So as widely expected, yesterday (9th September 2014) saw the announcement of not just one new iPhone but two in addition tot the long rumoured iWatch…now known officially as the ‘Apple Watch’. But whilst this week is unarguably Apple’s time to shine, last week arch-rival Samsung revealed it’s own iPhone challengers to rapturous applause, so before I get carried away with ideas about iPhones the size of my face I need to make some Notes on competitors too!
Samsung has been seriously challenging Apple for quite a while now and whilst their Galaxy S line has really taken the battle to the Californian company, it’s most recent efforts have failed to set the industry alight at least as far as design goes; the S5 is a great phone but plastic fantastic is the name of the game. With rivals such as the LG G3 and HTC One M8 drawing headlines with their wowza screens and metal design elements there has been a lot of pressure on Samsung to launch something special…and with their Note line-up of ‘phablets’ gaining traction with customers who demand the highest specs in their phones, what better phone to choose than the brand new Note 4 to debut their new design elements.
Now in terms of specs the Note line-up has tended to ape the Galaxy S phones, but maybe with a few more features to sit alongside it’s flash S-Pen wizardry and of course a larger screen. The Galaxy S5 has a 5.1″ screen but the Note 4 goes one better with a 5.7″ beast complete with higher resolution. Materials-wise the Note 4 retains the leather-eqsue back of the S5 but with a slightly more premium feel, and importantly adds a metal frame around the outside of the handset to give the phone a more solid feel in-hand. All of this adds up to a handset that is able to battle Apple’s best efforts pretty well; you’ll see later that the S5 is more than adequately equipped to rival the iPhone 6 specs wise, so the Note 4 seems well poised to tackle those made a little uneasy by the iPhone 6 Plus’ gargantuan pricing…or is it?
The problem is for me (and I’m sure many other potential customers will agree here) that despite better specs and keener prices than their fruity rivals, Samsungs new offerings lack a certain wow-factor with which Apple bestows all it’s products. That metal and leatherette may help a little but this year Samsung itself had ‘one more thing’ to add to it’s product line-up in the form of the Edge…or to give it it’s biblical name the ‘Samsung Galaxy Note Edge’ (eek). Essentially the same phone as the normal Note 4, itself a very impressive starting block, Samsung has given their new phone a new edge by including a screen that curves around the right side of the phone to give it a secondary screen. Now as unusual as it sounds this new design feature really seems to work – a sort of permanent widget bar that can be customised and is also very utilised in other apps such as the video player or even as a clock at night-time. This complete with all the other impressive features/new materials of the Note 4 make for a very interesting option for iPhone buyers who are open to something different but still highly unique.
Now onto the new iPhones and there were actually very few surprises in terms of design or features, but it still seems that Apple have pulled it out of the bag in what is arguably the most important iPhone launch since the original’s. With rivals outpacing them them in terms of features and indeed outright size, Apple have had to react to market demand and launch 2 new products that continue to offer the polished Apple experience but just in larger packages. The ‘smaller’ of the devices is, as expected, named the iPhone 6 – following on from the 5S before it, and this time around the standard screen size has jumped from 4″ to 4.7″, a sensible leap and within the boundaries of most buyers’ tolerances. The resolution of that screen is still the same though, as are most other things; the camera remains 8 megapixels and for all intensive purposes is the same. The processor is a little faster and battery life also improves a little, but all in all the 6 is a solid upgrade in a sleek new form.
The second iPhone is a little more intriguing and marks a massive departure for the iPhone brand; Steve Jobs insisted that 3.5″ was the optimum size for a touchscreen phone because of the easy access to all areas of the screen this size gave. Even before Jobs’ death many rivals were putting out phones with screens of well over 4″ and this has culminated in so-called ‘phablets’ like the Samsung Note family, with dimensions somewhere between a normal smartphone and a tablet device. When the iPhone 5 launched back in 2012 the jump to a 4″ screen was seen by some as too little too late, and although nobody really expected the 5S to really jump up in size, these rumours of a super-iPhone have been around for quite some time. But when the first spy-shots of this new larger iPhone appeared online, the massive increase in size seemed unrealistic for even some like myself who was keen on the idea of a more phablet-y device, yet Apple have indeed released a 5.5″ model of the iPhone 6…and rather than being called the ‘Air’ or ‘L’ it’s been christened the ‘6 Plus’, quite sensible really as next year’s likely 6S Plus sounds rather better than a 6LS/SL. Apart from the larger screen (which comes at a higher resolution than the 6’s) the Plus also has quite significantly improved battery life over the 6 as well as optical image stabilisation on the camera, so maybe it warrants the £100 price jump over the 6.
Both the Note Edge and 6 Plus make very appealing choices for me at this point, but as you may have guessed it’s the Apple product that has the edge in my mind and heart at the moment. The only fly in the ointment is price; the regular iPhone 6 starts at £539 for a 16GB model, stepping up to £699 for a 128GB model. That’s not too bad but there is no longer a 32GB version, the mid range model instead being the 64GB one. The normal Note 4 should retail for £550 and it’s Edge sibling will cost £100 when they both launch next month, and then probably most expensive is the iPhone 6 Plus. The Plus starts at £619 for the paltry 16GB model and rises to £789 for the 128GB model…I’d be choosing the £699 64GB though. A lot depends on the deals being offered on the handsets by different networks – the Samsungs will almost certainly be cheaper than the Apples…I’ll know by Friday what the deals are though and hopefully a week after I’ll be receiving one!
PS The Apple Watch will get it’s own post in due course!