Samsung Galaxy S6 vs. The iPhone 6 : Can Samsung make the best phones ever?

Recently, I switched from an iPhone 6 to a Samsung Galaxy S6.

It’s been an interesting and polarizing experience so far.

There’s a change from iOS to Android, and there’s a change from Apple to Samsung.

It’s come with many high and low points.

The Infrared Blaster is awesome. I’ve had a Samsung TV at home for 5 years, and didn’t realize how convenient this would be.

Wireless Charging is fantastic. It makes you keep your phone charged far more often.

The 577 PPI AMOLED blows the 326 PPI IPS display of the iPhone out of the water.

The 16 MP Camera is a major upgrade over the iPhone’s camera. It’s a joy to take pictures on this phone.

The phone processor is snappy and fast — faster than the iPhone 6 and it can go toe to toe with the 6S if online benchmarks are to be believed. The snappiness is a joy to use.

The Physical back button vs. the fake back button emulation of iOS9 is very convenient.

Then there all the niceties that come from switching from iOS to Android.

OK Google returns a far more comprehensive set of answers than Siri. Siri feels like a half baked toy in comparison to the full power of Google search.

Notifications on Android are far more customizable and thus more powerful than their iOS counterparts.

Android has far, far better voice recognition than iOS: I can say “OK Google” when driving, and it can reliably understand what I am saying.

Chrome on Android is a far better web browser than Safari ever was.

You can buy books in the Kindle app: you aren’t strong armed by Apple’s onerous and unfair policy of the Kindle iOS app not being able to buy books straight from your phone if you prefer a non Apple books app.

How apps can talk to each other is great thanks to intents and overlays. Facebook Messenger Chatheads are a great example of this.

Moddability is huge as well — you can use apps like All in One Gestures that let you map a left swipe to back in all apps have no equivalent on iOS. There’s an app that let’s me read my notifications aloud only when I’m driving.

Better deeplinking — I can click on a link and if I grant an app permissions, it will always take me to the app.

Auto purchase refund — I deleted an app after a few minutes of downloading it and I was pleasantly surprised to get a full refund automatically with the Play Store.

In addition to most Google apps being great on Android, some 3rd party apps are better than their iOS counterparts. For example the Reddit and Twitter apps. ( Though admittedly this is the exception rather than the rule ).

There are downsides though too:

There is no Facetime ( though I can use Facebook Messenger, Hangouts and Skype as an acceptable substitute ).

Most apps are lower quality — they crash more or are lower performing. Some good new apps just aren’t there on Android yet. The animations jerkier. This was the top pain point for me. I expect this problem to go away as the app ecosystem improves.

No WiFi calling. ( not a huge deal as this is something that might get fixed over time ).

This might sound like a nitpick, though get rid of the shiny “Samsung” tramp stamps. In this day and age, people spend every minute of their day with their phones and will promote their phone if they truly love it. It’s the depth of someone really loving a phone that makes them promote it to the point of a user selling a phone for you, not the casual glance at the logo that grabs someone’s attention. Stop putting tramp stamps at the request of your marketing department — you aren’t selling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunch boxes to kids here.

The battery life is anemic — something that Samsung should take note of. I must admit that fast charging and wireless charging are both really nice and make this feel less painful, but there is no substitute for a straight up larger battery. Also, pretty please ship a software update to Marshmallow so that I can make use of dozing.

And then there is the issue of using bloatware and non stock Android: Samsung is trying to add value here, but their software is just not very good. A stock Android experience is far more pleasant. You can switch themes, launchers and default apps to get a near stock Android like experience, though software updates are still not as fast as I’d like them to be. I have a test Nexus 5X and really missing dozing. This is going to sound harsh, but all you have to do is run an A/B test of a Galaxy running near stock Android vs. your software and let the customers decide. I don’t know if I’m wrong or right, but my gut says if you built a Galaxy S7 and a Galaxy S7 running stock Android, you’d see a much better critical and market reception to the latter. If the experiment is successful, you can also invest those engineering resources into making the parts of your phone that are truly differentiated such as the camera and IR blaster better, rather that putting lipstick on a pig with trying to reskin the core OS — this is shallow differentiation and users can see through it.

On the whole, I’m really enjoying the switching to the iPhone 6 to the Galaxy S6. I’m still really disappointed by the loss of potential. It’s a really good phone, though it could have been a phenomenal phone purely based on two changes: battery life and stock Android.

Samsung can make a lot better phones if they just ran stock Android without bloatware and paid a lot more attention to battery life.

Dear Samsung: I’m your target demographic. I would like a high end Android phone that’s not a phablet, and you are probably the only company that makes them — so I hope this feedback was constructive.

To summarize, the top things I love are:

  1. The fabulous screen
  2. Wireless charging
  3. Fast charging
  4. The IR blaster means I almost never use my TV remote.
  5. Easier access to Google search.
  6. Between a combination of the Exynos and Chrome, web browsing is far snappier than an iPhone.
  7. The S6 Camera is a joy to use — it’s better than just about any phone out there. Keep up the good work, it’s a truly meaningful differentiator versus other phones. If you want to differentiate on software, this is the right place to do it.

Top things which need improvement:

  1. Get closer to being near stock Android. The UI is cleaner and it’s not cool to be deprived of dozing while my Nexus devices get the update immediately.
  2. Don’t skimp on battery size.
  3. Saying OK Google to my phone is super accurate when it works, but it seems to not work when the phone is not plugged in. Let me use OK Google reliably instead of S Voice when the phone isn’t plugged into a power source.

Disclaimer: I work for Google as an engineer on Inbox for Android, though this article was driven entirely based on my pain points that I encountered when switching from an iPhone 6 to a Galaxy S6.

All opinions expressed here are purely my own and not those of my employer.

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