(Pocket-lint) - The Apple iPhone 6 steps into phablet territory with the iPhone 6 Plus, a smartphone with a 5.5-inch display. Some suspect this is to appeal to Asian markets and it's certainly a break from iPhones of the past.
When it comes to big-screen phones there is a dominant force: the Samsung Galaxy Note. The Note 4 is the latest and greatest in the line and unlike the iPhone 6 Plus features a built-in stylus - Samsung calls it an S Pen - that opens a variety of additional features and controls.
You asked for it, so we've pitched the latest from Samsung against the latest from Apple in this clash of the titans.
Design and build
Apple is known for quality builds and the iPhone 6 Plus is no different. The body is aluminium, wrapping around the sides to meet the display. The curved edges of the body are met by the curved edge of the display itself, for a seamless high-quality finish. The 6 Plus measures 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm and it weighs 179g.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a metal frame, but opts for a soft-touch plastic removable back. It offers increased flexibility, as you can change the battery, or swap the cover for an alternative when you fancy a change. The Note 4 measures 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5mm and weighs 176g.
The Note 4 is shorter but fractionally wider than the iPhone 6 Plus; the iPhone is thinner overall. However, Samsung packs in a larger 5.7-inch display, making the iPhone 6 Plus look larger than it perhaps should, while the inclusion of a cavity to contain the S Pen is an additional reason for the increased Samsung thickness.
Despite suggestions of "bendgate" and "gapgate" in respective phones we've had no such issues; we haven't bent our iPhone 6 Plus by using it as a normal phone, and the Note 4 doesn't have a gap that fingernail, business card or sheet of paper could fit down - contrary to various reports.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4's 5.7-inch display is Super AMOLED and comes with a cracking 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, delivering a 515ppi pixel density. It uses Samsung 2.5D technology to increase the visible pop from its surface.
The iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch LED IPS display with a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, delivering a 401ppi pixel density.
Both Samsung and Apple make great claims about their displays and it will be some time before we can put them both side-by-side to compare performance, but from what we've seen, both are impressive. However, Samsung packs in more pixels on the Note 4 which means it's better able to render fine details than the iPhone 6 Plus - ideal for Samsung's multi-tasking feature of two apps on one screen.
Power and performance
The Apple iPhone 6 Plus has a new A8 processor with M8 coprocessor for motion. Apple tells us it's faster than previous devices, naturally, but doesn't break down the specifics of the hardware or RAM. It's 64-bit, supporting iOS 8, but little else is officially revealed.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4's hardware can vary based on region, but in the UK it comes with a the 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 and 3GB RAM under the hood (some territories offer the Samsung Exynos octa-core (1.9GHz quad and 1.3GHz quad) chipset). Although Snapdragon 805 supports 64-bit, the Android operating system doesn't just yet - so that's something that could see further software improvements in the future.
Is either better? It's a tricky comparison because we're dealing with two entirely different operating systems. With Apple running iOS 8 and the Galaxy Note 4 on Android 4.4 KitKat, how that relates to real-use performance is also very different. From what we've seen in both, neither is a slouch by any means.
The biggest benefit from Samsung's choice of Qualcomm chipset is that it's the first device available in the UK to cater for super-fast 4G LTE-Advanced, with speeds of up to 300Mbit/s theoretically possible. In reality those speeds won't be achieved given existing carriers, but if on-the-go connectivity is crucial for you then Samsung has that side of things wrapped up.
That's not to say Apple's choice of LTE antenna is slow, as it's capable of delivering 4G speeds up to 150Mbit/s.
The Apple iPhone 6 Plus has an 8-megapixel sensor with f/2.2 aperture on the rear offering optical image stabilisation. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a 16-megapixel sensor, with f/2.4 aperture and optical image stabilisation also features.
More megapixels doesn't necessarily equate to better images once you reach a certain point (or the Xperia Z3 would take all the accolades), as a lot comes down to how the hardware is managed, and how the data captured is handled. Having taken shots using both cameras, we have to say the results from both are great.
However, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 offers 4K UHD video capture at 30fps, whereas the iPhone 6 Plus does not. Both devices can capture 1080p video and both offer slow-motion 720p video capture at up to 240fps (an eighth of the speed). Similar experiences here, with the Samsung pulling ahead thanks to 4K capture.
On the front, the Note 4 offers a 3.7-megapixel f/1.9 camera, the iPhone has a 1.2-megapixel f/2.4. Apple specifies that the iPhone 6 Plus offers 720p video from the front camera, whereas the Note 4 offers 1080p.
Overall it's a close call here. We've been fairly blown away by the iPhone 6's low-light capabilities, but with the extra resolution of the Note 4 its daytime snaps and even low-light shots have been suitably impressive too. Can't go wrong with either.
These two devices run on very different software. You'll have your preference, based on many factors, between iOS and Android. The big difference in these devices, however, comes down to Samsung's customisation, as it packs in a lot of multi-tasking functions for big-screen use.
Apple iOS 8 is a different beast to Android and in a nod to the big screen, Apple has introduced a landscape mode for things like the home page and Mail, so that you can take advantage of having a little more space to work on the 5.5-inch display.
However, Samsung has an extensive array of customisations aimed at the multitasker, evolved through the generations of Note devices. For example, you can split the display, minimise an app into a hovering icon, as well as take advantage of some powerful copy and paste functionality, all useful for those working on the move. Not every app can be presented in a split-screen formation, but plenty of the core ones can.
Samsung S Pen
Samsung also ties a lot of functionality into the included S Pen stylus, which is a key differentiator between these two devices.
Some will argue that if a mobile device is right, you should be able to do everything with a finger, however Note owners will disagree: having the S Pen lets you do things you can't elsewhere, such as bringing up the Air Command menu by hovering over the screen and clicking the S Pen's button. A press-and-hold of the button can also assist with quick copy and paste with a greater accuracy and speed than finger-based selection.
You can get a stylus for the iPhone too, but the S Pen comes with a range of software support features, pressure sensitivity (to 2,048 levels), handwriting conversion into text, and a whole lot more. If note-taking is on the agenda, then the Note is probably your best choice (hence the name), claiming a writing experience that's closer to paper and pen.
The iPhone 6 Plus has a 2195mAh battery, which is almost twice the capacity of the iPhone 5S. It has great stamina and iOS 8 performs well in keeping battery consumption to a sensible level.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has the more capacious 3220mAh battery. Even with hardcore use it's been getting us through a day, with casual use it will handle two days, and with the various battery saving options it could last for far longer in its texts-and-calls-only mode.
Again it's difficult to realistically put these into any real comparative terms, but from our experience using both handsets it's a similar experience. The Samsung may have the larger battery, but it's also got the larger and more resolute screen to power. But the bottom line is that neither disappoint.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the iPhone 6 Plus sit in the same space by virtue of display size.
Samsung edges out Apple in the display density by quite a margin and also offers a more flexible approach to the battery and storage (there's a microSD slot, which lacks in the Apple device).
Apple's slimmer, aluminium body design, however, might win some over. It's a great metal build, but is perhaps taller than it needs to be compared to the Note 4 when it needn't be. The Samsung is slightly thicker, but not by a huge amount, and that's understandable given the integrated S Pen stylus - a feature that helps separate the two devices from one another.
On the software front, those looking for big-screen support will probably be better served by the Note 4 initially, along with its S Pen and diverse range of features specifically for multitasking.
One area to watch will be how the developer community makes use of the iPhone 6 Plus screen space. We suspect that those who initially choose the iPhone 6 Plus will do so for big-screen movie watching and gaming, but there's no shortage of iPad apps that could step down to iPhone 6 Plus.
The iPhone 6 Plus is available from £619 in its 16GB form, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 will cost £629 for the 32GB version. The biggest iPhone 6 Plus storage capacity maxes out at 128GB for £789, while the Note 4's microSD card slot means capacity up to an additional 128GB can be added for a less significant cost.