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Galaxy Note 4 vs. iPhone 6 Plus: Which Is the Best Phablet?

It has been four months since Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) released its super-sized iPhone 6 Plus and three months from the launch of the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung’s (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) latest generation phablet.

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 plus intro
Source: Brad Moon

Other companies have also released their own version of these massive smartphones. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) has the Nexus 6 and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has the 6-inch Lumia 1320 to Windows fans.

But realistically, the big battle for consumer dollars is between the smartphone titans Apple and Samsung.

Many people chose to wait before plunking down any cash, not sure how Apple’s new entry would compare to the fourth generation of Samsung’s category defining Galaxy phablet. Now that the dust has settled and both the Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus have been in use for a few months, which one comes out on top?

I use an iPhone 6 (the “little” one), so when Samsung sent me a Galaxy Note 4 to try out, I borrowed an iPhone 6 Plus, too. I used the two side-by-side in an attempt to decide which is the best phablet on the market.

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Design

Galaxy Note 4 faux leather back
Source: Brad Moon

Visually, I prefer Apple’s metal design aesthetic to the polycarbonate/fake leather approach Samsung uses on its Galaxy Note.

That being said, despite having the larger display (5.7-inches compared to 5.5-inches), the Galaxy Note 4 is slightly smaller than the Apple phablet. The iPhone is thinner and weighs a little less, but the Galaxy Note 4 felt less gargantuan in-hand. That faux leather back and the sharper edges work in the Galaxy Note’s favor, helping to make it easier to grip.

The Galaxy Note 4 also sports a stylus that tucks away neatly and can be easily accessed for tasks like making handwritten notes, scribbling a drawing or even replacing your finger to peck at the virtual keyboard.

Finally, the Galaxy Note 4’s battery can be swapped out, a plus for heavy users and something that will likely save a few bucks down the road compared to needing Apple to swap out the iPhone’s battery. The Galaxy Note 4 also accepts removable microSD cards for cheap storage.

Presumably as part of a quest to be as thin as possible, both phablets have an annoying, protruding camera lens.

Advantage: Unless fake leather’s your thing, the iPhone 6 Plus gets the nod for visual appeal, while The Galaxy Note 4 has the edge in overall design.

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Specs

Galaxy Note 4, display beats iPhone 6 Plus
Source: Brad Moon

When it comes to technical specifications, there are a lot of “apples-to-oranges” comparisons between these two devices.

For example, the Galaxy Note 4 uses a 2.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 805 CPU with 3GB of RAM at its disposal. The iPhone 6 Plus uses Apple’s own A8 CPU, with just two cores at 1.4GHz with 1GB of RAM.

That sounds like the Galaxy Note 4 should crush the Apple phablet, but the different CPUs have completely different capabilities and requirements. Both were snappy performers. The Galaxy Note 4 does beat the iPhone 6 on Geek Bench scores, but not by a large margin.

The camera is another area where the Galaxy Note 4 dominates … on paper. It has a 16MP primary shooter. The iPhone 6 Plus has an 8MP camera. Comparing photos snapped with the two devices, the Galaxy Note 4 comes out ahead when zooming detail while iPhone 6 Plus has a low light edge; but in general both produce excellent photos.

The display is one area where the Galaxy Note 4 is ahead on both specs and real life use.

The new Galaxy Note has a 5.7-inch display, for a slight overall size edge over the iPhone 6. It also has a big resolution advantage: QHD vs. Full HD means a pixel density of 515 pixels per inch for the Galaxy Note 4, compared to 401 for the iPhone 6 Plus. Samsung also uses a Super AMOLED display that seriously pops.

It’s not that the iPhone 6 Plus has a bad display — it’s actually excellent — but the Galaxy Note 4’s is tough to beat.

Advantage: Galaxy Note 4.

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Usability

Galaxy Note 4 in one hand mode
Source: Brad Moon

I have fairly big hands, so I found both phablets were quite comfortable to use in single-handed mode. As mentioned, though, I did find the Galaxy Note 4 a little more comfortable to hold — that textured back adds grip, while the iPhone’s rounded edges can make it feel slippery.

When it comes to smaller hands, both phablets use software tricks to make one-handed operation easier.

Apple’s version (Reachability) pushes everything down to the bottom two thirds of the iPhone 6 display. The Galaxy Note 4 uses a One-Handed Mode that shrinks the entire screen down, letting the user adjust the size that suits them best and position this window where they’d like within the display.

I prefer Samsung’s method.

Then there’s the built-in S Pen stylus, a useful addition for two-handed mode and taking notes. With the iPhone 6 Plus, you have to use a finger, or buy a third-party stylus (and find somewhere to stash it).

Advantage: Galaxy Note 4.

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Android vs. iOS

Galaxy Note 4 can't match iOS 8 on iPhone 6 plus
Source: Apple

The review unit I received from Samsung was still running Android KitKat, while the iPhone 6 Plus was running iOS 8.

Personal preference is going to come into play here. Some people (about 85% of them, actually) prefer Android on a smartphone. I prefer iOS.

Both operating systems are mature and feature-rich, although I feel iOS is more polished and user-friendly. Both apps stores are well-stocked.

Advantage: Call this one a draw.

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Conclusion

Galaxy Note 4 vs. iPone 6 conclusion
Source: Brad Moon

Which one of these phablets is best?

On paper, the Galaxy Note 4 comes ahead of the iPhone 6 Plus in many areas. The reality is that in real world use, many of those technical advantages don’t translate to clear victory.

For example, few people are likely to notice the Galaxy Note 4 has a slight edge in speed. The Galaxy Note 4’s display is considerably sharper, but looking at the two phablets side-by-side, it’s hard to find fault with the iPhone 6’s.

However, Samsung’s pedigree in developing the Galaxy Note phablet series shows through features like the Galaxy Note 4’s one-handed mode, the built-in stylus and an easier grip.

Apple takes the looks department, while more than holding its own in many areas — not bad for its first phablet.

Like so much else, trying to compare the relative popularity of the two phablets with consumers is like comparing apples to oranges. It looks as though Apple tallied somewhere around 16 million iPhone 6 Plus sales in its first quarter of availability. The Galaxy Note 4 reportedly sold 4.5 million units in its first month, but, it was available only in China and Korea for a good chunk of that time.

Let’s just say both phablets have been a hit with consumers.

Ultimately, the verdict is likely to come down to operating system. If Android is your thing, the Galaxy Note 4 is the best phablet on the market. If you prefer iOS, the iPhone 6 Plus is the best (and only) choice.

As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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