Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Apple iPhone 6
Interface and Functionality
Samsung has finally stripped the fat off TouchWiz, and it now runs smoothly, with almost no stutter, and a few new tricks up its sleeve. iOS 8, on the other hand, is its familiar self: a smooth and user-friendly platform.
Expectations ran rampant that Samsung will go back to the drawing board for a complete revision of the TouchWiz UI, and while change has arrived, a lot has stayed the same. There is one fundamental change that has happened under the skin and that is the arrival of Android 5.0 Lollipop with all the performance improvements of the latest version of Google’s operating system. The iPhone 6, on the other hand, features iOS 8, a platform that is much less prone to change, sticking to to a proven formula of simplicity and lack of elaborate customizations.
First, a quick look at the new TouchWiz UI shows that one thing has remained the same: the cartoonish stock Samsung icons that many hoped to see redrawn. Digging a bit deeper, though, one discovers that the underlying apps have undergone a Lollipop-inspired transformation: they are all color-coded with a flat, material design inspiration. The settings menu - a traditionally puzzling endless list of options - has also been simplified, and is now easier to find your way around it. We’re also happy to - finally - see the option to add a quick-access toggle for a flashlight in the notification shade. The signature multi-window feature of TouchWiz has now moved as well, and is found in the multitasking cards.
Samsung has introduced themes in TouchWiz with its A series, and it takes the concept to the next level in the Galaxy S6 with a wider choice of themes. Selecting a new theme changes not only the wallpaper and icon style, but even some widgets, sounds and font style. So far, themes do look a lot like custom Android launchers, but with the important distinction of having deeper access, so much so that with themes, you can have custom first-party apps like a custom dialer. There’s also a theme store (part of Samsung’s Galaxy Apps store), where you can buy artistic themes created by others.
One new gesture in TouchWiz is worth singling out: the double click on the home button now takes you directly to the camera app from any place in the UI and even from the lockscreen (previously, double clicking used to bring up S Voice). This is a clever new addition and being a universal gesture will make it much easier to capture those impromptu moments.
It’s interesting that Samsung has decided to include a separate folder with pre-installed core Microsoft Office apps on the Google Android-powered S6. We’re yet to see whether this folder will come to all markets, but it’s a provocative decision, showing preference for Microsoft’s office solution over the competing Google Docs.
iOS 8, on its part, is a well-known platform that needs little introduction. It differs vastly from Android, if just for the fact that it does not have a dedicated app drawer, nor the rich customization options that Google’s platform offers. On the flip side of things, the iOS ecosystem of apps is richer, and the platform is more fit for gamers, as the latest releases arrive sooner and often exclusively to iOS.
Basic functionality, things like telephony and texting, are well covered on both phones with rich contacts and phone apps, as well as straightforward messaging apps. iOS 8 has also recently added support for third-party keyboards, so you can have popular keyboards like SwiftKey and Swype, which is nice. The stock keyboards, however, do an excellent job with well spaced out keys and a quick, adequate tactile response to your taps.
Processor and Memory
Samsung uses its own 14nm Exynos 7420 system chip, and it’s a great performer, on par with the super-fast Apple A8 SoC.
With Samsung’s sudden decision to use its own Exynos SoC instead of Qualcomm, we have the Exynos 7420 on the Galaxy S6. And that’s a good thing: this is the first 14nm chip we see on a smartphone, and - with some optimizations that have taken place in the TouchWiz UI - we can finally say that Samsung’s new flagship runs fairly smoothly. The Apple iPhone series, on the other hand, is known for its smooth performance from the very first editions, and the iPhone 6 is no exception to that rule with its Apple A8 chip.
Looking at the tech specs, the Exynos 7420 on the S6 features four Cortex-A57 high-performance cores running at up to 2.1GHz and four power-savvy Cortex-A53 cores clocked at up to 1.5GHz, all connected in a big.LITTLE setup. The Galaxy S6 ships with a Mali-T760 GPU and sports 3GB of RAM. The iPhone 6, on its part, features the dual-core Apple A8, but core counting is a tricky affair, and one should keep in mind that the cores here are larger and much more powerful, so it’s no surprise to see that the crucial single-core performance is still higher in the iPhone 6 (but the S6 wins in multi-core performance). Apple has taken some criticism for including just 1GB of RAM on the iPhone 6, which forces apps to reboot more often, making multitasking theoretically a bit faster on the S6.
In daily usage, though, what matters most is that both do a good job running Android 5.0 Lollipop and iOS 8, respectively, smoothly and fairly lag-free.
Looking at graphics/gaming benchmarks, it’s easy to notice that the Galaxy S6 does well, but can’t get to the blazing fast framerates on the iPhone 6. The reason is obvious: the Quad HD resolution means more pixels and a higher load on the Galaxy S6. This often results in a huge advantage of more than twice as high framerates on the iPhone, making it the more suitable device for gamers.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 has an advantage when it comes to the amount of internal storage in the most popular basic model: 32GB versus 16GB on the iPhone 6. The next tier moves to 64GB for both the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6, where we have parity.
Samsung has also done away with one signature feature for its flagship Galaxy series: microSD cards. The new Galaxy S6 does not feature expandable storage, just like the iPhone, so you’d have to clean up contents more often or rely on the cloud to store your data.
Internet and Connectivity
Surfing the web is fast and stutter-free, and both phones support a plethora of 4G LTE bands.
The Galaxy S6 ships with two pre-installed browsers: Samsung’s feature-rich solution that offers neat options like a full-screen view, and the mobile version of Google Chrome. The iPhone 6, on its part, comes with mobile Safari pre-loaded, which is a nimble browser that comes with support for the very convenient iOS touch gestures for navigation - something that Android phones do not have.
Surfing the web is a fast and smooth experience on both devices: it’s hard to notice any slowdowns when scrolling around a page, or zooming in and out.
Samsung has upped the ante with 4G LTE connectivity as the Galaxy S6 features more LTE bands than earlier Galaxy devices. The iPhone 6 is also a record-holder as it sports between 16 and 20 different LTE bands (models vary slightly).
Other standard connectivity options on both include: dual-channel Wi-Fi, aGPS with Glonass, Bluetooth 4.1, and NFC.
The Galaxy S6 supports MHL 3.0, a standard that makes it possible to stream 4K videos to a TV, while the S5, for instance, only supported MHL 2.0 and 1080p streaming.
Then, the S6 also has the advantage of having an infra red (IR) beamer and a dedicated Peel Smart Remote app that allows consumers to use the phone as a TV/AC remote, which is nice. The app also doubles as a TV guide, while for the iPhone 6 such features are lacking.