out with very significant purple fringing throughout, as observed in all samples, along with mushy detail and washed out colors.

Medium and low light

All is well when light is abundant, unless you've got a Nexus 6 or an Xperia Z3 in your pocket, but what about more challenging conditions? It was time to head out once again, but only after the sun had set.

Low light scenarios are notoriously hard on smartphone cameras, even when talking about the main unit. Considering that we're looking at much less sophisticated selfie snappers, you should obviously be ready for disappointment in environments that don't feature at least some ambient lightning. Regardless, it's still true that nighttime is also when many of us happen to be most likely to want to take a self portrait or two.

This being a completely different category, we quickly realized that the previous split in rankings would be disturbed. Your first clue is the LG G4, with its 8-megapixel cam, which ended at the top this time around. That's not a fluke, though — the G4 is darn good at handling light sources, all the while fine detail is preserved and color reproduction doesn't go bonkers. Sure, some shots come out relatively noisy and the background sometimes looks as if oil painted, but we still like what we see overall. But how come? Well, the G4 has a secret weapon — a pseudo "flash", which is simply the screen going pink-white whilst brightness is pumped to the max. The feature definitely paid off.

Trailing LG's flagship is Samsung's own — the Galaxy S6 ranked second. Now, this one will come down to taste, though we've got to just say it — yes, objectively speaking, the S6 deserves its spot, but we can't get over the porcelain-like skin textures that sometimes come out of its camera roll. This aside, the S6 does great overall. The trio up next — One M9, iPhone 6, Note 4 — also performs admirably, but not quite up to the standard set by the G4 and S6.

Last (again) on the list are the Nexus 6 and the Xperia Z3. It goes without saying that the results their front cams produced were underwhelming, and were often plagued by smeared details (slide #8), blurriness, and severe color aberrations (slide #14).

Conclusion and final verdict

After going through and dissecting more selfies than we'd care to admit, we were ready to draw some conclusions. First and foremost, we have to commend most of the smartphone makers on our list on their continuing efforts to improve the snapper up front — it probably isn't the first thing the majority of consumers look for, but it's proving to be a viable differentiating factor in a sea of sameness. 

Companies like Samsung, HTC, and LG seem to agree with the above assessment, and actually did something about it. The results, as you can see, were quick to follow — the Galaxy S6 proved to be the most reliable, all-around shooter, followed by the One M9 (awesome bokeh!) and the G4 (great low light performance).

Interestingly enough, the Galaxy Note 4 ended behind the iPhone 6 this time around, despite proving superior last year. While rare, that's not untypical — different compositions often fetch stills of varying quality, especially with relatively inconsistent cameras as it the case here.

Not all manufacturers went to the trouble of refining the selfie camera on their flagships, however. Sony and Google (Motorola) come to mind here, and we can't say we're surprised at this point — the snappers on the flagships of these two never were any good. We don't know anything about the next Nexus yet, but we're at least relieved to see a higher resolution (and hopefully quality) selfie snapper on the brand new Xperia Z3+/Z4v.



1. Retrospective1

Posts: 45; Member since: Feb 24, 2015

Lets face it 1.2mp for iPhone 6 is poor considering the price. I call last in reality for the iPhone 6.. Still a decent mid ranger though. . Also has less selfie features compared to its rivals. Not surprised there No way is iPhone 6 beating Note 4, thats just lol

2. bucky

Posts: 3794; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

the trolling starts at the first comment...Its deservedly middle of the pack amongst the best smartphones.

4. Retrospective1

Posts: 45; Member since: Feb 24, 2015

No trolling just how i feel, have given Apple plenty of money. No need to troll, I just prefer Samsung now my friend. Only on PA is 1.2mp acceptable if it had an HTC logo they'd be saying it was poor. 1.2MP aint beating out 3.7mp of the Note 4 go see for yourself. 1.2mp for that price and 2014 (when it was released) is a joke. as was "Retina HD" really 750p, just to fool non tech savvy. Guess it worked

20. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

No itdoesn't. It should be dead last. n fact, it shouldn't even be in the running. 1.2MP was the norm in 2004. It's 2015 dude. Eve the worse 2MP camera is better than 1.2MP. At least with 2MP you can record/shoot in 1080p. The fact the iPhone can't and it costs more than all the phones in this running is bulls**t. You can try to justify it all you want, just makes you look more crazy.

21. Ninetysix

Posts: 2965; Member since: Oct 08, 2012

You can keep on crying like a little girl but the conclusion and final verdict will never change.

58. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

But those conclusion are nothing more than point of view Personally i dont like those HUGE pixel we see on the Iphone selfie its disgusting. Worst than all the others on thats note. But overall yeah its doing not bad for a 1.2 mp.

74. JoshN

Posts: 202; Member since: Apr 01, 2015

Hey Techie i bought a ZTE F320 WITH A 2MP camera on boxing day for $2 I totallu agree a 1.2mp camera in 2015 is P!SS POOR my brothers iPhone 6 selfie camera lags behing my S6 and my other brothers Z5 Premium :-) !!!

23. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

I'm just curious, the iPhone based on reviews; hasn't had the best camera since the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5S, 6 and 6 Plus all share the same front and rear camera with Apple adding a feature here and there. Please tell me this. How the heck can you call someone a troll for making a fair and reasonable observation? Apple is sitting on over $200B in cash reserves and the best they could give you on the iPhone 6 is to sell you the same crappy cameras they shoved into their phone in 2011. They are so frikkin cheap they wont even put a flash on the iPad. Sure most people don't use a tablet to take shots, but many people do. In fact if you put a camera in the device, to not put a flash is stupid. It's these little things that Apple just leaves off that pisses me off. I am not saying they have to be like every other OEM, but they do the most senseless BS and you cheerlead them as if they are perfect. Then even when a valid point is made, you want to call someone a troll? YOU'RE A TROLL you hypocrite. For me its value for the price. Even $400 phones have better cameras vs the iPhone 6. The Galaxy S5 can be bought right now brad new for $350 of contract and free on contract. Both its front and rear cameras are still better than the brand new iPhone 6. How can you sit their nad bash someone when Apple releases a brand new phone, that can't even beat the last years model of another OEM. In fact the cameras on he iPhone 6 can't even beat the ones on the 5S because they are the exact same. All they did was add OIS Think about it the way I see it and why I personally trash the iPhone. If Apple is going to sell a half-assed phone, then they should sell it at a half-assed price. The iPhone hasn't been worth $650 since after the iPhone 4. The 5S is the only model I would say was worth maybe $599. I am not saying the iPhone has to have Galaxy S6 specs to be worth $650, but it should have 2 cameras that can do 1080p, the rear camera should be at least 13MP, the front shuld hae been 2MP from the first model, consider my Razr has a 1.0MP camera, the display on the iPhone 6 should b 1080p and the battery shouldn't be smaller than 2000mah. After all, most flagships at the end of 2011 has such specs and capabilities. For the money Apple has, they can afford to have 20MP Carl Zeiss lens on the rear like the Lumia, it should be 5MP in the front, the display should be at least 1080p ad the charging port should at least support USB 3.0 speeds. It does NONE OF THAT. Yet the Galaxy S which has started at $599 since the first model, has always had beet specs, better capabilities than the iPhone released in the same year. Apple should be shamed to hell for releasing a phone with 2012 specs in 2014/15. Because no other OEM is doing such.

28. AgentZero

Posts: 314; Member since: Aug 16, 2014

im an android fan and i own a M8 but ill be objective here , we all know the megapixels are not everything since the iphone 4s apple kept improving the sensor , and every review out there says that the 6 plus camera is one of the top 5 out there with the note 4 ,s6, Lg g4, and the S5 , the sensor and the image processing is the best out there with the S6 and whats good about it is that its consistant . 99% of the time its takes the picture the way its supposed to be . i never liked apple but the consistant performance , the news about 2 gb of ram and a better camera in the next iphone and the 4 year software support for every phone , i was always an android fan since the galaxy s 1 but you have to give apple some respect , they are consistant in every aspect , they might not give you the phone that is the best in any area but they give phones that are good in every single area

30. hound.master

Posts: 1044; Member since: Feb 27, 2015

IPhone 6 or 6 plus are not even close to be in top 5 how about top 20 or 50 Lumia 1020/930/1520 and LG g3 note3/galaxy s4 zoom/k zoom and a lot of other phones have better camera than IPhone 6/6plus the camera if iPhone is barely acceptable in 2012.

41. AgentZero

Posts: 314; Member since: Aug 16, 2014

ok we all know lumias are out of the comparasion , im talking between android an apple flagships ,the s4 zoom and k zoom are mid range phones they are technically cameras with some specs to make them phones the lg g3 and the note 3 are behind on camera and every review say that , the lg g3 has a problem with over exposing lights lights , watch every tech review out there they will tell you the top 5 flagship phones cameras are right now : 1.galaxy s6 - 2.LG G4 - 3. galaxy note 4- 4. iphone 6 plus -5. galaxy s5 this is what every neutral tech fan would tell you

66. ideal_josh

Posts: 34; Member since: Nov 26, 2012

38. donfem

Posts: 708; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

Why ramble when the only point you wanted to make was about consistency?

52. coldspring22

Posts: 349; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

Yes that's true, iphone is not the worst performer. If it was, then nobody would be buying it despite Apple branding power. But you also have to give respect to entry level Android phones too, like Xiaomi Redmi series. Redmi 2 has "retina" display, pro version comes with 2GB ram, pretty good 8MP shooter/2MP selfie, SD card slot and 2200 mah battery which out pace iphone 6. Aside from iphone's legendary aluminum chasis, there is nothing particularly outstanding about $700 iphone even when compared with $130 entry level android phone.

68. Jango

Posts: 376; Member since: Oct 24, 2014

I dont agree this is the case at all

33. Amiafanboy

Posts: 67; Member since: May 27, 2015

You have so much time to waste. Unbelievable !! Forget the ios- android battle..... Basically with this reply you have proven that you are a jobless bored person. I love android btw. Make better use of your time. Proving that ios or android is greater doesn't get you a dime. Period.

53. coldspring22

Posts: 349; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

Yes there is no contest, at least in any sane person's mind. Android is the far better platform, driven by thousands of companies, serving vast majority of people in the world, while Apple has proven again and again that they don't play ball with anyone except to squeeze maximum profit, nor do they give crap about poor people who can't afford their $1000 iphone.

36. Topcat488

Posts: 1417; Member since: Sep 29, 2012

I carry both iPhone 6 and Note 4, so the first comment is not a "Trolling" comment... And the pictures i take with the Note 4 look WAY better than iPh6 pictures, no way is iPh 6 beating Note 4. I wear the Gear S also, and still people ask and say how nice it looks... I was waiting for Apple Watch, i'm not waiting anymore.

25. waddup121 unregistered

Cutie doing selfies! Awesome comparision PA!

43. robocopvn

Posts: 504; Member since: Mar 10, 2010

I dont know how with just some photos, in daylight, and at night. Phone Arena can come up with the so much important conclusion like this. Ip6 front camera better than note 4?? A joke ???

3. jesus_sheep

Posts: 279; Member since: Apr 18, 2015

the z3 is the worst phone. never buy sony.

37. javy108

Posts: 1004; Member since: Jul 27, 2014

Sony is dying...

57. osbert

Posts: 125; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

What on earth is going on with this test? The Z3 was markedly better than the G4 in all tests!?! Did PA screw up labelling the images or something?

5. imnotascammer

Posts: 160; Member since: Aug 22, 2012

Sony Pros: Nope. Seriously?!?!?! How come when most of those sensors are supplied by them? Lol

24. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

I've said that too. How is it Apple and Samsung can do a better job with Sony's sensors and Sony can't? The problem is Sony is terrible at software. I would say it has to be very hard for a company that doesn't make software to ever really be good at it.

69. bur60

Posts: 981; Member since: Jul 07, 2014

No thats not it. Very late reply but Sony has a finnish team making the software for the xperia line. Japan only focusses on Cybershot and system camera software. They don't give a ratsass about xperia camera because of their fear for cannibalism. It will become their downfall instead.

44. legiloca

Posts: 1676; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

That's Sony Logic in a nutshell..

6. JesseJames

Posts: 226; Member since: Feb 22, 2015

I just came to see where htc would place.

7. Retrospective1

Posts: 45; Member since: Feb 24, 2015

Dear PA "Starting with the Galaxy S6, we observe that despite the rich-in-detail and fairly dynamic selfies it produces, they're nevertheless quite soft, and skin textures look as if airbrushed" Turn down beauty mode, think it set to 4 automatically on selfie mode.This is what causes the quote above. FYI i don't take selfies BTW LOL

9. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

It was off.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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