03 Mar 2015
BARCELONA: Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S6 at Mobile World Congress (MWC) on Sunday, the latest device in its quest for smartphone market domination.
The Galaxy S6 is the sequel to last year's Galaxy S5, which didn't go down well with smartphone buyers and saw sales coming in 40 percent lower than Samsung had hoped.
Perhaps like a lovechild of the Xperia Z3 and iPhone 6, the Galaxy S6 is crafted from high-end metal encased in Gorilla Glass 4. The handset certainly feels premium and is a huge improvement on last year's cheap-feeling Galaxy S5. The glass case feels smooth and sturdy in the hand, despite its slim 6.8mm profile.
While it feels premium, the look of the Galaxy S6 is likely to divide opinion. On first impressions, the handset made us 'ooh' and 'aah', and its glossy design is certainly eye-catching. However, the design is extremely reflective and will be prone to picking up fingerprints.
Speaking of which, the Galaxy S6 comes with an upgraded touch-based fingerprint sensor in the home button, although we weren't able to test this on the demo device. Samsung will be competing with Qualcomm, which unveiled an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner for mobile devices at MWC.
The handset will be available in black, white, pink, green and blue, the last of which we found the most eye-catching.
Samsung claims that the Galaxy S6's 5.1in 2560x1440 QHD Super Amoled screen, with its 577ppi pixel density, cannot be beaten.
No-one likes a boaster, but Samsung's claims rang true during our time with the Galaxy S6. We had no complaints about the Galaxy S5's 1920x1080 display, but the difference between the two screens is immediately noticeable. The Galaxy S6 offers much more vibrant colours, sharper edges and improved viewing angles.
We also noticed that brightness levels are much better, which should improve outdoor visibility. We haven't been outdoors for about 24 hours now, but will test this in our full review.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 is powered by the latest 14nm 64-bit Exynos octa-core processor, paired with 3GB of RAM. We didn't get to test what effect this high-spec processor has on the handset's battery life, but it certainly has a positive effect when it comes to performance, and the Galaxy S6 is one of the speediest handsets we've used.
We'll be sure to put the processor fully through its paces in our full Galaxy S6 review.
Samsung typically stuffs its smartphones with heaps of apps, the majority of which will go unused, taking up precious memory space on the handset.
Things are different on the Galaxy S6. Just as rumours had suggested, Samsung has reworked its custom TouchWiz interface to be much less cluttered.
During our short time with the Galaxy S6, the handset's almost pure Android experience quickly became our favourite thing about the smartphone. Samsung has taken tips from Google's Material design language introduced in Android Lollipop and built on it, and the Galaxy S6 offers a pleasant 'flat' design across the phone.
What's even more impressive is that just two Samsung apps come pre-installed on the smartphone - S Health and S Voice - which means you don't have to de-clutter the handset before you go about actually using it.
There are few Samsung apps onboard, and you will find all the usual Google apps pre-loaded, along with Microsoft OneNote, Skype and OneDrive. Samsung offers free storage to Galaxy S6 buyers.
Samsung also offered some new software features on the Galaxy S6, including Samsung Pay, the firm's first stab at mobile payments. Unfortunately, this will see a limited launch in the US in the second half of the year, so it's unlikely that will make its way to the UK any time soon.
An upgraded version of Samsung Knox is also included, which the firm claims makes the device one of the first true enterprise-ready Android smartphones.
A deal with Ikea, also announced at MWC, will see the Galaxy S6 able to be charged wirelessly from certain home accessories, like lamps and desks, via embedded Qi technology.
The Galaxy S6 packs the same 16MP rear-facing camera sensor as last year's Galaxy S5, although the firm has upgraded the aperture to f/1.9 for better low-light shots.
We found it wasn't just low-light capture that had been improved, as the camera on the Galaxy S6 proved extremely speedy during our hands-on time, much more so than the iPhone 6 that we were testing alongside it. Image quality proved impressive too, even under the bright show lights at MWC.
On the front of the Galaxy S6, there's an upgraded 5MP camera sensor, also with f/1.9 aperture, which proved better than most during our brief selfie-taking time with the smartphone.
Battery and storage
We haven't yet had time to fully test the (non-removable) battery on the Galaxy S6. However, if Samsung's claims are to be believed, it could be worth getting excited about. The Galaxy S6 can charge to 40 percent in 10 minutes, and fully in "half the time of the iPhone 6". Wireless charging support is also included.
Samsung has taken a leaf out of Apple's book with the storage, opting not to equip the Galaxy S6 with a microSD slot. It has also introduced a 128GB version, which will be offered alongside 32GB and 64GB models.
We've used the Galaxy S6 only briefly, but we already think it the could be the phone to beat in 2015.
HTC's One M9 also proved impressive, but it feels like Samsung has innovated more than its main Android competitor, equipping the S6 with wireless charging, a high-resolution QHD screen and, most importantly, a stripped back version of its TouchWiz UI. HTC, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction.
The design of the Galaxy S6 might divide opinion, but we think it could be the device that sees the firm regaining its smartphone crown.
02 Mar 2015
BARCELONA: Samsung had a tough time in 2014. The firm kept its place as the world's top Android smartphone maker, but lower than expected sales of the Galaxy S5 enabled key rival Apple to gain ground in the global battle for dominance.
Despite its disappointment in the mainstream space, a ray of hope for Samsung appeared at IFA in the shape of the Galaxy Note Edge, which featured an innovative curved screen around its right side.
Commonly viewed as a proof-of-concept for the firm's then rumoured Galaxy S6, the Galaxy Note Edge justifiably caught the world's attention.
As a result, come MWC we're pleased to see that Samsung has followed up the Galaxy Note Edge with what appears to be an even more innovative handset, the Galaxy S6 Edge.
Design and build
Visually the Galaxy Note Edge shares the same design philosophy as its sibling, the Galaxy S6, and features a metallic chassis and Gorilla Glass back. This combination of factors made the Galaxy S6 Edge feel like a hybrid of the Sony Xperia Z3 and iPhone 6 during our hands-on.
The only noticeable difference between the Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S6 is that it's slightly fatter at 7mm, and has twin Super Amoled Edge Screens, like those on the Galaxy Note Edge, wrapped around its left and right sides.
We were impressed with the design and found it noticeably more solid and premium than past Galaxy handsets. This is due to the cold forged steel used in the chassis, which Samsung claims is "50 percent stronger than the aluminium used in competing handsets".
We were also pleased to see the return of the custom fingerprint scanner debuted on the Galaxy S5. Housed in the Galaxy S6 Edge's physical home button, the scanner offers similar functionality to the TouchID sensor on Apple iPhones.
It means that the Galaxy S6 Edge can be set to unlock or approve certain actions, like in-app purchases or mobile payments, only after the user has proved their identity.
Samsung made a big song and dance about the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge displays at MWC, claiming that they are the "most advanced ever seen on a smartphone". Putting aside the Galaxy S6 Edge's displays, we can understand why.
The Galaxy S6 Edge features the same 5.1in Quad HD 2560x1440 577ppi main display as its Galaxy S6 sibling. As with most Samsung Super Amoled displays, we were impressed with the Galaxy S6 Edge screen.
It's super vibrant, colour balance levels are great, viewing angles are wide and text and icons are wonderfully crisp.
The Galaxy S6 Edge comes with Google's Android Lollipop operating system, overlaid with the latest version of Samsung Touchwiz.
We've found Touchwiz to be a negative in the past, as it floods Samsung handsets with bloatware applications and makes needless changes to the user interface.
Testing the Galaxy S6 Edge, however, we were impressed at how good a job Samsung has done in cleaning up Touchwiz and most of the additions we noticed were positive.
Key positive additions included the latest version of Knox and Samsung Pay. Knox is a security service compatible with most enterprise mobility management services that lets users create a sandboxed, managed area on the Galaxy S6 Edge.
Samsung Pay is similar to other payment services, but is based on NFC and MST.
The MST tech offers mobile payments "even when a merchant only accepts magnetic stripe wipes". Samsung has already inked deals with payments services including MasterCard to support Samsung Pay.
The one problem we noticed is that Samsung hasn't done the same good work it did optimising Touchwiz to work with the Edge displays that it did on the Galaxy Note Edge.
Samsung set up a custom application shortcut menu and push notification menu for the Edge display on the Galaxy Note Edge. We didn't see either of these services on the Galaxy S6 Edge.
The Galaxy Note Edge is powered by the same "one of a kind" 14nm, 64-bit octa-core processor that combines quad-core 2.1GHz and 1.5GHz parts demonstrated on the Galaxy S6 and boasts 3GB RAM.
We didn't get a chance to properly benchmark or see how the Galaxy S6 Edge dealt with demanding tasks like 3D gaming during our hands-on.
However, with regular use we found the handset fairly fast and it opened applications and web pages very quickly.
Camera technology is an increasingly competitive area with smartphones. Samsung has loaded the Galaxy S6 Edge with a 16MP rear, F-1.9 with Real Time HDR and Optical Image Stabilisation camera and custom application.
Samsung claims that the F-1.9 lens lets in 60 percent more light than the Galaxy S5's lens and will radically improve low light performance.
The Real Time HDR shoots several images and combines them to create a more consistent and accurate photo.
The custom camera application adds a number of shot options, the most interesting of which is the Pro mode. This offers manual control over things like ISO and white balance.
Backing this up the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge feature completely reworked internal components.
Testing the auto mode, we found the Galaxy S6 Edge's camera fairly impressive. Shots taken on the brightly lit showroom floor on the rear camera featured decent brightness and contrast levels. Shutter speeds were also good, and in general our opening impressions are positive.
Battery and storage
Powered by a 2,600mAh non-removable battery, the Galaxy S6 Edge features fast and wireless charging technologies.
Specifically the Galaxy S6 Edge features fast charge tech which Samsung claims "charges four hours worth of charge in 10 minutes" and built in WPC and PMA wireless charging technology.
We didn't get a chance to test the fast charge tech or battery life during our hands-on, but will do so for our full review.
Storage wise Samsung is offering the Galaxy S6 Edge with 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of internal space and custom eMMC, as opposed to SSD, storage technology which Samsung claims will radically improve performance and write speeds.
Samsung is yet to reveal the Galaxy S6 Edge's price, although it probably won't be cheap considering the Galaxy Note Edge's hefty £700-plus price tag.
Despite this, our opening impressions of the Galaxy S6 Edge's custom Edge displays, screen, camera and custom technologies make it one of the most interesting smartphones to arrive this year.
Hopefully it will make good on its opening promise come its release in April.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
02 Mar 2015
The Samsung Galaxy S6 has finally been unveiled after the firm hosted its keynote at Mobile World Congress (MWC). With its redesigned body, improved components and Android Lollipop OS, the Galaxy S6 certainly gives the iPhone 6 a run for its money.
Buyers caught in the middle of this tug of war between the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 face a tough decision. So to help bring some clarity to the matter V3 has put together a spec by spec comparison of the two smartphones.
Measurements and weight
Samsung Galaxy S6: 143.4x70.5x6.8mm, 138g
Apple iPhone 6: 138x67x6.9mm, 129g
The iPhone 6 appears to have the upper hand here, being both lighter and thinner, although only by a few millimeters.
Samsung Galaxy S6: 5.1in, Quad HD (2560x1440) 577ppi, Super AMOLED
Apple iPhone 6: 4.7in, 1344x750 resolution, 326ppi Retina HD display
Samsung has a well-earned reputation for offering high-quality displays, and the above specs show that this is indeed the case with the S6, with a ppi count significantly higher than the iPhone 6's.
Samsung Galaxy S6: Quad 2.1GHz + Quad 1.5GHz, Octacore processor
Apple iPhone 6: Apple A8 chip
Samsung has shunned Qualcomm for the S6 phone, suggesting rumours of overheating issues were true, and instead used its own in-house Exynos chip. Without conducting tests, it's hard to say which processor is better, but it's likely to be a close-run thing.
Samsung Galaxy S6: 2,550mAh built-in lithium-ion battery – use time not quoted.
Apple iPhone 6: 14 hours from built-in lithium-ion battery.
Samsung has not quoted a time for the S6's battery life yet, but the size of the battery suggests it should be fairly hefty. Apple has upped its game in the battery stakes with the iPhone 6 so it would be a big surprise if Samsung hasn't done likewise.
Samsung Galaxy S6: Android Lollipop 5.0
Apple iPhone 6: iOS 8
The Galaxy S6 comes with Android Lollipop, as well as Samsung's usual added extras such as TouchWiz and its Knox mobile device management service.
Picking a winner between the two dominant mobile operating systems is a tough thing to do as it's highly dependent on which ecosystem a user is is already embedded in and prefers.
Samsung Galaxy S6: 16MP with optical image stabilization, 5MP front-facing
Apple iPhone 6: 8MP, f/2.2 rear camera, 1.2MP front-facing camera
Samsung appears to have the edge in the camera department, with its lens boasting twice as many mega pixels a the iPhone 6 and coming with optical image stabilization technology too. This should improve photos taken in less-than-ideal lighting conditions.
Also, with a 5MP front-facing camera, the S6 could prove enticing to those who enjoy making video calls, as it dwarfs the 1.2MP offering on the iPhone 6.
Samsung Galaxy S6: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB – no SD card slot.
Apple iPhone 6: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB – no SD card slot.
Samsung has decided against offering a 16GB option, which may deter more budget-conscious users.
Samsung Galaxy S6: Not yet announced.
Apple iPhone 6: From £539 SIM-free
Samsung has not announced pricing yet but it's fair to assume the device won't be cheap, even on a two-year contract. We'll have more information on pricing as and when it becomes available. The Galaxy S6 will be available globally from April 10.
23 Oct 2014
Samsung has enjoyed control of the big screen phablet space for close to three years with its range of Galaxy Note handsets.
As we noted in past Galaxy Note reviews, this is in part due to the handsets being generally pretty good, but it's also because Samsung hasn't had too much competition in the space.
However, all this changed in 2014 as numerous technology firms around the world released top-end phablets capable of challenging Samsung's latest Galaxy Note 4. One of the biggest of these is Apple's first phablet, the iPhone 6 Plus.
iPhone 6 Plus: 158x78x7.1mm 172g
Galaxy Note 4: 154x79x8.5mm, 176g
Visually the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 are about as different as you can get. The iPhone features the same rounded metal design as its little brother, the iPhone 6, while the Galaxy Note 4 features the same fake leather-finish backplate as past Samsung phablets.
However, the Galaxy Note 4 is the only one to feature a dockable stylus. Housed in the bottom right hand side, the S Pen is a useful productivity aid for quickly and easily scribbling notes or editing documents.
Considering how useful we've found the S Pen on past Note devices, we're a little disappointed that Apple didn't load the iPhone 6 Plus with an equivalent stylus.
iPhone 6 Plus: 5.5in 1920x1080, 401ppi Retina HD display
Galaxy Note 4: 5.7in QHD 2560x1440, 515ppi Super Amoled display
Traditionally we've struggled to pick a clear winner between Samsung and Apple smartphone displays because the respective Super Amoled and IPS Retina technologies each have their strengths and weaknesses.
Amoled technology produces deeper and richer blacks by electrically charging each individual pixel to generate colours. The flipside is that the screen has a shorter life and can produce more heat than IPS displays.
By comparison, IPS displays generally show more balanced and realistic colours and whites than their Amoled equivalents, because the technology organises liquid crystals on a fixed plate that's charged at a consistent rate.
This means we won't know which display is better without a hands-on test of the phones side by side.
iPhone 6 Plus: iOS 8, upgrade available for iOS 8.1
Galaxy Note 4: Android 4.4.4 Kitkat with Samsung Touchwiz
Apple's ability to push upgrades to handsets faster than Google has been a constant selling point, and this remains true when comparing the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4.
While iOS 8.1 may be a minor update that generally does little more than fix bugs in iOS 8, the fact that the iPhone 6 Plus runs the latest version of Apple's operating system is a big bonus.
The Galaxy Note 4, on the other hand, runs a heavily customised version of Android 4.4 Kitkat, which is not the latest version of Google's operating system.
While Touchwiz does add a number of useful features to Android designed to take advantage of the S Pen, such as S Note and multi-window support, we're still disappointed that there's no official word when the phone will be upgraded to Google's latest Android 5.0 Lollipop version other than it will happen at some point.
iPhone 6 Plus: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture and M8 motion coprocessor
Galaxy Note 4: 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805
Apple made a big deal about the A8 chip in the iPhone 6 Plus, claiming it will offer 25 percent faster CPU performance and 50 percent faster graphics performance than the A7. As we noted in our full iPhone 6 Plus review, there is a lot of truth to this claim and the Apple handset is one of the fastest currently available.
However, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor used in the Galaxy Note 4 in the UK makes it one of a select few handsets to have the on-paper chops to match the iPhone 6 Plus. While the Note 4 does ship with a 1.9GHz octa-core chip in some markets, this model is not available to purchase in the UK market.
iPhone 6 Plus: 8MP front with Optical Image Stabilisation (OSI) and 1.2MP Facetime rear cameras
Galaxy Note 4: 16MP with OSI front and 3.7MP rear cameras
Imaging technology is one area in which Apple has fallen slightly behind in recent years. The firm has worked to fix this on the iPhone 6 Plus with an 8MP rear camera loaded with a new sensor with TrueTone flash, 1.5 micron pixels, f/2.2 aperture and OSI technology.
OSI improves photo quality by compensating in real time for shaking and vibrating while shooting. The compensation means there are no alterations or light degradations to the captured image.
However, even with these additions, the iPhone 6 Plus still has some pretty stiff competition when facing Samsung's Galaxy Note 4. Featuring a higher megapixel sensor and equivalent OIS technology, the Galaxy Note offers an equally, if not superior, camera on paper.
iPhone 6 Plus: Unspecified, 14-hour listed life
Galaxy Note 4: 3,229mAh battery
Poor battery life is an ongoing problem with many smartphones. Aware of this, Samsung and Apple have made improvements with their latest phablets. The iPhone 6 Plus impressed us during our review and its 14-hour listed life generally rang true.
However, featuring a sizeable battery and a custom Fast Charging feature that lets it charge from zero to 50 percent in 30 minutes, the Galaxy Note 4 is likely to feature an above average battery life.
iPhone 6 Plus: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB, unspecified RAM
Galaxy Note 4: 32GB, microSD card slot
Samsung is offering the Galaxy Note 4 with 32GB of internal space, meaning that the iPhone offers significantly more varied storage options. However, the Galaxy Note 4 features a microSD card slot allowing up to 64GB of extra space to be added to the internal storage.
iPhone 6 Plus: From £619
Galaxy Note 4: £630
You can pick up the iPhone 6 Plus for £11 less than the Galaxy Note 4. However, it's worth noting that this only gets you 16GB of space, while the £630 Galaxy Note 4 offers 32GB.
On paper the Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus are fairly evenly matched. The iPhone 6 Plus features a superfast A8 chip, luxurious metal design, more storage options and the latest version of iOS.
By comparison the Galaxy Note 4 features a higher megapixel rear camera, enterprise and productivity focused dockable S Pen stylus and cutting edge Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip.
Make sure to check back with V3 later for a full head to head review of the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4, breaking down how the two phablets compare in real-world tests.
18 Sep 2014
Apple unveiled its first big-screen smartphone on 9 September – the 5.5in iPhone 6 Plus – as it tries to compete with the growing number of Android phablets on the market. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4, one of these large-screen Android phones, has a 5.5in Retina HD screen and will be directly in competition with Apple's new offering. So here we compare the two smartphones to see which comes out on top.
Design, measurements and weight
iPhone 6 Plus: 158x78x7.1mm, 172g
Galaxy Note 4: 154x79x8.5 mm, 176g
The iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 are not worlds apart in size. The iPhone 6 Plus is slightly taller at 158mm compared with 154mm, but trumps the Galaxy Note 4 when it comes to depth, measuring 7.1mm compared with 8.5mm. Samsung's latest phablet is also slightly heavier at 176g, while the iPhone 6 Plus weighs 172g.
The two phones are worlds apart in design, however. The iPhone 6 Plus is crafted from the same metals used to build the iPhone 5S, retaining the same high-end design as its predecessor. The Galaxy Note 4, on the other hand, features a faux-leather backplate, coupled with metallic edges and a plastic front. While some might prefer the Galaxy Note 4's quirky design, it's likely that the metal finish of the iPhone 6 Plus will appeal to more people.
The iPhone 6 Plus will be available in silver, space grey and gold, while the Galaxy Note 4 will launch in white, black, gold and pink.
iPhone 6 Plus: 5.5in, 1920x1080 resolution, 401ppi Retina HD display
Galaxy Note 4: 5.7in, 1440x2560 resolution, 515ppi Super Amoled display
While the iPhone wins in the style stakes, the Galaxy Note 4 is the clear winner when it comes to the screen – on paper, at least.
The iPhone 6 Plus debuts Apple's new Retina HD resolution, with the 5.5in screen boasting a 1920x1080 resolution, and a pixel density of 401ppi. Apple also claims that its new Retina HD screen offers better viewing angles and colour production than before.
This likely will get iFans excited, but the Galaxy Note 4's QHD 1440x2560 resolution screen way surpasses that of the iPhone 6 on paper, boasting a pixel density of 515ppi, and Samsung's Super Amoled technology, which also offers better viewing angles and colours.
iPhone 6 Plus: Apple A8 chip
Galaxy Note 4: 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip
The iPhone 6 Plus arrives with Apple's new A8 chip under the bonnet. While Apple hasn't revealed many details about its latest processor, the firm claims it offers 25 percent faster processing and delivers up to 50 percent faster graphics.
It's also as yet unclear how this compares with the Galaxy Note 4's quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, which proved impressive during our hands-on time with the phablet. This Qualcomm chip also provides the Galaxy Note 4 with support for 300Mbps LTE speeds, compared with the iPhone 6 Plus's support for 150Mbps connections.
iPhone 6 Plus: iOS 8
Galaxy Note 4: Android 4.4 KitKat
With the iPhone 6 Plus running iOS 8 and the Galaxy Note 4 running Android 4.4 KitKat, the winner in this category is a matter of taste.
Apple has clearly been taking some tips from Samsung in its iOS 8 software, however, introducing a landscape mode designed specifically for the larger 5.5in iPhone and a one-handed mode called "reachability". Samsung arguably makes better use of the screen space, thanks to the smartphone's included stylus, allowing users to doodle and annotate on the handset's screen.
However, with Samsung's custom overlay onboard, it might take the Galaxy Note 4 some time to be updated to Google's next Android iteration, whereas all iPhones receive software updates on the same day.
iPhone 6 Plus: 8MP rear camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS), 1.2MP front-facing camera
Galaxy Note 4: 16MP rear camera with OIS, 3.7MP front-facing camera
Camera is another category that the Galaxy Note 4 wins on paper, touting a 16MP rear-facing camera, compared with the 8MP camera on the iPhone 6 Plus.
However, Apple claims its camera is one of the best on the market. The firm has a new feature called Focus Pixels, for example, which means it focuses twice as fast as before, and has added Phase Detection Autofocus. The iPhone 6 Plus camera is also the first to feature optical image stabilisation and the first capable of capturing 43MP panoramic images.
Saying that, the Galaxy Note 4 comes with the ability to record 4K video, while the iPhone 6 Plus is able to record HD 1080p footage.
The Galaxy Note 4 boasts a 3.7MP front-facing snapper, compared to the iPhone 6 Plus' 1.2MP front camera.
iPhone 6 Plus: 24 hours of talk time
Galaxy Note 4: 3,200mAh battery, talk time TBC
Apple claims that its iPhone 6 Plus offers 24 hours of talk time, a huge improvement compared to the 10 hours offered by the iPhone 5S. However, it's not yet clear how this compares with the Galaxy Note 4's 3,200mAh offering, with Samsung yet to reveal its battery life.
iPhone 6 Plus: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB
Galaxy Note 4: 32GB, Micro SD up to 64GB
While the iPhone 6 Plus is available in more models than the Galaxy Note 4, with 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models, it still doesn't feature a Micro SD card slot. The Galaxy Note 4, unsurprisingly, does, giving users the option to expand the phone's storage by an additional 64GB
iPhone 6 Plus: From £619 SIM-free
Galaxy Note 4: From £600 SIM-free (TBC)
The iPhone 6 Plus is, again unsurprisingly, an expensive device. The 16GB model is available for £619, while the 64GB and 128GB versions are priced at £699 and £789 SIM-free, respectively.
The Galaxy Note 4 looks like it will be the cheaper option, with preorders outing the handset's price as just shy of £600.
Apple phones usually trump their rivals on paper, but the iPhone 6 Plus does face some stiff competition from the Galaxy Note 4, with its higher-resolution screen, Micro SD card storage and lower price. But the iPhone 6 Plus wins on a design front, and we are still yet to find out which smartphone has better battery life.
Check back with V3 later for a full head-to-head review.
10 Sep 2014
The annual battle between Apple and Samsung has become a staple event in every tech fan's calendar and this year is no different. Both Samsung and Apple have come out guns blazing, releasing completely redesigned flagship handsets that come loaded with more new features and custom technologies than can easily be counted.
In fact, the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5 are so packed with features some fans have justifiably struggled to keep track and have been left wondering how the two match when they're run head-to-head.
iPhone 6:138x67x6.9mm, 129g
Galaxy S5: 142x73x8.1mm, 145g
Both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 have very different designs. The iPhone 6 has an aluminium curved chassis while the Galaxy S5 has a pebble-like perforated detachable polycarbonate backplate that connects to its metal sides.
Of the two, the iPhone 6 is the lighter and thinner of the two, however the Galaxy S5 is on paper more robust, with Samsung having built it to meet IP67 certification standards. The certification means the Galaxy S5 is the only phone of the two to be dust and water resistant.
Both handsets feature custom fingerprint scanners in their front-facing physical home buttons, though the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the only one of the two to feature a biometric heart scanner on its back.
iPhone 6: 4.7in, 1334x750, 326ppi Retina HD display
Galaxy S5: 5.1in, 1920x1080, 432ppi, Super Amoled touchscreen
Apple made a big deal about the iPhone 6's 4.7in Retina display. But on paper it is still lagging behind its Android competition in terms of resolution. This is particularly true when comparing it with the Galaxy S5, which, featuring Samsung's Super Amoled technology, is currently one of the finest on the market.
However, considering the stellar colour balance and contrast levels seen on previous Retina displays we're not willing to rule the iPhone 6 out just yet and will wait and see how the two compare with real-world use before offering our final verdict.
iPhone 6: iOS 8
Galaxy S5: Android 4.4.2 KitKat with Samsung Touchwiz
Comparing Android and iOS phones from a software perspective is always a tricky affair and this remains true on the KitKat-powered Galaxy S5 and iOS 8-powered iPhone 6. While iOS's lack of malware is a selling point for the iPhone 6, both handsets are rife with enterprise features.
For example, iOS 8 features improved password security, S/MIME features and VIP threads, and support for Microsoft Exchange out of office replies as well as advanced synchronisation features with Mac OS X computers.
By comparison, the Galaxy S5 comes with Samsung's custom Knox security as well as Google's own enterprise applications and services. Knox is a sandboxing service that lets users create a separate encrypted password-protected work area on their device.
The Knox version 2.0 running on the Galaxy S5 also features upgraded certificate management, VPN+ and enhanced container-security powers, as well as new Marketplace and enterprise mobility management (EMM) services.
iPhone 6: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture with M8 motion co-processor
Galaxy S5: Quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
Both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 are on paper powerhouse smartphones. However with the iPhone 6 being the first ever smartphone to run using Apple's new A8 chip and reworked M8 motion co-processor, which Apple claims offers 25 percent faster CPU performance than the A7, we won't know how the two compare until we get our hands on the new iPhone.
iPhone 6: 8MP rear, 1.2MP FaceTime front
Galaxy S5: 16MP rear, 2MP front
Camera technology is one area where Apple has been falling behind in recent years, and when it was released the Galaxy S5's 16MP rear camera was better than the iPhone 5S's 8MP rear camera in close to every way. Even now, featuring what Samsung claims is the fastest auto-focus speed of 0.3 seconds, the Galaxy S5's camera is a very impressive piece of technology.
Aware it is facing stiff competition Apple has worked to radically improve the iPhone 6's 8MP rear camera and has loaded it with a new sensor with True Tone flash, 1.5 micron pixels and f/2.2 aperture.
The sensor adds a number of improvements to the iPhone 6's camera compared with previous iOS handsets. Key additions include phase-detection auto-focus, which allows it to focus twice as fast, as well as tone-mapping, noise reduction, and a new slow-motion mode that can capture video at 240fps.
iPhone 6: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB, unspecified RAM
Galaxy S5: 16GB and 32GB upgradable via Micro SD, 2GB RAM
The Galaxy S5 comes with fewer storage options than the iPhone 6, but it is the only one of the two that can have its storage upgraded after purchase. Via the Galaxy S5's Micro SD card slot, users can add a further 128GB of space, meaning the handset can technically feature more physical storage than the iPhone 6.
iPhone 6: Unspecified, 11-hour listed life
Galaxy S5: Li-Ion 2,800mAh seven-hour burn score
Apple lists the iPhone 6's unspecified battery as offering users 11 hours of video playback and WiFi browsing and 10 hours of LTE and 3G browsing. If accurate this means the iPhone 6 will feature a significantly better battery life than the Galaxy S5, which during our burn tests generally only offered between seven and eight hours of video playback.
iPhone 6: From £539
Galaxy S5: From £580
Neither the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S5 are cheap, though the Samsung handset does carry a more premium price tag, with the basic 16GB model costing a full £40 more than its equivalent Apple competitor.
Run head-to-head, both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 are very impressive handsets. However, thanks to a slew of new untested technologies, such as its new camera sensor, A8 processor and iOS 8 operating system, it's difficult to gauge how the iPhone 6 will perform with real-world use. As a result, until we get our hands on an iPhone 6 and thoroughly test it, we won't be able to accurately know which is the better phone.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
04 Sep 2014
Technology firms have been trying to persuade us we need smartwatches for quite some time. However, a number of niggling flaws in past smartwatches – including their need to be tethered to a smartphone to work and woefully small displays – have stopped many people, including us here at V3, from getting excited about them.
Samsung claims to have gone back to the drawing board to design its Gear S smartwatch, and has worked to fix all our past qualms and finally offer users the wearable wrist companion they've been waiting for.
Design and build
The Gear S's curved screen and metallic design features make it look about as slick as a smartwatch can be.
As well as making the wearable look slick, the curved chassis also makes the device feel significantly more comfortable to wear than many of the other smartwatches we've experienced, for example the LG G Watch, which has a flat back.
The one potential design flaw we noticed is that, like most smartwatches, the Gear S is noticeably larger than most regular watches. We're used to wearing big watches, so we found the 40x58x12.5mm Gear S' dimensions weren't too much of an issue, but people used to regularly sized watches may find it slightly cumbersome.
Despite being large the Gear S is fairly well built regarding its specs, and it meets IP67 certification standards. This means the Gear S should be dust and water resistant and should be able to survive submersions in up to one metre of water for 30 minutes.
Sadly the Samsung spokesperson on hand at the event declined our request to test the Gear S's water resiliency and all but tore it off our wrist when asked we if we could pour our bottle of water over it.
During our hands on we found the Gear S's 2in, 360x480 pixels, 300ppi Super Amoled capacitive touchscreen was one of the best we'd ever seen on a smartwatch. Using Samsung's Super Amoled screen tech, colours on the Gear S display were wonderfully vibrant and it was brilliantly bright. We'll be interested to see if our positive impressions remain when we test the Gear S in more adverse lighting conditions, such as direct sunlight, which has rendered all past smartwatches close to unusable.
Unlike most 2014 smartwatches the Gear S runs using Samsung's own Tizen operating system, not Google's newly launched Android Wear. Scrolling through various menus we found Tizen offers a significantly different user experience to Android Wear and has a completely different menu and application system.
Unlike Android Wear, Tizen's user interface (UI) requires you to swipe left or right to switch between applications and services. Google's OS by comparison requires you to scoll up and down. Tizen applications' individual interfaces are also far more varied than those seen on Android Wear, which have a uniform card-like design similar to that seen on Google Now.
For example, moving from a weather app, which featured a familiar UI to Android's to a Tizen news aggregator we were met with a completely different tiled design reminiscent of HTC's BlinkFeed that had its own set of shortcuts and colour palette.
While we initially found the experience a little jarring and disjointed, we soon became accustomed and began to notice a number of positive points about Tizen.
For one, many of the apps we used had noticeably more advanced functionality than their Android Wear equivalents. For example, entering the calendar app, we could not only see incoming notifications, but we could also tweak or create new ones directly from the Gear S, which we couldn't do on Android Wear smartwatches.
Productivity perks are aided by the fact it has standalone 3G and WiFi connectivity. This means, after requiring you to pair the smartwatch with a smartphone on setup, the Gear S can function independently and doesn't require a constant Bluetooth connection to an Android handset.
The Gear S is powered by an unspecified dual-core 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. While we found these features were more than good enough in past smartwatches, during our hands on we noticed the Gear S did occasionally chug and stutter.
For example, going through the news feed on an aggregator app, the Gear S occasionally stalled for a fraction of a second when we tried to scroll up or down. Though being fair to Samsung, the Gear S we tried was a pre-production model and this issue could equally be due to poor coding on the app itself and in general the Gear S performed very well during our hands on.
Battery power is a constant issue on all the smartwatches we've encountered, with most barely lasting a full day's use before needing a top-up charge. Sadly we didn't get a chance to test the Gear S battery life. However, if Samsung's claim the Gear S 300mAh battery will offer users "two full days of typical usage", it will be above average for a smartwatch.
While the Gear S doesn't follow the common path of most manufacturers and uses Samsung's Tizen OS, as opposed to the increasingly common Android Wear, it did impress us.
Featuring a curved design that makes the Gear S look nice and feel comfortable on your wrist, a sizable 2in display and standalone 3G connectivity, there is plenty to like about Samsung's latest smartwatch.
Hopefully the minor performance issues we noticed during our hands on will have disappeared by the time the Gear S arrives in the UK later this year, and tech aficionados across the globe will finally have the smart smartwatch they've been waiting for.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Samsung Gear S.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
03 Sep 2014
BERLIN: Samsung claims it created the plus-sized "phablet" market in 2011 when it unveiled its first Galaxy Note. While technically this was actually Dell with its Streak 5 in 2010, Samsung is without a doubt the first smartphone manufacturer to successfully push big handsets to the masses and, in many buyers' minds, the Galaxy Note range is still the first anyone thinks of when shopping for a big-screen device.
As a result, at the Galaxy Note 4's unveiling at Samsung's IFA Unpacked 2014 keynote in Berlin, we couldn't resist the chance to get some hands on time with the gargantuan handset.
Design and build
Visually the Galaxy Note 4 doesn't stray too far from its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 3 and has the same fake leather backplate and metallic sides. The Galaxy Note 4's button placement is also the same and the Galaxy Note 4 has a physical front-facing home button and volume and power controls on its right side. Under the hood, though, Samsung has made a few changes, one of the biggest of which is the inclusion of the custom fingerprint scanner debuted on Samsung's regular-sized Galaxy S5 handset.
The scanner is a bonus for enterprise customers as it lets them lock the Galaxy Note 4 to only unlock once they have proven their identity, making it much harder for criminals to access corporate data stored on the phone should it be lost or stolen.
While the Galaxy Note 4 is fairly thin by phablet standards, despite years of wielding the plus-sized handsets, we still found the phone's 154x79x8.5mm dimensions and 176g weight slightly cumbersome when trying to use the device one handed.
Luckily these issues are heavily countermanded by the inclusion of the Galaxy Note 4's reworded S Pen. The S Pen digital stylus docks into the bottom edge of the Galaxy Note's rear, and helps make the Galaxy Note 4 more comfortable to use, despite it's advanced size, for a variety of reasons. More on this later.
While we didn't get to drop test the Galaxy Note 4 during our hands on we were reasonably impressed with its build quality. The handset felt solidly built and left us feeling suitably assured it could survive the odd accidental drop chip and scratch free.
As we've seen in past Samsung handsets, the Galaxy Note 4's 5.7in QHD 2560x1440 Super Amoled display is one of its best features. While we only got to test the display in the controlled showroom floor lighting conditions we found the Galaxy Note 4's display is not only crisp, but also features great colour balance and brightness levels – so much so that we had to turn the demo unit's brightness setting down.
This is likely a consequence of Samsung's custom Super Amoled technology. Super Amoled is good as not only does it offer all the benefits of normal Amoled screens, which are designed to display deeper and richer blacks by electrically charging each individual pixel to generate colours, it also reduces the screen's power consumption.
The technology reduces power consumption by integrating the capacitive touchscreen layer directly into the display instead of overlaying it on top, as with regular Amoled screens. The practice removes the need to charge two components at once, thus reducing the display's power consumption.
Operating system and software
The Galaxy Note 4 runs using a heavily customised version of Android 4.4.4 KitKat. In the past we've not been massive fans of Samsung's software additions as they, generally, add a wealth of needless services and make handsets' user interfaces (UIs) feel busy and slightly unpleasant to use.
But we were fairly impressed by how much work Samsung has put in to fix these issues. As well as featuring significantly fewer bloatware applications than the Galaxy Note 3, the Galaxy Note 4's main UI also looks noticeably cleaner.
We were also happy to see Samsung has developed some of the more pleasant and useful software additions it has made over the years, loading the Galaxy Note 4 with a wealth of applications designed to help users take advantage of its S Pen Stylus, for example.
Key positive additions we noticed are the Galaxy Note 4's enhanced multi-window support and new Smart Select and S Pen Mouse features.
The reworked multi-window feature lets users swipe using the S Pen to minimise open windows and pull up new apps, while Smart Select is an innovative feature that lets users select several pieces of content in a row and simultaneously share them as attachments in messages. S Pen Mouse is designed to make it easier to select and edit text using the S Pen and lets users instruct the stylus to highlight text simply by holding down the pen's side button.
During our time with the Galaxy Note 4 we were very impressed by how well the features worked and found they made key productivity tasks, such as document-editing, note-taking and altering images, significantly easier to do than they are on most competing handsets.
There is some truth to Samsung's claims that the Galaxy Note 4's S Pen stylus is twice as pressure sensitive as the Note 3's and felt it was significantly more accurate and reactive than its predecessor.
On paper the Galaxy Note 4 is one of the most powerful handsets out there and runs using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor and 3GB of RAM. We didn't get a chance to properly benchmark the Galaxy Note 4, or see how it coped with demanding tasks such as 3D gaming during our hands on, but found for general purposes it is very quick.
The Galaxy Note 4 opened applications and webpages in milliseconds and ran chug and stutter free, even when we had multiple apps running using the handset's multi-window support.
Samsung made a big deal about the Galaxy Note 4's 16MP, 3456x4608 rear camera with optical image stabilisation, and 3.7MP front camera, claiming they will offer users "industry-leading" imaging quality.
Testing them on the show floor, while still not of the same quality as images taken on the Nokia Lumia 1020, images taken on the Galaxy Note 4 were very crisp and featured great contrast and brightness levels.
Running through the camera app's options, it is reasonably well stocked and supports all the modes you'd expect, including Dual Shot, panorama and HDR (high dynamic range).
While we're still not convinced many executives would use the Galaxy Note 4's 3.7MP front camera for anything but video calling, we were also reasonably impressed with its imaging quality and found it is reasonably good at taking photos.
The Galaxy Note 4 we tested came with 32GB of internal storage. Luckily for those looking for more space, a further 64GB can be added using the Galaxy Note 4's micro SD card slot.
Featuring a large, but crisp display and offering what appears to be top-end performance and a reworked more sensitive S Pen stylus, our opening impressions of the Galaxy Note 4 are very positive and the device certainly has the potential to be one of 2014's best handsets.
However, with Samsung yet to reveal the Galaxy Note 4's UK release date and price, it's currently difficult to gauge whether it will make good on this promise.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.
By V3's Alastair Stevneson