iPhone 6 Plus vs Galaxy Note 4

It was over dinner a few nights back that I was asked the question, “If you could keep either the iPhone 6 Plus or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which one would it be?”

Having to pick one smartphone over the other is always a tough question to answer, this one in particular requires a more lengthy and complicated answer, one that I wasn’t prepared to give.

But minutes before, I had just handed out business cards that said “matchmaker” – an unconventional work title I’ve given myself to describe the act of helping people find the right devices to match their lifestyle – I knew skirting around this issue was not going to cut it.

“So what’s your answer,” prodded my journalist best friend.

I paused. The complexity of the potential answer comes as a result of the complex question itself. iPhone 6 Plus or Galaxy Note 4? Which of the two is the better oversized smartphone? What phone looks better, performs better? Do I prefer Apple over Samsung? Is iOS or Android the better smartphone operating system?

I wish the answer(s) were simple – a matter of apples vs oranges or in this case, quite literally, Apple vs Samsung. But over the course of being a “matchmaker” I’ve realized that while consumer needs can be placed into boxes, preferences are subjective.

To answer the big question requires a bit of introspection.

Apple vs Samsung


Sure it’s about status. Over the last few years Apple has cemented its position as creator of some the most prestigious tech products in the world, and rightfully so. Like you would pay more for a luxury car, you pay a premium for an Apple device.

Whether it’s the single slabs of aluminum from which the phones are meticulously crafted, its chamfered edges cut with diamonds, or speaker grills etched out by lasers, every iteration of the iPhone has been a sight to behold.

For Apple it’s intentional. This fixation with beauty taps into our human condition to lust over what’s aesthetically pleasing. Superficial, maybe, but when I stare down at the two phones I’m currently using, the iPhone evokes more of a sensory response.

Design too is the prelude to experience and this is another reason why Apple wins the brand war. Strategically, and in an almost autocratic fashion Apple has built a fully integrated ecosystem of devices and services.

From its very core the Mac has been designed to work and play well with the iPhone. Apple makes both the iCloud platform where files and settings are stored for both devices to mutually use, and the iTunes store, a one-stop shop for apps, music, TV shows, movies, and books.

With the most recent updates available in Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 the screens on the Mac and the iPhone have become in many ways extensions of each other. If you already own a Mac computer it makes perfect sense to pick Apple and buy an iPhone.


iOS vs Android


Anticipation was building. All eyes on the table were on me, pressing for an answer.

It could go either way honestly.

If I were answering for someone who is technologically challenged or one who’d never feel the need to dive into settings to customize the look and feel or their smartphone then my answer would be iOS. But in this case with the customer being someone like me, Android is the better match.

I immediately thought about Facebook Messenger – my messaging application of choice and one of my most frequently used apps.

Just a year back, when it launched its failed attempt at a Facebook phone, the social networking giant introduced a revolutionary feature called chat heads – circles with your friend’s Facebook profile photos on them that hover over active applications. These chat bubbles allow you to continue scrolling through your Instagram feed for example, while you chat with Facebook friends without requiring you to leave the app.

The same is not possible on iOS because of the restrictions Apple places on the operating system (OS). Because iOS is still very closed an OS, other everyday tasks Android users take for granted are also not possible. Like being able to send a photo from your Camera Roll to someone on Line or Whatsapp. It’s worth mentioning though that Apple is opening up its OS and soon should allow you to natively send files to 3rd party apps.

And then there’s Google integration. From any screen on my smartphone I can say “Okay Google” to issue a voice command, run a web search, or ask for directions. Because I’ve given it the power to, Google Now scans my inbox for flight details and sends me reminders of upcoming flights, it even looks up traffic conditions and tells me when I need to leave the house on the day of my flight. You can always install Google on your iPhone, but when it comes to accessing the power of the world’s most powerful search engine, there’s now better way to do it than on an Android powered smartphone.


Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus

Like a scene from Inception, I come to my senses feeling like hours of introspection have passed. But it’s only been seconds since I was asked, “would I keep the iPhone 6 Plus or the Note 4?”

Both are great smartphones. Like most high-end Android devices, the Note 4 trumps the iPhone 6 Plus specs wise. Apple has never made iPhones that are on the cutting edge of specs. The iPhone 6 Plus for example is the first iPhone with a Full HD display – a standard on all high-end Android flagships since 2013. The Note 4 on the other hand has a Quad HD display which is 2x better than that on the 6 Plus. The Note also has more RAM, better battery life plus a software feature called Ultra Power Saving Mode that will extend your dying battery for a day, and then if that’s not enough you can also pop in a new battery if you had one.

The Note 4 also has a slightly better camera (although the 6 Plus is a worthy challenger) and as if it were just a bonus comes with a built-in stylus for taking notes.

Both smartphones have built-in fingerprint scanners but the Note 4’s is clunky and difficult to use, while the one on the iPhone 6 Plus is pure joy. Just press the home button once and let the iPhone do the magic. Works like a charm every time.


Decision time

I bite my lip. I’m in love with the iPhone 6 Plus. It’s beautiful and elegant. I would benefit much from the Mac integration, and its fingerprint scanner deserves to be an industry standard. But I blurt out “the Note 4.” Why? It fits my workflow better and allows me greater control over the apps and services that I use the most.

While nowhere near the 6 Plus, the Note 4 represents a new design direction for Samsung, with a premium looking aluminum band and a faux leather back that looks classy and feels more secure to the grip.

As my friends absorb my answer, I cringe at the fact that I am not completely sold on my decision. But that’s how I feel about this year’s crop of smartphones in general. There were a lot of amazing phones released in 2014, but not one phone has it all, none have made a convincing case to be named the best smartphone of the year.

Thankfully, the question was hypothetical, and I get to keep both phones. For now that’ll do.

This piece was first published in The Philippine Star on November 17, 2014 as part of my regular Gadget Week column. The special Technology Section is printed every Monday.