Nexus 6 vs iPhone 6 Camera Comparison: Battle of the Sixes

Nexus 6 vs iPhone 6 Camera Comparison: Battle of the Sixes

By Rich W Woods

This will be the final time I use my iPhone 6 for two weeks. Oh you haven’t heard? I’m throwing my iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 in a drawer and I’m going to use the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 as my daily drivers for two weeks. It will be the first time that I have used Android for both my phone and tablet daily drivers. But I digress…

The scope of this column is to compare the Nexus 6 camera to the iPhone 6 camera. It’s the battle of the sixes. Coming into this, I was a bit nervous for the Nexus 6 camera. After all, neither the Nexus 5 nor the Moto X have particularly great cameras and the Nexus 6 is sort of a combination of the two. It certainly has the combined screen resolutions.

On the other hand, the iPhone 6 is known for its camera. It’s widely recognized as the best smart phone camera that exists. Of course, it’s not undisputed as I’m sure many of you will have disputes with that claim. I’m not even sure I agree with it. One thing is for sure, Apple does have a fantastic camera on their phone. It would be nice if I still has the iPhone 6 Plus to compare the Nexus 6 to since the iPhone 6 Plus has optical image stabilization (OIS) like the Nexus 6 does, but unfortunately review units come and go.

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Nexus 6 vs iPhone 6: Specs

Nexus 6 iPhone 6
Processor 2.7 GHz quad core Snapdragon 805 1.4 GHz dual core A8
Display 5.96″, 1440p, 493 ppi, AMOLED 4.7″, 750p, 326 ppi, LCD
Body 159.3x83x10.1 mm, 184 g 138.1x67x6.9 mm, 129 g
Camera 13 MP, 4128×3096, 2 MP 8 MP, 3264×2448, 1.2 MP
Video 4K UHD – 30 fps, Front 1080p – 30 fps 1080p – 60 fps, Front 720p – 30 fps
Aperture F/2 F/2.2
Storage 32/64 GB 16/64/128 GB
Battery 3220 mAh 1810 mAh
Price $649/$699 $649/$749/$849

Now, there’s not much point in comparing specs on an Android phone to those on an iPhone. Android requires much more overhead than iOS does. That’s why an iPhone with a 1.4 GHz dual core processor gets just as high if not higher benchmark scores than Android phones with 2.5 GHz quad core processors.

But hell, it’s my web site, my rules. I’ll compare specs anyway. While the Nexus 6 has a massive battery and the iPhone 6 has a very small battery, the iPhone 6 gets much better battery life. This is because the Nexus 6 has so much stuff draining the battery, mainly the 1440p display. I’m going to be perfectly honest and many won’t believe me. I can’t see the difference between the 326 ppi of the iPhone 6 and the 493 ppi of the Nexus 6.

Think of it this way. Each pixel is a light. The iPhone 6 has a 1 MP display. That means there are a million lights on. The Nexus 6 has a 3.7 MP display. That means there are 3.7 million lights on. The powerful processor of the Nexus 6 is going to tax that battery as well.

When I was out taking the photos for these comparisons, the Nexus 6 was at 55% after three hours. Of course, the phone was not awake the entire time. Note that I was also using the iPhone 6, Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, OnePlus One, Nokia Lumia Icon, and Nokia Lumia 830 just as much and their batteries weren’t even close to as drained as the Nexus 6 was.

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Nexus 6 vs iPhone 6: Rear Camera

Handset manufacturers love to boast the resolution of the cameras on their smart phones while in reality, this is the least important feature. That’s why the iPhone 6 has the lowest resolution camera of all flagships. Apple has never been a specs company. They use as much power is necessary to provide a solid user experience and realize that any more than that would be a disadvantage.

Think of it this way (yes, I know I write this in every camera comparison. Again, my web site, my rules). A 720p display is less than 1 MP, 1080p is less than 2.1 MP, 1440p is less than 3.7 MP, and 4K UHD is less than 8.3 MP. Since photos taken with the iPhone 6 are 4:3 and 4K UHD is 16:9, the photos have a higher resolution than the display they’re being viewed on.

This is not to say that there are no advantages to a higher resolution camera. Higher resolution photos allow the user to crop, resize, or zoom the photo without losing quality of the image.

There is also a disadvantage to higher resolution cameras. For one thing, they’re slower. It simply takes more time to process a higher resolution image than it does to process a lower resolution image. Lower resolution cameras also have larger pixels, allowing for better low light performance.

That being said, the Nexus 6 has the fastest camera I’ve ever seen on an Android phone. The iPhone 6 has always been the fastest, taking photos as fast as the user can tap his finger on the screen. The Nexus 6 is a serious competitor to that position.

The Nexus 6 has a larger aperture than the iPhone 6, coming in at F/2 while the iPhone 6 comes in at F/2.2. Aperture relates to depth of field. A smaller aperture (larger number. F/8 is smaller than F/2) has a larger depth of field, meaning that the background will be more focused. The difference in aperture here should be negligible; however, it won’t seem that way because the iPhone 6 does a lot in the background to try to create a clear all around image.

Please note that in order to enlarge the images, simply click or tap them and then scroll through the carousel. To view or download the full size image, there is a link in the carousel. Also, keep in mind that these photos are unedited. I realize that some may be a bit unfocused or some might not have the same angle as their counterpart. I provide all of the photos that I take in preparation for a comparison, unlike other web sites that take 50 photos and pick the best five to show their readers.

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Nexus 6 iPhone 6

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There is a lot that we can tell from these photos. My comparison of the Nexus 6 and the OnePlus One as well as this comparison have confirmed my fears that the Nexus 6 has poor low light performance like the Moto X does.

Aside from the poor nighttime performance of the Nexus 6, I am very impressed with the performance of the Nexus 6. In almost all of the daytime photos, the Nexus 6 is right on par with the iPhone 6. There are, however, a few photos there where the iPhone photos seem more saturated, making the colors pop a bit more. The colors are very balanced on both cameras.

The final pair of photos are panoramas. The panorama feature of the iPhone 6 limits the user to a 180 degree panorama while the Google Camera app allows the user to go a full 360 degrees.

I didn’t include a photo sphere from the Nexus 6 because there is no Google Camera app for iOS; however, I have discovered that there is a Photo Sphere app for iOS made by Google. Expect this post to be updated with a Photo Sphere from each camera by the end of the day.

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Nexus 6 vs iPhone 6: Video

I explained that the resolution of a photo taken with the iPhone 6 is greater than the resolution of a 4K display because the iPhone 6 camera only allows for the user to take photos in 4:3. If it allowed users to take photos in 16:9, it would be a lower resolution than 4K.

Because of that, the iPhone 6 does not allow for the user to take 4K video. It does allow for 1080p video at 60 fps. The Nexus 6 takes 4K UHD video at 30 fps, 1080p at 30 fps, and 720p at 30 fps.

Now let’s break that down for a moment. Resolution is how sharp the video is. Your display is a grid of little dots that make up an image. More dots equals sharper picture. 4K is 3840×2160 and 1080p is 1920×1080.

While resolution is important to the quality of a photo, there is another factor that contributes to the quality of a video. That is frame rate. While resolution accounts for the sharpness of the picture, frame rate accounts for how smooth it is. A video is a bunch of images in succession. 30 frames per second (fps) means that there are 30 pictures shown in a second and so on.

Please note that if you don’t view the video in full screen, you won’t be able to see the difference in resolution. If you don’t have a monitor better than 1080p, you won’t be able to notice the difference for 4K. It really grinds my gears when someone talks about how much better a 4K video looks when it’s embedded in a web page on their WXGA monitor.

Nexus 6 4K UHD 30 fps

Nexus 6 1080p 30 fps

iPhone 6 1080p 60 fps

Nexus 6 720p 30 fps

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Personally, I think the iPhone 6 video looks the best. 30 fps videos tend to look choppy when put side by side with a 60 fps video. Of course, different things are important to different people. To me, 1080p at 60 fps is the perfect balance of resolution and frame rate. Of course, Google could add 1080p at 60 fps in a firmware update. The Sony IMX214 Exmor RS sensor allows for it.

Nexus 6 vs iPhone 6: Front Camera

I’ve been saying this whole time that resolution is the least important specification in a camera. This is because rear cameras are beyond a threshold where the resolution of the photo is larger than the resolution of the display.

This is not necessarily the case with a front camera because they have such lower resolutions. The Nexus 6 uses a 2 MP front camera, which is exactly 1080p and the iPhone 6 uses a 1.2 MP front camera, which is just north of 720p.

I would say that the iPhone 6 wins the front camera. The photos are more saturated. The just pop more. The iPhone 6 also handles bright light better. In the photos taken with the Nexus 6, it seems like there is a glare in the photos.

As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Vote in the poll and let me know which camera you think is better. Think I’m an idiot? Let me know in the comments!


All Nexus 6 Camera Comparisons

All iPhone 6 Camera Comparisons

All iPhone 6 Plus Camera Comparisons

All Moto X Camera Comparisons

About the author
Rich Woods

Being a computer programmer wasn't enough to fulfill his love of technology. In 2013, Rich founded For the Love of Tech and has been writing about his love of tech ever since.

  • Try HDR+…that is the true test of the Nexus 6. Google’s algorithm makes it an awesome camera. Look what it did for the Nexus 5’s crappy camera. The Camera 2 API made it a very good camera.

    • rwoods716

      You mean for the nighttime shots? I’m going to go out tonight and do more. If you come back after Christmas, hopefully I’ll have some better results to show.

  • Rann Xeroxx

    I think the comments about Android being slower are like ones of Windows having viruses, yeah, maybe a few OS versions ago. But Android 5x now does a one time recompile of your Java apps and has improved other OS features to make it run faster and lighter than previous versions. iOS on the other hand seems to run slower with more bloat. This is self evident if you try installing iOS 8 and Android 5 on older hardware (like my Nexus 4). The N4 actually runs faster, the iPhone 4 or 5, not so much.

    Also keep in mind that Android will allow far more application services to run in the background than iOS. You can run an app like Tasker and it runs in the background waiting for triggers to go off.

    I run Nova launcher myself so I turn down UX transitions myself and even my old device runs very fluidly.

    • rwoods716

      Well, keep in mind that I’m not saying that Android devices run slower. I’m saying that Android as an OS is slower. The specs speak for themselves. The iPhone 6 has a 1.4 GHz dual core processor with 1 GB of RAM and the Nexus 6 has a 2.7 GHz quad core processor with 3 GB of RAM and the iPhone 6 certainly holds its own. Put Lollipop on a device with the iPhone 6’s specs and it will certainly be slower than iOS.

      Also, it’s important to note that Android will never be as fast as iOS. Android has more overhead than iOS does and that’s the price you have to pay for freedom. They could lock it down but that would ruin Android.

      One more thing. I’ve heard a lot of how Lollipop is PROVEN to run faster than KitKat and that it’s PROVEN to be faster than iOS. Right now, I am running a 2013 Nexus 7, Nexus 6, and a Nexus 9 and the only one that is even decent is the Nexus 6. Also, Lollipop kills battery life. I’m convinced of that now since it’s a problem with the N6 and the N9. I’m sure the 1440p display in the N6 doesn’t help either.