How does the iPhone 6 Plus stack up to the competition?

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Admit it, you’ve been waiting for Apple to discard the whole smaller size thing and release a smartphone able to compete in the screen arena with the rest of the smartphones that populate the planet. Mostly Android phones, true, but that’s how these things go.

So now we have the iPhone 6 Plus, which tops out at 5.5-inches and is lengthy enough to stand in the back row with the rest of the bigger devices. Not the 6-inch and up phablets though, those guys are a different breed from the face and body boys. With that in mind, we decided to have an on-paper shootout between the iPhone 6 Plus and the current headliners from the major smartphone makers. The question is: how does Apple’s big new baby perform compared to the rest?

  • Galaxy Note 4
    Display: 5.7-inch Super AMOLED (1,440 x 2,560), 515ppi
    Chipset/CPU: Snapdragon 805, 2.7GHz Krait/ Exynos 5433, quad 1.3GHzCortex A53 + quad 1.9GHz Cortex A57 (3GB RAM)
    Storage: 32GB, up to 128GB external
    Camera: 16MP (3,456 x 608), autofocus, OIS, LED flash/3.7MP (front)
    Connectivity: 3G, LTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    Battery: 3,220mAh Li-Ion
    Operating System: Android 4.4.4
    SIM Card: Micro-SIM
    Features: S-Pen, Fingerprint sensor
    Dimensions: 153.5mm x 78.6 x 8.5
    Samsung have pulled out all the stops in their quest to make the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4 the biggest and baddest piece of smartphone hardware in the West. And the East, for that matter. How are they doing that? By giving users masses of RAM, storage (for a smartphone, that is), processing power and one of the biggest screens you’ll find on something that can slip into your pocket. They’re also pushing up the capabilities of the camera, with 16 megapixels of photography – likely backed with their software features – in the palm of your hand. And leave us not forget the S-Pen, which turns this phone into a mini-tablet while keeping the display size small enough still let you use the Galaxy Note 4 as a phone.

    So how does it do?

    On paper? Splendidly. In practise? We have no idea, we haven’t had close contact with the Galaxy Note 4 as yet – it’s still on its way to South Africa. Samsung isn’t really looking to compete with anyone other than LG with the Note 4 though, if the screen resolution, beefed-up specs and camera are anything to go by. The hardware, from processor to battery, are all designed to edge out the LG G3 in performance terms. Since the G3 is our current top phone Samsung setting their sights on that device alone makes sense but we get the idea that they’re not really worried about what Apple is doing these days.

  • Xperia Z3
    Display: 5.2-inch IPS LCD (1,080 x 1,920), 424ppi
    Chipset/CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801/Krait 400 2.5Ghz quad (3GB RAM)
    Storage: 16GB/32GB
    Camera: 20.7MP (5,248 x 3,936), LED flash, autofocus/2.2MP (front)
    Connectivity: 3G, LTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    Battery: 3,100mAh Li-Ion
    Operating System: Android 4.4.4
    SIM Card: Nano-SIM
    Features: Multi-touch, IP68 (water and dust proof)
    Dimensions: 147mm x 72 x 7.3
    What has Sony done lately? Their top-end Xperia Z range of phones has always been well engineered and stylish but they’re consistently coming in under the high-water mark left by their South Korean competitors. That’s how we wound up with the Xperia Z3, with its 5.2-inch Sony-made display – which we’ll grant looks pretty darned good when you’re watching digital media – but they’ve opted to keep the full HD resolution for their newest flagship. No crazy-big display for you. They’ve also given the Xperia Z3 a fairly standard upgrade in terms of other hardware, with the Snapdragon 801 being the biggest part of this one.

    So how does it do?

    Sony looks to be keeping up, making the updates required to maintain pace with the rest of the smartphone world. We’re not disparaging the Snapdragon 801, since that’s what the LG G3 is packing (as well as a few others) but Sony’s phone is sitting just a little under the front-runners. A bit more effort in this line would nudge them closer to a front position. Still, waterproofing, a profile that comes close to the thickness shown off by Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, and the Xperia Z3’s Sony camera pedigree will go a long way. It’s such a pity that these phones wind up so pricey in South Africa.

  • LG G3
    Display: 5.5-inch True HD-IPS+ (1,440 x 2,560), 534ppi
    Chipset/CPU: Snapdragon 801 Krait, 2.5GHz quad (2GB/3GB RAM)
    Storage: 16GB/32GB, up to 128GB external
    Camera: 13MP (4,160 x 3,120), phase detection/, OIS, dual LED flash/2.1MP (front)
    Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    Battery: 3,000mAh Li-Ion
    Operating System: Android 4.4.2
    SIM Card: Micro-SIM
    Features: Laser autofocus
    Dimensions: 146.3mm x 74.6 x 8.9
    LG’s G3 improves on Stuff‘s phone of the year for 2013 by increasing the processing power, smoothing out the UI a tad and throwing some very nifty camera features at users this time around. The inclusion of an external storage option (we do love our space, after all) was a nice touch and then there’s that massive 2K screen that looks just lovely provided your content is larger than HD. HD video looks good too though. The G3 has a few other features besides and there’s a reason that it is on track (so far) to being our best phone of the year again.

    So how does it do?

    LG’s flagship is the phone that all of the other Androids are chasing at the moment. We could have done with a better build rather than the metal-looking casing we’re faced with and there’s also room for improvement in other areas… somewhere. There has to be. But the G3 is out in front at present. For how long though, that is the question. LG have painted quite a target on their backs and Samsung, for one, looks to be taking aim. We’ll know whether LG can hang onto the lead once some of it’s competition lands in South Africa but the race this year is going to be a whole lot closer than 2013.

  • Nokia-Lumia-930
    Display: 5-inch AMOLED (1,080 x 1,920), 441ppi
    Chipset/CPU: Snapdragon 800/2.2GHz Krait 400 (2GB RAM)
    Storage: 32GB
    Camera: 20MP (4,992 x 3,744), OIS, autofocus, dual-LED flash/1.2MP (front)
    Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    Battery: 2,420mAh Li-Ion
    Operating System: Windows Phone 8.1
    SIM Card: Nano-SIM
    Features: –
    Dimensions: 137mm x 71 x 9.8

    Ah Nokia, we were wondering when you were going to arrive. And arrive they have, with a 5-inch phone that matches up to the specs of last year’s front-runners. By that we mean there’s an AMOLED display, Full HD of course, in place, a Snapdragon 800 quad-core and 2GB of RAM to play with. But those bits are old news, for the most part. The Lumia 930 is also home to a 20MP camera that features optical image stabilisation, autofocus and a dual-LED flash – it’s a bit like someone took Sony and LG’s flagships, smashed them together and the laser autofocus fell out.

    So how does it do?

    Last year the Lumia 930 would have been a contender, this year it’s lagging behind the main competition. But there are a couple of positives to look forward to, if you’re a Windows Phone fan. First is that hardware, which runs Windows Phone 8.1 like it was born to it. The Lumia 930’s display is also something to look forward to and overall this Nokia/Microsoft device is a tight piece of work. The available chassis colours suggest that Microsoft is pitching the 930 at the younger market and they might have hit all the high points to make it work. Now if only they had the positive press that iOS and Android have…

  • iPhone 6 Plus
    Display: 5.5-inch Retina (1,080 x 1,920), 401ppi
    Chipset/CPU: Apple A8, dual-core 1.4GHz, quad-core PowerVR graphics (1GB RAM)
    Storage: 16GB/64GB, 128GB
    Camera: 8MP (3,264 x 2,448), OIS, dual LED flash, phase detection autofocus/1.2MP (front)
    Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    Battery: Unknown (as usual)
    Operating System: iOS 8
    SIM Card: Nano-SIM
    Features: Fingerprint sensor, Apple Pay (NFC, US only)
    Dimensions: 158.1mm x 77.8 x 7.1

    Which brings us, at long last, to the iPhone 6 Plus (unless . Now we’re still waiting for the 6 Plus to land on South Africa with both feet but we’re able to get a pretty good idea of how it’ll do based on what we know about it and how the iPhone has done in the past. As is customary, Apple is being all silent about their battery capacities and they’re about as secretive concerning their internal chips. A dual-core 1.4GHz Apple A8, with a quad-core graphics setup, makes up the central nervous system here and Apple have finally made a device with a full HD screen. Too bad it’s not the iPhone 6 that gets the scaled-up display but we’ll take it in this 5.5-inch iPhone. Who would have thought we’d see this day.

    So how does it do?

    In terms of raw hardware? The iPhone 6 Plus features the kind of specs usually seen in mid-range Android phones. But with iPhones it’s never been what you have, it’s all about how you use it and Apple knows how to use it very effectively. In this case, with the rest of the phones on offer, it’s comparing Apples to oranges. The upgrades, to the camera (the OIS is very tasty), the display (finally in HD) and the iOS 8 tweaks, make the iPhone 6 Plus an interesting proposition. It’s got the size to match the rest of the competition and once we have a hands-on we’ll be able to better judge between the top-flight Androids and Windows Phone devices and what Apple has made. For now though, things are looking like business as usual for the company’s phones.

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