by Al Sacco
Samsung and Apple are the undisputed kings of the smartphone world, and both own right approximately 20 percent of the global market, according to recent research from IDC. Apple and the iPhone beat out Samsung and its seemingly endless array of handhelds in total sales to end users for the first time during the final quarter of last year, thanks in no small part to the white-hot market reception of both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
However, Samsung’s latest darlings, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge are about to go on sale next week in the United States, and the Korean electronics leader has every intention of stealing back some of that share. During the coming months, millions of consumers will fire up their Web browsers of choice or strut into local wireless carrier shops to compare the latest and greatest smartphones. Atop their lists of options will be the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6.
I’ve been using the iPhone 6 since the day it was released last September, and I got both my Samsung GS6 and GS6 edge phones last Tuesday; I’ve had more than a week to spend with the new Galaxys. One of the first things I do after a company sends a new smartphone that piques my interest (and not all of the review devices I receive do, mind you) is stack it up to the iPhone, to see how (or if) it compares.
That’s exactly what I did with the Galaxy S6/S6 edge. While it’s too early to make a decision between the iPhone 6 and the Galaxy S6/S6 edge, I will say this: I like the new Galaxys. A lot. However, the iPhone 6 still does many things the Galaxy S6 phones can’t. This article is not intended to point out all of them. Instead, it’s meant to spotlight the things I miss most when I leave home with the Galaxy S6 and not my iPhone 6.
As is always the case with these matters, there are two tales to be told, so make sure to check out my companion story, “6 things Galaxy S6 does that iPhone 6 can’t.” To be clear, I am not saying the iPhone is better than the Galaxy S6, or suggesting the iPhone would win in a fight with the GS6.
Now that that’s out of the way, on to the things that iPhone 6 does that Galaxy S6 can’t. (Note: With the exception of a curved display and slightly different battery capacity, the new Galaxy phones are identical, so all of the points made below apply to both new phones.)
1) iPhone 6, Touch ID and Apple Pay
Samsung dramatically improved the fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy S6 devices. The company used finger scanners in number of phones during the past couple of years, but put bluntly, they were garbage. You used to have swipe a finger vertically over the oval-shaped sensor multiple times to get a good read, and the experience was such that I quickly stopped using the scanner altogether on Galaxy smartphones and tablets and reverted to manual password entry.
You need only touch a finger to the Galaxy S6 finger scanner to unlock the phone or authenticate, and they work very well in my experience. However, the overall value and functionality of the Galaxy S6 finger scanner is limited because it doesn’t currently do much more than let you unlock your phone, authenticate your Samsung account and sign into a small set of Web services.
Touch ID on the iPhone is among my favorite features, because it works like a charm, and it lets me securely and easily access a variety of apps and service. Like the Samsung finger scanner, you can use Touch ID to unlock your iPhone, but you can also use it to make iTunes and App Store purchases, pay for goods and services using Apple Pay in brick and mortar stores and online, and authenticate via a growing collection of iOS apps.
Samsung plans to rollout its mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, at some point this summer, and that should level the playing field — perhaps even tilt it Samsung’s way due to some unique features — but right now, Touch ID lets me quickly and securely pay for Groupons in that app, authenticate myself via my AmEx app, unlock my Google Drive and my password manager, and quickly login to my credit union’s app for fast access to finance information, among other things.
While many of these same apps are available for Android, they do not support fingerprint authentication via Samsung Galaxy devices. That’s not to say that they won’t in the future, but today, Touch ID, Apple and iPhone 6 offers a much more compelling finger-authentication system. (You can also only add four different prints to the Samsung finger reader, while Touch ID supports five, but that’s honestly not a big deal, at least not for me.)
2) Immediate iPhone 6 iOS software update, directly from the source
One of the most frustrating thing about Android, and the Galaxy S6 phones, is that you need to wait for your wireless carrier to test and customize Google’s Android software updates before you can install them. More often than not, that takes months, sometimes years, depending on the carrier and specific device model. For example, Google announced the latest version of Android, v5.0 or “Lollipop,” late last year, and AT&T just last week rollout it out for my Galaxy Note 4. Many other Android users are still waiting for Lollipop. (Both of my Galaxy S6 review devices are running Android v5.0.2.)
One of the best things about the iPhone, and other iOS devices, is that Apple usually makes software updates available almost immediately after they’re announced, and its users and can install without delay. (Well, almost without delay; Apple servers are often overloaded during the first day after it announces a significant iOS update, and it can be tough to get your update right away, though the problem is almost always resolved within 24 hours.)
There’s something gratifying about the capability to install new OS updates as soon as they’re announced, and on the flip side, it really sucks to have to wait for Android updates, often with no idea of how long you’ll be hanging around, twiddling your typing thumbs.
3) iPhone 6 seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem
It’s a no-brainer to say that the iPhone integrates more tightly with Apple’s other products and the company’s broader ecosystem. Of course, it does. However, Macs are finding homes within more American family and enterprises than ever before, and the iPad is without question the most popular tablet on the market today. That means that even if you’re an Android or Galaxy S6 owner, you may also own or use a Mac or iPad tablet.
I use an iMac at home and Macbook Pro for work, and I’ve come to really appreciate the interoperability features in built into Mac OS X Yosemite, Apple’s latest desktop software. If I receive a phone call while I’m working on a Mac, I can answer it using the computer so I don’t have to fish for my phone. The same goes for SMS messages; I send and receive them via Mac, so I can continue writing without breaking my train of thought. If I start writing an email on my phone, I can pick up it and finish on my Mac.
Android phones simply don’t integrate with Macs as well as iPhones or iPads. Windows users with Android phones, such as the Galaxy S6, can download apps that enable some of the functionality I’ve described on their Windows desktops or notebooks, but the experience isn’t nearly as smooth or as simple to set up. None of the features I’ve mentioned are essential, and I could certainly live without them if I decide to switch to the Galaxy S6. However, I didn’t realize how much I’d come to depend on them until started using the new Galaxy S6 full-time.
Also of note, the much-anticipated Apple Watch works only with the iPhone 5 or later, so Galaxy S6 owners who’ve had their eyes on Apple’s first wearable are out of luck, at least for now. Of course, countless Android smartwatches are available today, with more on the horizon, so it’s not like Galaxy S6 users can’t use any smartwatch. The iPhone, however, if the only phone that works with the Apple Watch, and many industry watchers believe the Apple Watch will be the first commercially successful smartwatch.
4) iPhone 6 lock screen notifications
This last point may seem insignificant to some, but the Galaxy S6’s inability to light up its sleeping display and show relevant notifications is a major disadvantage for me when compared to the iPhone 6. Google made some invaluable enhancements to its notification system in Android Lollipop, and overall, it works well. However, this gaping hole drives me made.
I can pick and choose which notifications show up on my iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 lock screens, but the only way I can determine specifics about notifications I receive on the GS6 without picking it up and waking it is via an LED, which can be customized for apps and specific contacts. The problem is that I still have to pick up the device to see alert details. The iPhone 6 can be set to light up its display when relevant notification arrives, and I can glance at it quickly to see if I need to reply right away.
In the morning, while I’m making breakfast (read: coffee) I can put my iPhone on the counter next to me and glance at it occasionally to see specific message details without picking up the phone with wet or dirty hands. At night, I can lie on the couch and read with my iPhone without constantly putting down my book to check notification every time my Galaxy S6 buzzes or I see an LED.
I’m well-aware that there are a number of Android apps and custom Android ROMs that enable some version of the light-up-lock-screen functionality, including the popular Slidelock Locker app. However, I generally don’t feel comfortable giving third-party apps access to all of my messages and apps for which I want to receive notification, and that’s a must. The majority of Android users do not root their devices, and therefore cannot install custom ROMs to address the shortcoming. (I also don’t root review devices that I do not own.)
Again, this post tells only one side of the story, so be sure to check out my companion piece, “6 things Samsung Galaxy S6 does that iPhone 6 can’t.”