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Battle of the phablets: iPhone 6S Plus vs. Galaxy Note 5

Apple is bringing out the big guns with the iPhone 6S Plus, and is ready to go toe-to-toe with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 in the battle of the phablets. As bigger phones continue to grow more popular, these two are going to be duking it out for your phablet affections. How do these super-sized smartphones compare? Apple’s phablet is set to land on September 25, while Samsung’s phablet king is already on the market, but we have the full spec breakdown of each for you right here.

Related: iPhone 6S and 6S Plus hands on

iPhone 6S Plus

iphone 6s plus

Galaxy Note 5

note 5

Size 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm (6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches) 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm (6.03 x 3.00 x 0.30 inches)
Weight 192 grams (6.77 oz) 171 grams (6.03 oz)
Screen 5.5-inch IPS LCD 5.7-inch Super AMOLED
Resolution 1,080 x 1,920 pixels 1,440 x 2,560 pixels
OS iOS 9 Android 5.1 (Lollipop)
Storage 16GB, 64GB, 128GB 32GB, 64GB
SD Card Slot No No
NFC Support Yes (Apple Pay Only) Yes
Processor 64-bit Apple A9 processor Exynos 7420
RAM 2GB 4GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, LTE-A Wi-Fi, GSM, HSPA, LTE
Camera Rear 12MP,  Front 5MP Rear 16 MP, Front 5MP
Bluetooth Yes, Version 4.2 Yes, Version 4.2
Sensors Barometer, three-axis gyro, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate, SpO2
Fingerprint Sensor Yes Yes
Misc. 3D touch S-Pen
Protection Ion-strengthened glass, oleophobic coating Corning Gorilla Glass 4
Battery Non-removable Li-Po 2,915 mAh battery Non-removable Li-Po 3,000 mAh battery
Charger Lightning Micro USB
Marketplace Apple App Store Google Play Store
Ave. Price From $750 (Unlocked), $300 (2-year contract) From $750 (Unlocked), $250 (2-year contract)
Colors Gold, Silver, Space Gray, and Rose Gold Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum, Silver Titan, White Pearl
Availability AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile (Preorder Starts Sept. 12, Full Release Sept. 25) AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile
DT Review Coming soon Our Review

Power

On paper, the Note 5 bests the 6S Plus in terms of processing power and RAM. With double the RAM available, running multiple apps and switching between them, should be much smoother on the Note 5, especially when the phone’s Exynos 7420 64-bit chipset is factored in. But Apple tends to punch above its weight, so we’ll wait and see what the benchmarks reveal. Both these smartphones have similar batteries. The iPhone 6S Plus has a non-removable Li-Po 2,915 mAh battery, and the Note 5 has a non-removable Li-Po 3,000 mAh battery. The Note 5 edges out the 6S Plus on paper, but we won’t be surprised if the 6S Plus delivers longer battery life in real-world conditions, particularly since Apple made a big deal about the improved power efficiency in iOS 9.

In terms of storage, the two phones are similar, but the iPhone 6S Plus offers more flexibility in terms of sizing options, with 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB models. The Note 5 comes in 32GB and 64GB options. However, the 16GB iPhone 6S Plus may be a bit constrictive given modern storage demands (we would not recommend buying a 16GB phone). The larger storage models of both phones should be plenty for most people.

So who wins this one? The slightly bigger battery and double RAM of the Note 5 beat out the iPhone 6S Plus, but Apple’s upcoming upgrade offers more flexibility in terms of data storage. The Note 5 sneaks the win over the iPhone 6S Plus here.

Winner: Galaxy Note 5

Design and display

Both of these phablets boast an expensive feel and look. While not drastically different in size (the iPhone 6S Plus stands 0.2 inches taller, 0.07 inches wider, but 0.01 inches thinner), there is a difference between their screens. Not only is the Galaxy Note 5 screen 0.2 inches bigger, it also sports a higher resolution, displaying at 1,440 x 2,560 pixels, whereas the iPhone 6S Plus has to make do with a 1,080 x 1,920 pixel screen. At this size, the difference in display won’t be night and day, but for those who care about having the highest possible resolution, the Note 5 wins.

Winner: Galaxy Note 5

Camera

There is a difference in terms of camera quality between the two phones, on paper at least. While the 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and 5-megapixel front-facing camera on the iPhone 6S Plus are nothing to scoff at, the Galaxy Note 5’s rear and front-facing cameras are 16-megapixel and 5-megapixel, respectively. You might expect a noticeable uptick in quality from pictures taken with the main camera of the Note 5, compared to the iPhone 6S Plus, but there’s more to great photos than the megapixel count. We’ll need to do a hands-on comparison, but there isn’t likely to be much difference between the two.

Winner: Tie

Related: 25 Galaxy Note 5 tips and tricks

Unique Features

When it comes to special features, comparing the Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6S, is like comparing apples to oranges. The Note 5 comes with the S Pen stylus. That may not be the most exciting feature for some people, but considering the size of these phones, and the fact that the iPhone 6S Plus doesn’t come with a stylus, it is a potential selling point. If you like to sketch or take notes, then the S Pen could set these apart, and Samsung has included some special apps to help you take advantage of it.

What does the iPhone 6S Plus bring to the table? The 6S Plus, and it’s smaller sibling the 6S, are rolling out Apple’s new 3D touch feature, which is essentially a pressure-sensitive screen. That means you can push harder on something to get different options and finer control. In this regard, the “better” of the two is really up to what your needs or interests are. Feel like using the stylus to take notes and offer a slightly easier user experience, opt for the Note 5; want deeper control with certain apps, the iPhone 6S’s 3D touch will give you just that (though just how many apps will use the feature and how much it will change interaction is yet to be seen).

Winner: Tie

Availability and Price

The iPhone 6S Plus is released on September 25, and all major carriers will have the latest model of Apple’s bigger smartphone. It will also be available for purchase directly from Apple. The Galaxy Note 5 is already out and available right now, again from all major phone service providers, and from Samsung as well. Both retail at $750 for an unlocked model. The iPhone 6S Plus will go for $300 with a two year contract, and the Note 5 is now being offered at $250 with a two year contract.

Winner: Galaxy Note 5

Related: Best iPhone 6S Plus cases

Conclusion

Apple’s big new phone has a few unique features that make it a different prospect, and if you’ve bought into Apple’s ecosystem, or are just a fan of iOS, you may feel the iPhone 6S Plus is the phone you’re looking for. When pitting iPhone 6S Plus vs. Galaxy Note 5 on technical specs, though, Samsung’s phablet takes the cake. In terms of display, camera, and power, the Note 5 is a better phone on paper. An extended, real-world hands-on and comparison might tell a different story.