For the last few years there’s only been two handsets EVERYBODY knew about: Samsung’s latest Galaxy S device and Apple’s iPhone. This year, however, is slightly different as Samsung –– for all intents and purposes –– is struggling to turn 2014’s Galaxy S5 into a hit, following confirmed dips in sales year-on-year of around 40%. Fortunately for Samsung it has the Galaxy Note 4 and the thoroughly excellent Samsung Galaxy Alpha to fill in the gaps.
In this comparison we’re going to take a look at how the current Galaxy S5 compares to Apple’s slightly newer iPhone 6. In terms specs and hardware in general both handsets are pretty evenly matched –– generally speaking, anyway –– but are the other differences And where does one outdo the other But first, the specs in a handy side-by-side table.
Spec Sheet Shootout
Build & Design
Despite earlier rumours to the contrary, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is not a massive revolutionary leap for the brand in terms of design. The screen has not expanded much, and as a result the bodywork has only expanded a little in all directions, just about enough to notice when the phone is placed side-by-side with its predecessor.
The corners are a little squarer, although on slightly – it’s still a very rounded-off shape on the whole. While that rumoured metallic build hasn’t emerged, the silver (plastic) surround now has a ridged texture as seen on the Galaxy Note 3, meanwhile the back panel has a matte finish and a dimpled texture.
There’s also a cover on the microUSB port, a telltale sign of the IP67 dust and water proofing. As is increasingly the case with heavily rumoured launches, the iPhone 6 turned out to be everything we'd heard already, and indeed everything we'd seen in the torrent of leaked dummy mockups.
That means a new-yet-familiar shape with more rounded corners and edges, and an aluminum back panel that hugs round to the front. It's 6.8mm thick and sports a stainless steel Apple logo on the back. There is, however, no waterproofing and none of that rumoured Sapphire Glass on the front to stop the screen from smashing if you fumble it. Apple has managed to make the iPhone 6 look distinctive enough from its predecessor while maintaining that unique Apple aesthetic. It's a larger phone to accommodate the bigger display, but the screen-to-body ratio is more or less unchanged. There's a striking new design to the end caps at either end of the phone.
Hardware, Connectivity & Storage
The iPhone 6 comes in 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB storage variants - the 32GB model is dead and buried. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 comes with either 16GB or 32GB of onboard storage plus microSD support for cards up to 128GB. Both devices feature fingerprint scanners, while the Galaxy S5 has a hear-rate sensor on the back. Touch ID delivers more consistent fingerprint recognition performance while th Galaxy S5's scanner can be fiddly and temperamental.
You can use Samsung's scanner with Paypal and Google Wallet for remote payments via NFC, but Apple has set up its own Apple Pay service. It will kick off in the US in October, and you will be able to use the iPhone 6 (and a paired Apple Watch) for contactless payments using the built-in NFC chip and the Touch ID scanner at point-of-sale.
Processor and Performance
For A8 chipset of iPhone 6, it's running on second-generation, 64-bit, 20 nanometre architecture, which boils down to 20% faster performance than the iPhone 5S and 50% faster graphics performance too. Apple has also modified the chip to deliver improved "sustained performance", meaning it can avoid overheating even if it's running at high levels for long periods.
Apple has also added an updated M8 motion co-processor which can measure air pressure with a built-in barometer - it can use this to calculate elevation as well as distance, so it knows whether you ran round the block on the flat, or if you went up a mountain instead. It can also distinguish between different activity types such as cycling or running.
Pre-launch leaks did suggest the possible specs for the iPhone6 A8 chip. It's thought it may be a dual-core 1.4GHz chip using 1GB of RAM and Apple's second-gen Cyclone architecture. Post-launch benchmarks appear to have confirmed this spec too.
Samsung has opted for a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor clocked at 2.5GHz, with 2GB of RAM and an updated Adreno 330 GPU. This is certainly fast, but not the 64-bit leap forward some were expecting, nor is it a Snapdragon 805 - Qualcomm's more fearsome chip which we've see inside the Galaxy Note 4.
Software & UI
This is the part where the fan boys crawl out from the shadows and begin looking up new ways to insult each other in their thesauruses. Operating systems can cause some real arguments and it always ends in tears, believe us, we run a smartphone website with a comment section.
But both Android and iOS are now so fully developed with minuscule feature differences it really is down to your personal preference.
The big advantage here for the iPhone 6 is it’s running the latest and greatest software. Apple’s iOS 8.1.1 software has just launched on the platform and all those who have the handset will be able to download it and get the best iOS experience right away.
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is running on Android 4.4.2 KitKat. That isn’t the most up to date version of KitKat (it goes up to Android 4.4.4) and since then Google has released the next update to Android 5.0 Lollipop.
One thing worth noting is that while a new feature boasted by iOS 8 is the addition of support for third party keyboards, their actual implementation isn't quite up to the same standard as Android, where it's been a fixture for some time. Android's had third party keyboards for yonks and there's one for every taste with a whole host of varied functionality, some of the most famous include Swype, SwiftKey, and Fleksy. But on Apple's platform, while developers of these apps have sensibly created iOS equivalents now that they're supported, the delivery is hampered somewhat by some built-in iOS functionality.
Apple has once again taken the softly, softly approach to imaging capabilities with the iPhone 6. It has an all new 8MP iSight sensor with an f/2.2 aperture, 1080p video, digital stabilisation, and true tone flash.
The new sensor uses "focus pixels", which allow it to have faster autofocus and better noise reduction. It can capture 43MP panoramas and slo-mo video at 120fps or 240fps. Meanwhile, a bespoke Apple image processor on the A8 chip allows for faster face, blink, and smile detection.
On the front the Facetime camera is now a Facetime HD camera, with a new sensor, f/2.2 aperture, improved face detection, single-shot HDR, and burst selfies.
With the Galaxy S5, the camera forms one of the most substantial updates on the device. Where the Galaxy S4 was a bit gimmicky in this regard, the Galaxy S5 actually introduces useful and interesting features to give it a good deal of appeal.
The sensor is a 16-megapixel setup with 4K video capture capability. There’s also a rather cool “Selective Focus” mode, which sounds quite similar to a Lytro camera and can allow you to capture an image before selecting a focal point later. Other neat tricks include a 0.3 second capture speed and “HDR Live”, which lets you see how HDR will change your image before you capture it.
Apple has only said the battery performance of the iPhone 6 will be as good as or better than the iPhone 5S and that it will last for 14 hours of talktime on 3G. That’s not great, but today’s iPhones are seriously power efficient. If you don’t have the screen switched on, the handset will simply sip juice at such a low-rate you can –– we did during our tests –– get to about 4pm in the afternoon with around 70-odd% left on the battery. It’s still a big improvement on the iPhone 5s, but if you want to see real difference in battery performance on an iPhone you need to go for the iPhone 6 Plus.
The battery inside the Samsung Galaxy S5 is plenty powerful at 2,800mAh and has a fantastic Ultra Power Saving mode which can last up to 12 days on a single charge with all but the most vital functions shut down. It's also removable, so you can chuck a spare in there or replace a faulty unit. For those concerned with battery there's really only one option in this context: the Samsung Galaxy S5. It has more stamina, a removable battery pack, and a larger cell to begin with.
The Verdict: Which Wins
We’ve reviewed both the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, so which did we prefer Both phones were reviewed by different members of the team with a solid six months in between but both scored highly in our rating system.
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 scored four out of five stars. Reviews Editor Paul Briden called the Galaxy S5, “A wolf in sheep's clothing if ever there was one - the Galaxy S5 might not look the part but it's got clout where it counts.”
KYM Editor Richard Goodwin gave the iPhone 6 four and a half stars out of five. Richard wrote, “The iPhone 6 is a solid, well-designed update to the iPhone 5s with key improvements in several very important areas, including battery performance, display size, imaging and LTE support.”
Although the iPhone 6 came out with the top score, both handsets still managed to do really well in our testing. Be sure to head to our full reviews of the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5 before you decide which to get.