iPhone 6 / 6 Plus vs Galaxy Note 4: What they can and cannot do

Al Sacco
6 November, 2014
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Apple iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, macworld australiaI’m a two-smartphone kind of guy. My current smartphones of choice: the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Both the iPhone 6 and Note 4 are high-end, cutting edge devices packed with valuable and unique features. They’re two of the best smartphones available today, which is why they’ve found homes in my pockets.

Neither device is perfect, though. When you use them alongside each other, their individual strengths and weaknesses quickly become apparent.

The following list details the eight things the iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 can do and the things they can’t – or at least can’t do as well as each other.


Four things the iPhone 6 does that the Galaxy Note 4 can’t

1) iPhone 6 and the Apple ecosystem

Apple products are specifically designed to work together. With each new iPhone/iPad/Mac/whatever iteration, the integration grows stronger and more complex.

Apple builds its own computers and desktop software, and its mobile devices are specifically designed to integrate with those devices on an OS level. Samsung makes phones and PCs, but it doesn’t develop the Android, Windows or Chrome software that powers them. As such, Samsung’s Android integration with Windows PCs and Chromebooks doesn’t offer the same experience as Apple’s ecosystem.

For example, the iPhone 6 can be used to control your Apple TV and you can share content on your phone via your TV display. The latest version of Mac OS X, Yosemite, lets you start writing a message on your phone and then pick it up on your computer, or vice versa, using Handoff. You can use your Yosemite Mac to place a phone call via your iPhone’s mobile connection. You can activate your iPhone’s personal hotspot directly from your Mac, so you don’t ever have to take your phone out of your pocket. The list goes on.

Galaxy Note 4 users can download a variety of different apps to do many of these same things on their Macs or PCs. For example, multiple apps available on Google Play let you control Apple TV or Google’s rival offerings, Chromecast and Nexus Player. It’s easy to find apps that let you mirror your Android screen on your TV. In general, though, the experience is far more scattered and disjoined than the Apple experience, because you have to use different apps with various interfaces.

If you’re not a Mac user, and you’re not invested in the Apple ecosystem, you may not care much about all of this integration. Apple products aren’t for everyone, and I’m not trying to imply that Apple’s ecosystem is superior to other options. The reality, however, is that this integration is one of Apple’s unique value propositions. If you’re an Apple customer, you’ll likely get unique value from the iPhone 6 that you won’t from any other smartphone.

2) iPhone 6, Touch ID and you

Both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy Note 4 have fingerprint readers built into their home buttons for authentication. On first glance, the two scanners look similar, though Apple’s is round and Samsung’s is an oval. They both sit at the base of their gadgets’ displays.

The similarities end there.

Touch ID

Apple’s Touch ID finger scanner is easier to use and works much better than Samsung’s rival offering. For example, you can use Apple’s Touch ID in any orientation; it works whether you touch it with an upright finger, a sideways digit or an upside-down thumb. Samsung’s Finger Scanner requires you to slowly swipe your finger from top to bottom or from bottom to top. It’s finicky. I usually have to swipe my finger multiple times to unlock my Note 4. Touch ID on the iPhone is much more reliable; I rarely have to touch it more than once to unlock my phone.

Apple’s mobile payment system, Apple Pay, has received a lot of attention since its launch in the US last month, but the idea isn’t a new one, and the Galaxy Note 4 can also use a set of mobile apps to make NFC payments, including Google Wallet and PayPal. Like Apple Pay and Touch ID, you can use the Note 4′s fingerprint scanner to authorise mobile payments when you use PayPal. However, the Note 4 finger scanner often takes multiple swipes to work. That kind of ruins the experience, especially if there’s a long line of shoppers waiting as you repeatedly swipe your finger. Apple Pay is more seamless, due in large part to the effectiveness of Touch ID.

It’s not accurate to say that the iPhone 6 lets you do away with passwords for authentication and the Galaxy Note 4 doesn’t. The Touch ID experience is head and shoulders above the Galaxy Note 4 finger scanner, though, and it’s one of iPhone 6′s standout features, which makes the Galaxy Note’s scanner seem that much more disappointing. The Note 4′s scanner is so unreliable that I’ve mostly stopped using it. Touch ID, on the other hand, is probably my single favourite iPhone 6 feature. I use it constantly.

3) Apple iPhone 6 size and your pocket

I seem to be in the minority these days, but I just can’t get used to phablets. In my opinion, the iPhone 6 is the perfect size for a phone. While the iPhone 6 Plus is apparently the more popular option, I appreciate the fact that Apple offers a smaller option for people who aren’t ready to embrace the phablet movement.

Of course, Samsung offers a plethora of different devices, in different shapes and sizes. In fact, Samsung offers far more options than Apple when it comes to smartphones. But if you want the best of what the Note 4 has to offer – the S Pen, the unparalleled multitasking features – it’s phablet or nothing.

iPhone 6

The iPhone 6 packs just about all of the same features as its big brother, with the exception of an OIS camera feature in the Plus, so you really don’t sacrifice features if you opt for the smaller version. My number one complaint about the Note 4 is its size, and I’d more than welcome a ‘mini’ Note 4.

The iPhone 6 comfortably fits in my pants pocket. The Note 4? Not so much.

4) Wider array of built-in storage options

If you want to buy the Galaxy Note 4 from a carrier, it’s only available with 32GB of fixed storage. Of course, the Note has a microSD memory card slot that supports cards up to 128GB, according to Samsung. The iPhone offers more fixed storage options. Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are available with 16GB, 64GB and 128GB of fixed storage.


Four things the Galaxy Note 4 does that iPhone 6 can’t

1) Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the S Pen

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 WhiteWhen Samsung originally announced its first Galaxy Note smartphone in the winter of 2011, the defining feature was its size. During the years since, the Galaxy Note family created a whole new phablet product category. The concept was largely ridiculed at first, but it’s been further legitimised by Apple’s September 2014 announcement of the similarly sized iPhone 6 Plus.

The Galaxy Note 4′s size no longer sets it apart from the pack. Now it’s the S Pen that stands out. The S Pen has always been a part of the Galaxy Note experience, but the Note 4 S Pen is evolved and enhanced, and its integration with Samsung’s customized Android OS makes it unique.

Samsung says the latest S Pen, when used with the Note 4, is significantly more sensitive than earlier versions; users can do more with it, with more precision. Specifically, the S Pen now supports more than 2000 levels of pressure sensitivity, compared to approximately 1000 levels in earlier versions, according to Samsung.

The S Pen can be used for quick and precise on-screen navigation, not unlike how you use a mouse with a desktop computer. The pen also lets you ‘write’ on the Note’s display; the experience is surprisingly similar to writing on paper. You can easily select, cut and paste text using the S Pen. The S Pen’s on-screen menu lets you quickly look up definitions for words and search your device for specific content. It’s also easy to drag and drop applications, images and more from one place to another using the S Pen.

If you’re not familiar with the Note family and S Pen, there’s a bit of a learning curve. Once you get used to the Pen, though, it’s hard to go back to using just your fingers for input. Of course, you can buy a third-party capacitive stylus for use with the iPhone 6, but Apple’s phone isn’t designed to work with a stylus, and as such, the Note 4 experience is far superior.

2) Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is a multitasking machine 

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 White

The Galaxy Note 4 has some useful and unique multitasking features that let you view and access multiple applications at the same time.

The Pop Up View shortcut lets you shrink compatible Samsung apps down to smaller windows that you can drag and position wherever you want them on your display. You can continue to work with the apps on the screen. If you want to close one, just tap a circle logo to collapse the app onto itself, then tap the circle again to reopen it.

An evolved two-paned Multi Window feature lets you view and interact with multiple apps in split-screen modes. You can stretch and positions the panes wherever you want them. It’s also easy to drag and drop text or other content between compatible apps.

The iPhone 6′s multitasking features pale in comparison. They consist mostly of an application switcher that lets you scroll through open apps, along with a Recent Contacts bar that sits atop the app switcher and gives you quick access to, well, recent contacts.

3) Samsung Galaxy Note 4 removable, replaceable battery pack

It’s simple to snap off the Galaxy Note 4′s battery cover, remove its battery pack and pop in a new one. The Galaxy Note 4 has a large battery (3220 mAh), and it’s supposed to get an impressive 37 hours of standby time and 11 hours of continuous internet use. Frequent travellers know, however, that no matter how long a phone lasts on a single charge, there are times when it’s not enough.

I always feel better when I have a spare battery pack in my carry-on bag, and I appreciate that Samsung still makes phones with removable batteries. The trend seems to be toward fixed batteries in high-end phones, so the Note 4′s replaceable power pack is all the more notable. The iPhone has never had a removable battery and very likely never will.

4) Galaxy Note 4 Adaptive Fast Charging, Ultra Power Saving mode 

The Galaxy Note 4 not only packs a removable, 3220mAh battery, it also has two new features that let you charge your device more quickly and maximise battery life when your phone’s almost dead.

The Note 4′s Adaptive Fast Charging feature lets you charge your device to half capacity in just 30 minutes, according to Samsung. But there’s a catch. The Note 4 uses a standard micro USB port for charging, so you can use any compatible cord to power it up and sync it. The Adaptive Fast Charging feature, on the other hand, only works with specific chargers.

galaxy note 4 adaptive fast charging

Thankfully, the Note 4 ships with an Adaptive Fast Charging charger, so you’ll be able to take advantage of the feature if you use the appropriate charger.

The iPhone 6 has a similar rapid charging feature, according to reports. Like the Note 4, that feature only works when you use compatible cords. Unfortunately, the iPhone doesn’t ship with a compatible cord. If you want rapid charging you need to purchase a new cord, use the one that came with an iPad or plug your cord directly into a newer Mac that supports the feature. Using the appropriate cord, the iPhone 6 can fully charge in about two hours, according to iLounge. (For what it’s worth, I’m able to fully charge my dead iPhone 6, via a new MacBook Pro that supports fast charging, in less than an hour and a half, so iLounge’s numbers may be a bit off.)

Both the Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone have fast-charging features, but you have to buy a separate cord – or an iPad or a new Mac – if you want to take advantage of the iPhone feature. That’s kind of silly.

The Galaxy Note 4 also has a new Ultra Power Saving mode that lets you limit the number of active apps on your smartphone, to reduce power drain. It also automatically dims your display via a black-and-white mode. The feature also limits the overall value of your device, but it’s particularly useful if you only have a small amount of battery life left and you know you won’t be able to charge for the foreseeable future.

There are plenty of ways to manually boost iPhone battery life but the iPhone 6 doesn’t have a comparable battery saving mode to the Note 4′s Ultra Power Saving mode.

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