How The iPhone 6S Sold Me On A Samsung Galaxy S6
The iPhone 6S is without question the best handset that Apple has ever built. That's no surprise, Apple's annual update and measured upgrade process always drives the line forward a few small, sometimes barely perceptible steps. The difference is that this year's 6S is - barring last year's new screen sizes - the biggest leap forward Apple has made in a single upgrade.
So how did a week spent with a 6S persuade me to buy a Samsung? All will become clear.
First of all, let me talk about the 6S. For a phone that looks identical to its predecessor (and by that I mean hold them side by side and you'll still need to look twice to decide which is which) the 6S is a very different beast.
With your eyes closed its probably easier to tell them apart. The 6S is a bit thicker and even though it's only fractions of a millimeter different it somehow feels better to hold, more solid, less likely to snap or smash. The added weight probably helps here too.
It's faster too. Touch ID sign in is instant. Which is great unless you wanted to jump straight to the camera from the lockscreen. You'll learn to wake the phone from the power switch to go directly to the camera because waking with the home key otherwise you'll never see the camera shortcut.
The new processor just makes everything feel a little snappier. Apps zoom in and out quicker and Safari is a bit snappier. The camera is ready to take pictures a hair quicker, although I couldn't say the output was massively improved. However the extra pixels do finally allow you to do a bit more zooming and cropping of your images so you can make great shots out of good ones.
4K video is new for the 6S, although it isn't a feature I've used on any phone yet. Until 4K TVs are the norm the file size is just too great a storage overhead. The new Retina Flash for selfies makes for usable pictures in darkened rooms - at the cost of zombifying skin tones. Live photos are nicely done, although they'll eat storage.
3D Touch works well, but after years of building the muscle memory for long presses I struggled to deliver the right pressure. Shouldnt't be something that will cause you a problem if the 6S is your only device. Knowing which apps support it will be a problem initially, however as more third parties support the technology that should cease to be a concern.
Battery life has been the bane of the iPhone ever since the 3G arrived. Despite having a smaller battery than the 6, I found that the 6S lasted about as long in my hands. Which is to say it would make it through a work day but couldn't be relied on to go any further.
So, great new camera features, great performance, neat 3D Touch and greater durability all add up to a great update. Why then did I end up buying a Galaxy S6 after a week with the 6S?
When I first saw the S6 I was disappointed and said so on this blog. However whilst I had the 6S I borrowed an S6 to use as a comparator.
And whilst my initial criticisms of the S6 focused on missing features, with longer term use I found that I formed a different view of the device. Whereas in the past Samsung has focused on throwing everything into its flagships and to hell with usability, the S6 follows a different path.
The screen is a marvel. It doesn't have the drop-dead immediate impact of the curved Edge screen, but after using it for a few days everything else looks a bit dull, lifeless and not quite sharp enough.
Launching the camera with a double press of the home key is a move of pure genius. It's quicker and more reliable than the dedicated camera key on Sony's Xperias. The camera software is simplified compared to previous versions and the automatic mode is more than a match for the 6S in quality, but with added advantages in being able to zoom and crop further thanks to the higher pixel count.
The S6 scores over the iPhone if you want full manual control, it's not on par with the Lumia camera, but it's close enough for me.
Wireless charging is a boon and because Samsung has managed to integrate both standards (Qi and PMA) into a device no thicker than one without either its accessible and requires no compromise.
If you do plug in to charge the fast charging is hugely impressive - 5% to 25% taking just a matter of minutes. Which is good, because after the S5's battery performance which defied belief, the S6 only has good battery life. That is, it will easily last a full day, but no more.
The new fingerprint reader is big improvement on the previous version used by Samsung. It's doesn't feel as quick as the iPhone's (6 or 6S) but that's mostly because it doesn't unlock until you remove your finger from the home key. Once you get used to the action of tapping to unlock performance sits about midway between the 6 and 6S sensors and is completely acceptable.
Finally Touchwiz has been toned down and the features that it adds to Android culled sensibly. There are no slowdowns and it looks good too. There's a consistency between widgets that was never present in previous versions for instance.
It also demonstrates the areas where Apple has followed rather than led and has had to compromise as a result. Notifications and shortcuts being on different shades at opposite ends of the screen. The ridiculous text 'back to x' button, the marginally helpful Reachability mode.
Then there are the inherent advantages of Android: flexibility and capability. Being able to bend the device to your needs rather than having to conform to Apple's strictly controlled way of working. Like being able to automate tasks based on triggers, like having full use of NFC, like being able to have widgets on home screens rather than locked to the notification shade. Like being able to set default apps.
Despite lagging behind in security, it's clear to me that Samsung has caught and surpassed Apple in areas of design and usability, something that was unthinkable twelve months ago.
The things that bothered me when I first looked at the S6 - non-removable battery, missing memory expansion and waterproofing, turn out to be rather less important that I thought they were at the time. The switch to 32Gb for the entry level S6 negates one, whilst the wireless and fast charging capabilities of the S6 deal with another, the last I'll learn to live with.
As a result I've sold one of my iPhones and spent my own money on buying a Galaxy S6, which turns out to be exactly the sort of device I wanted all along.