iPhone 6S vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Comparison: The Smackdown

iPhone 6S vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Comparison: The Smackdown

I’ve gone on record saying that the iPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and their respective sister phones (iPhone 6S Plus, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+) are the best phones on the market. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that they’re the only phones on the market worth investing two years into.

Everything else that’s on the market is using the latest Qualcomm processors, which, to be honest, aren’t all that great. The top of the line Snapdragon 810 has an overheating and throttling problem. When that was discovered, some OEMs went with the Snapdragon 808, which wasn’t very impressive at all. I could go on and on about how I have no idea why any of these companies are still using Qualcomm processors, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

The point is that Samsung and Apple are the only ones smart enough not to use those Qualcomm’s processors. Apple designs their own processors, which are fabricated by Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductors. Samsung designs their own processors and fabricates them.

iPhone 6S vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5: Specs

iPhone 6S Samsung Galaxy Note 5
CPU 1.8 GHz Dual Core A9 Octa Core Exynos 7420, 2.1 GHz Quad Core ARM Cortex-A57, 1.5 GHz Quad Core ARM Cortex-A53
GPU PowerVR GT7600 (six-core graphics) Mali-T760MP8
Display 4.7″, 750p, 326 ppi, IPS LCD 5.7″, 1440p, 518 ppi, AMOLED
Body 138.3×67.1×7.1 mm, 143 g 153.2×76.1×7.6 mm, 171 g
Camera 12 MP, 4032×3024, 5 MP Front 16 MP, 5312×2988, 5 MP Front
Video 4K – 30 fps, 1080p – 60 fps, Front 720p – 30 fps 4K – 30 fps, 1080p – 60 fps, Front 1440p – 30 fps
Aperture f/2.2 f/1.9
Sensor Size 1/3″ 1/2.6″
Focal Length 29 mm 28 mm
Storage 16/64/128 GB 32/64 GB
Battery 1715 mAh 3000 mAh
Price $649/$749/$849 $739/$839

First of all, note that the specs are courtesy of GSM Arena and Phone Arena, with the exception of the camera resolution, which GSM Arena actually reported incorrectly at the time of this writing. I’ve informed them of the mistake.

I really like comparing iPhones and Samsung phones because the price aspect doesn’t come into play. No one is going to comment on this and say “Well, the iPhone might be better than the OnePlus One, but for the price…” After all, I think that’s the dumbest fucking argument ever.

As far as specs go, there’s never any sense comparing the specs of devices running two different operating systems, and I’m not just talking about Android and iOS. We’ll look at benchmarks later to prove performance, not specs.

iPhone 6S vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5: Design and Display

The issue of the display saddens me. After we saw the new Apple Watch with an AMOLED display, I really thought we would see a new iPhone with an AMOLED. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple used AMOLED in the iPhone 7.

Unfortunately, for now, Apple stuck with an IPS LCD. While some IPS LCDs will outperform AMOLED displays, they’ll never outperform Samsung AMOLEDs. Those things just look good.

LCD panels are backlit, which is why, when the screen is completely black, you can still tell that it’s on. With an AMOLED, pixels can be turned off, so blacks are true black. AMOLED displays also produce more vibrant colors.

Don’t get me wrong. Apple uses a damn good IPS LCD. It just can’t compete with Samsung’s AMOLEDs. Just look at the HTC One M9 if you want to see an example of a bad IPS LCD. Everything that should be white looks tinted green. The iPhone 6S looks perfect.

There are a few things to note when it comes to the display. While the Note 5 looks better, it’s not because of the resolution. Apple uses 326 ppi for a reason. They believe that when you’re looking at it from an average distance, you can’t tell the difference between that and anything more. For the most part, they’re right. Well, unless you have Superman eyesight.

Now, there are tons of disadvantages to a 1440p display and one advantage. The one advantage is that it’s better for virtual reality, if you’re one of the five people that uses a Google Cardboard on the regular.

The disadvantages includes drains on both the GPU and the battery. It effects battery life because there’s almost four times as many pixels lit up and it effects the GPU because the GPU has to push those pixels. This is why the iPhone always bests Samsung devices in graphics tests.

As for design, well, this is all a matter of preference these days. Samsung redesigned their flagships as of the Galaxy S6. Now, both Apple and Samsung make beautiful devices. Samsung really has their design chops together.

My issue with Samsung’s glass rear panel is that the metallic finish collects fingerprints too easily; however, I love the curved edges of the Galaxy Note 5 for the same reason I don’t like the design of the iPhone 6S Plus. The iPhone 6S Plus is huge and flat, making it harder to hold. It’s also why this article is about the iPhone 6S and not the iPhone 6S Plus.

The iPhone’s design is, well, the iPhone’s design. I went with silver and it looks exactly like my iPhone 6 looked.

iPhone 6S vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5: 3D Touch vs S Pen

Both the iPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 have features that are exclusive to those devices, which are 3D Touch and the S Pen, respectively.

iPhone 6S 3D Touch3D Touch was designed to provide shortcuts. Many have compared 3D Touch to right clicking, which was probably the most useful thing ever invented. The problem that this theory presents is that Apple never had a right click function on the Mac. There’s Control-click, which generally does the same thing, but it shows that it’s complicating the interface in a way that’s not Apple’s traditional style.

Except it’s not like right clicking. If I see a photo on the Internet and I want to save it, I can right click and save it. There’s no other way. Every shortcut that 3D Touch provides is something that you can achieve by another means, so if you don’t no it’s there, you’re essentially not missing anything.

In fact, in the nine days that I’ve been using the iPhone 6S, I’ve still never used 3D Touch in my daily usage. I’ve only used it to play around with the new feature.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5I’ve found Samsung’s S Pen to be much more useful. In fact, the S Pen attracted me to the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 in the same way that the Surface Pen attracted me to the Surface Pro 3. I always liked that I can click the top of the pen on my Surface and be taken directly to OneNote.

With the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, removing the S Pen will take the user directly to a note taking screen if the phone is asleep. This is a feature that I find myself using often in real life. If the phone is awake, a menu of shortcuts pops up and gives the user the option to take a screen shot and write on it, take a portion of the screen and do the same, or take an Action Memo, which is the same kind of note the user can take while the phone is asleep.

The menu also provides up to three shortcuts, with S Note set as one of the shortcuts by default. I added OneNote as a shortcut and I only wish that I could change the default note taking app for when the phone is asleep.

iPhone 6S vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5: Rear Camera

I was just telling my girlfriend how refreshing it is to be able to write 4K next to the iPhone’s specs in a comparison. After all, most people I interact with don’t understand how little megapixels matter, so when they see 8 MP next to 16 MP, and 1080p next to 4K, they assume that the latter has better specs.

Apple jacked up the specs of their camera this year to a 12 MP sensor that records 4K video. Note that the aperture and sensor size is the same. I want you to take a look at the comparison between the Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6 before you look at these photos, because the outcome is different.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is the same camera as the Samsung Galaxy S6. It’s actually pretty interesting how Samsung did their device lineup this year. Rather than making the Note more powerful like they usually do, they produced four different devices that are only variants of itself. They all use the same processor, same camera, same resolution display, but they come in different shapes and sizes.

One thing to note is that the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has a lot more options than the iPhone 6S has. There’s a manual mode, a rear camera selfie mode, and a whole lot more. There’s even downloadable plug-ins. With the iPhone 6S, you can’t even change the image resolution or aspect ratio.

While that is the limitation of the iPhone 6S camera, it’s also the iPhone’s greatest strength. Let’s face the fact that most people don’t want to use manual controls. Most people want to quickly access the camera and quickly take a great picture before they miss their kid’s first steps.

Don’t get me wrong, Samsung tackles this aspect quite well as well. In fact, Samsung’s cameras seem to be the only one that has both a great automatic mode and a great manual mode.

iPhone 6S Samsung Galaxy Note 5

In most cases, I found the iPhone 6S to be a bit disappointing. The camera was one of my concerns when the iPhone 6S was first announced. Higher resolution does not mean better. In fact, the fact that Apple stuck with 8 MP for so long was one of the reasons that the iPhone has always been one of the best cameras.

The photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 really just pop more. There’s better contrast and more detail. This was interesting because I did not get that impression when I compared the iPhone 6 with the Galaxy Note 5.

The one downside to the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is that it really oversaturates the photos. The iPhone 6S has better color accuracy.

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iPhone 6S – Samsung Galaxy Note 5

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iPhone 6S – Samsung Galaxy Note 5

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Low light performance is interesting. Both the iPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 use phase detection autofocus (PDAF). The iPhone’s PDAF clearly works better at night than Samsung’s; however, the Galaxy Note 5 does a better job when the flash is used.

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iPhone 6S – Samsung Galaxy Note 5

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There’s one more thing I want to mention. Apple added Live Photos to the iPhone 6S. This is meant to turn the photo into a moving image that records 1 1/2 seconds before and after the shutter button is pressed. Unfortunately, I cannot show any of these photos here. The train photo in the gallery was a Live Photo. They’re just not very sharable at the moment and I have no idea how I would post them here.

On the other hand, Samsung has a plug-in for their Camera app that allows the user to record an animated GIF. The resulting GIF is a much lower resolution photo than Apple’s Live Photos, but the major advantage is that I can share them anywhere.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 GIF
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 GIF

Other advantages of Samsung’s animated GIF feature is that it doesn’t force the user to record three seconds. You can record for half a second or five seconds.

Apple’s Live Photos are a really nice feature. It’s great that you can set them as your lock screen or as an Apple Watch face. Other than that, they’re just not very shareable. After taking photos for this comparison, I upload the photos to OneDrive. After uploading all of the iPhone 6S photos, I just got a bunch of JPEG files. There was nothing that even had the potential to move.

iPhone 6S vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5: Front Camera

When Apple announced the iPhone 6S, I found the new front camera to be the most exciting feature. The iPhone 6 had a 1.2 MP sensor. While I always preach that megapixels don’t matter and the iPhone 6 did take really great selfies, there’s only so much you can do with 1.2 MP. If you’re wondering, 1.2 MP is greater than 720p and less than 1080p.

Unfortunately, the new front camera can still only record 720p video. Samsung also uses a 5 MP front camera on the Galaxy Note 5; however, it can record 1440p video. Of course, 1440p video doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since no one has a 1440p TV. 1080p is useful though.

As we can see, the iPhone reverses the image. Funny story about that. When I upload all of my photos to WordPress, all of the selfies taken with the iPhone come out upside down. The photos taken with the rear camera don’t have that problem. If I rotate the images, anyone viewing the web page from an iOS device will report that they’re upside down. The only option is to open the files in Photoshop and save them as a separate file.

There are a couple other things to note. For one thing, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has a much larger field of view, which is nice when you have 5 MP to use for cropping.

Also, the iPhone 6S front camera sucks at night. Seriously, it just sucks. Luckily, Apple provides us with a flash. This is a feature that the new Moto G has, as well as a slew of LG phones. Apple claims that the display lights up to three times its normal brightness for the flash.

iPhone 6S iPhone 6S with Flash

Samsung does not provide such a feature, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they pushed it out with a software update at some point.

iPhone 6S vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5: Benchmarks

I give this disclaimer every time I get to the benchmarks portion of the article. Benchmarks rarely provide any insight into real life. Usually, they only provide fuel for fanboys that have created an Apple vs Android war in their heads. The fact is that if you buy a flagship device, it’s going to feel like a flagship device. Anyway, let’s move on.

Before we look at actual benchmarks side by side, here’s a video I made where I performed a speed test between the iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

First up is a battery test. Geekbench 3 has an option to have a dim screen on or off. First up, we’ll look at the test with the dim screen off, since that’s how we actually use our phones.

iPhone 6S Samsung Galaxy Note 5

iPhone 6S Note 5 Battery Bright

We can see that the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 outperforms the iPhone 6S in battery tests. I don’t really think that either of these tests are really accurate because with either device, I struggle to get through the day with regular usage. Let’s look at the dim screen results.

iPhone 6S Note 5 Battery Dim

The one takeaway that you can get from the battery tests here is that the brightness of the display affects the Samsung Galaxy Note 5’s battery life more than the iPhone 6S.

Next up is Geekbench 3.

iPhone 6S Note 5 Geekbench

I want to point out something here. The iPhone 6S has the best single core score of any mobile phone. This is something that people rarely realize, as most people, while admitting that there’s more to processors than cores and GHz, can hardly imagine that a dual core processor can outperform an octa core processor.

Apple’s A9 processor does outperform most octa core processors, particularly the ones that Qualcomm makes. It doesn’t outperform Samsung’s octa core processors. There is, however, something to be said about the fact that Apple’s A9 outperforms everything else on the market.

iPhone 6S Note 5 AnTuTu

We can see that the AnTuTu scores generally reflect the same as we saw in the Geekbench 3 tests. Note that a device powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 would come in at around 52,000 here.

Next up is graphics tests from GFXBench 3.1 and GFXBench 3. GFXBench 3.1 is first.

iPhone 6S Note 5 GFX 3.1 1 iPhone 6S Note 5 GFX 3.1 2 iPhone 6S Note 5 GFX 3 1 iPhone 6S Note 5 GFX 3 2

You can see here that the iPhone 6S blows away the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 from every angle and that’s not a surprise. As I mentioned above, a 1440p display hinders the GPU in a big way.

iPhone 6S vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5: Conclusion

If you ask any tech reviewer what his daily driver is, he’s not going to tell you the flavor of the week. He gets review units every few weeks from lots of different companies, but that doesn’t make it his daily driver. There is one phone that he thinks is the best that is the one he prefers to use.

One daily driver wasn’t enough for me. I’m now at a point where I have two phones that I always carry with me. Those two phones are the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6S.

Both phones are fantastic phones, but I really have to say, the iPhone 6S disappointed me a bit. I feel like the camera isn’t quite as good and the 5 MP front camera underperforms.

I prefer the stability of iOS over Touchwiz, which is why the iPhone 6S will be my primary daily driver for the foreseeable future. As I keep saying, nothing with a Qualcomm processor is really worth buying.

Ultimately, the decision between the iPhone 6S and the Galaxy Note 5 is going to be on which OS you prefer. Make no mistake, these are the best two phones on the market. You’ll be happy with whichever you choose.

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.