Samsung's new Galaxy S6 smartphone looks to be the next great business phone, but how does it stack up to the latest iPhone? The S6 — which launches April 10 — sports a couple of key upgrades, like a premium design and a better fingerprint scanner, that bring it more in line with the iPhone 6. On the other hand, Samsung nixed a few features — like expandable storage and a swappable battery — that helped last year's Galaxy S5 stand apart from Apple's phone. So with two devices that look and feel so similar, does one stand out as the better work phone?
Previously entries in the Galaxy S series have felt solid and durable — the kind of thing that can withstand a few drops and dings. But it's hard to deny that those all-plastic devices felt a bit cheap compared with Apple's metal-cased iPhones. That's why it's nice to see Samsung adopt more premium materials for its latest flagship phone.
The Galaxy S6 is sleeker, thinner and better-looking than its predecessors, sporting a glass back, a sturdy magnesium alloy frame and rounded edges. In fact, the device looks a lot like the iPhone 6 — and that's not a bad thing. Good looks won't necessarily help you get the job done, but when you're dropping $200 for a new work phone, it's nice to get a device that feels like it can justify its steep price tag.
So what about durability? Business users who depend on their phone for work might appreciate a device that can withstand some abuse. We can’t say for sure just yet, but the S6's glass back might be a liability if it's prone to shattering when dropped. On the other hand, the S6 uses Corning Gorilla Glass 4 — the toughest glass on the market — so it's more durable than it looks. Plus, you won't have to worry about the S6 bending in your pocket, an issue some users have reported with the iPhone 6.
It's hard to be productive on a small smartphone screen. That's why the Galaxy S6's 5.1-inch display might be better for business users than the iPhone 6's 4.7-inch screen; it simply gives you more room to work.
The Galaxy S6's screen is a lot sharper, too, with an eye-popping pixel density of 577 pixels per inch (ppi). Compare that with the iPhone's relatively meager 326 ppi. A high resolution is a perk for business users, since it lets you view more information on-screen at once. In other words, the S6 is the better pick for screen-intensive tasks like viewing large documents and spreadsheets on your smartphone. It also makes the S6's multiwindow multitasking feature more practical (more on this later).
Does a good business phone need a great camera? It might, if you plan on using your device for meeting remotely with clients or colleagues via a videoconferencing app. That's why the Galaxy S6's front-facing camera is so noteworthy. The device's 5-megapixel front camera can capture more detail than the 2-MP shooter on last year's Galaxy S5. And more importantly, the S6 captures better images in low-light environments, such as an office, than its predecessor.
The iPhone 6's 1.2-MP front-facing camera takes less detailed photos, but there's a lot more to a good image than resolution. In fact, the iPhone 6's camera outperforms most competitors for videoconferencing, since its front camera manages exposure very well, especially in indoor-lighting situations. We'll have to wait until we can test the S6 for ourselves to see how its front camera stacks up.
The Galaxy S6 isn't the first phone in the line with a built-in fingerprint scanner — that honor goes to the S5. Unfortunately, the S5's scanner — which requires you to slowly slide your thumb down over the home button — is so unreliable that it's almost not worth using. That's why the S6's improved scanner might be its most exciting hardware upgrade. Instead of sliding your finger over the home button, you just tap it. The feature works about as well as the iPhone 6's excellent fingerprint scanner. It's a nice perk for business users, since it lets you keep your work phone locked down without having to deal with cumbersome password screens.
Galaxy S6 users also get access to Samsung's Knox, a mobile security platform aimed at enterprise users. The suite keeps work data separate from personal apps, and gives you extra features like two-factor authentication. It works by using the phone's fingerprint scanner in conjunction with a regular password, so you get an extra layer of security in case your device is lost or stolen.
With phones this physically similar, the buying decision mostly comes down to software. The Galaxy S6 runs on a customized version of Android that Samsung calls TouchWiz, while the iPhone 6 runs on iOS 8.
TouchWiz is known for packing in the features. The latest version is no exception, but thankfully Samsung cleared away some of the clutter in the latest version. The software is noticeably pared down, with fewer useless, preloaded apps and a cleaner interface overall. Still, iOS wins in terms of visual design and ease of use.
The S6 does give you some productivity-boosting features that the iPhone lacks, like the ability to run two apps side by side. Admittedly, split-screen multitasking has limited utility on a small smartphone screen, but it's nice to have the option to use the calculator or calendar while you're composing an email.
One of the iPhone 6's best features is its ability to link seamlessly with a Mac computer, so you can beam documents and files back and forth between devices, and even take phone calls without ever touching your smartphone. Apple calls the feature "Continuity," and you won't find anything quite like it on the Galaxy S6.
Android's app library is about on par with the iOS app store, both in terms of number and overall quality. It's worth pointing out, though, that Samsung is preloading a bunch of useful applications onto the S6, including mobile versions of Skype, OneNote and OneDrive. You also get Google services like Gmail, Calendar and Maps, right out of the box. Those aren't really advantages for the S6, though, since all of those applications can be downloaded on the iPhone 6, though Google's apps aren't as well-integrated into Apple's OS.
Previous Galaxy S smartphones have been praised for their removable backs, which let users swap out the battery. That feature let you replace a failing battery with a fresh one midway through your phone's life cycle, or even carry around a fully charged backup to double your phone's battery life on a business trip. Now Samsung has nixed that feature, sealing the S6's body to completely remove the ability to swap out the battery. That let the company create a slimmer, sleeker smartphone, but it might be a big disappointment for some users. After all, it was one of the features that helped separate the line from Apple's iPhone, which has never had a removable battery.
Samsung is throwing in a couple of extra features to help mitigate the issue. First, the S6 has a quick-charge capability that Samsung says can give you about 4 extra hours of use with a 10-minute charge. Second, the S6 is compatible with wireless chargers based on both the Qi and PMW standards; the iPhone 6 is only compatible with Qi-based wireless chargers.
Of course, we won't know if the Galaxy S5 can last through the workday until we have a chance to test it for ourselves. We do know that the iPhone 6 offers below-average battery life, however — about an hour less than other flagship phones.
With the S6, Samsung also did away with the microSD Card slot that was present on all previous Galaxy S smartphones. That means buyers should think long and hard about how much internal storage they'll need — what you buy is what you get. Of course, the iPhone has never had an expandable storage slot of any kind. A point in favor of the S6 is that the entry-level model comes with 32GB of storage, double the iPhone 6's 16GB. That's a big plus for users who want to store large
Samsung's Galaxy S6 looks like a winner, with a sleek new design, an upgraded fingerprint scanner and the same great software features that made previous models great work phones. Some users might be disappointed that it lacks expandable storage and a removable battery, but you won't find those features on the iPhone 6 either.
So which phone is better for business? If you want a bigger display and prefer the customizable nature of Android, the S6 is the better pick. If you prefer Apple's slick, easy-to-use interface, and want to connect your phone to your Mac computer, the iPhone 6 wins out.