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.