(Pocket-lint) - Samsung has unveiled its most powerful device yet in the Galaxy S6. It's got an improved camera, better processing, enhanced screen, new design and build - plus it's spearheading Samsung Pay.
Lots of comparisons were made to Apple's iPhone 6 during the launch event. And with Apple Pay also on the scene it's a really interesting time for the two smartphone giants.
Who will come out on top this year? The Samsung Galaxy S6 or Apple iPhone 6?
Design and build
Samsung has taken the fight to Apple this year by redesigning its flagship Galaxy S6 from the ground up. Now it comes with a metal unibody coated, front and back, in Gorilla Glass 4. The handset is slim at 6.8mm and light too, yet feels solid in the hand and sits gripped by that metal edging. According to Samsung, the metal is stronger than that used in the iPhone 6 and "won't bend". It couldn't resist adding the last point at the launch event.
Apple's iPhone 6 is certainly its best design yet, with smooth curved glass edges and a light and thin build. But in the hand the Samsung Galaxy S6 finally feels like its playing in the same design and build league as Apple. In fact the Galaxy S6 also feels like it offers a little more grip in the hand than the iPhone 6.
Which handset is tougher in the long run remains to be seen but with strong glass on each and Samsung stepping into the metal unibody world, the Korean manufacturer has never looked more of a threat to Apple than now.
Samsung has revealed that it will be pushing its flagship smartphone to new levels of detail with a Quad HD display. That's a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 pixels for 577ppi to be exact. We had a play with it and were blown away by how clear, bright and colourful the screen was. The fact that it's all coated in super tough Gorilla Glass 4 is just a bonus.
Apple has always been a fan of keeping its displays Retina. It recently upgraded its Macs with higher resolution screens, including a 5K display. But when it comes to handsets the jumps have been more incremental. The iPhone 6 features a 4.7-inch IPS LCS with 1334 x 750 resolution for 326ppi. On paper, the Galaxy S6 wipes the floor with this but in reality Apple always manages to create a crisp, clear display.
Power and performance
Samsung has opted for its own 14nm Exynos octa-core processor and couples that with 3GB of the latest DDR4 RAM. The result, it says, is a far more efficient and smooth running handset. In our short hands-on time with the device it proved lag-free, despite our best efforts to slow it. How that translates to real world battery life isn't clear yet. DDR4 RAM means 80 per cent faster memory while 14nm chips mean 35 per cent more energy efficiency, says Samsung.
Apple introduced its A8 processor to the iPhone 6 and with it enough power to run even the most taxing games smoothly. But with most phones kicking out enough processing speed to handle anything this is less of an issue, it more about efficiency.
Samsung has focused on efficiency with the Galaxy S6. Apple can boast a separate motion coprocessor which allows it to efficiently measure movement without chewing up battery, something the Galaxy S6 may not perform as well on.
Battery performance is where Samsung may have got out in front. It says its Galaxy S6 will charge from empty to full in half the time it takes to charge the iPhone 6. Samsung also claims you'll be able to get four hours of charge from a mere 10 minutes plugged into the wall. But it offers more than plugs as it is also wireless charger compatible and works with both WPS and PMA chargers.
Samsung says the Galaxy S6 camera, despite still being 16-megapixels, is its best yet. Like Apple, it's opted to keep the megapixel count the same in this generation but improved other areas like aperture which now stands at f/1.9 on both the rear and front-facing cameras. The camera also opens faster at 0.7 seconds from a double touch of the home button. Its layout is also simpler with everything on one page including more pro settings for those that wish to delve deeper. Plus the selfie camera is now 5-megapixels, coupled with Auto HDR on both.
Apple's iPhone 6 camera is still 8-megapixels but comes with what Apple calls "Focus Pixels" and faster focus. There's also that slo-mo at 240fps, which Samsung has added too.
We want to spend more time with the Galaxy S6 camera before making a decision but from the comparison videos and photos shown at the launch event it appears to be far better than the iPhone 6 in low light conditions. Of course, it's what you do with the camera that really counts at the end of the day.
Samsung has shown off the Galaxy S6 running Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with its TouchWiz UI over the top. A few changes have been made to enhance the experience including the ability to arrange your settings menu for quick access to icons at the top. There has also been the addition of Smart Manager which means at a button press the phone's memory is cleaned to help it run more efficiently.
Apple's iOS 8 is its best mobile operating system yet. Everything is clean, clear, fast and just works. Plus dozens of new features were added including a new health management sytem, better gesture controls and more shortcuts. As you'd expect from Apple everything is intuitive and runs smoothly. Apple is tough to beat on software, especially now that it's more open than ever before.
READ: Apple iPhone 6 review
Samsung has joined the tap to pay revolution, or should we say it's leading it? Samsung Pay, unlike other services, doesn't rely on NFC contactless payment machines at the retailer's end. It can emulate the magnetic strip on a debit or credit card, meaning 90 per cent of retailers with machines will be able to accept payment. The wallet may be dead at last.
Apple Pay works using NFC for tap payments. This limits users to the latest handsets which have NFC and to shops where NFC contactless payments are accepted. Although we're still yet to see how this works in reality in the UK. And Apple Pay does have other benefits than just contactless payment functionality.
Both systems use encryption to make sure your data, and money, are safe.
Samsung has stepped up its design and build game to finally give Apple a run for its money. Combined with a more pervasive tap to pay system, higher resolution screen and cameras, super efficient 14nm chipset, wireless fast charging and Gorilla Glass 4 protection - it's easy to see, on paper at least, how Samsung could be steaming ahead.
Of course, in real world use things sometimes turn out to be different. We'll have to wait to see how Samsung's battery claims translate as well as if the tap to pay ever gets international release. But for now it's looking like Apple should at the very least be looking over its shoulder at its most fierce rival.