With a 5.3-inch display, the original Galaxy Note was the device that started it all. Years later, several other device manufacturers have jumped in with Samsung into the phablet pool to deliver large-screen smartphones to a market they didn't expect will love the giant handsets.
Even Apple, Samsung's old nemesis and No. 1 critic of smartphones with displays bigger than 5 inches, has joined the bandwagon. On Wednesday, Sept. 9. Apple unveiled its second large-screen handset, the iPhone 6s Plus, clearly a formidable competitor to Samsung's Galaxy Note 5, the newest in its line of phablets unveiled just last month, prompting everyone (or at least the technology press) to make comparisons of the two.
Of course, while truly in-depth comparisons can't be made until we get our hands on both devices, taking a look at each one's specs and features is a good place to start.
You can never really determine a smartphone's performance based on specs alone, but a look at the processor and memory of each device should give you a good idea of what to expect.
The Note 5, at least on paper, looks like it trumps the iPhone 6s Plus with its octa-core Exynos 7420 chipset, with four Cortex A57 cores clocked at 2.1GHz and another four Cortex A53 clocked at 1.5GHz. Meanwhile, Apple uses its latest quad-core A9 processor, which has two 1.7GHz cores and two 1.2GHz cores, paired with the M9 co-processor to power the iPhone's sensors. Additionally, Samsung pairs its homegrown chipset with 4GB of RAM, while Apple continues to keep the iPhone 6s Plus' RAM under wraps.
Take note, however, that the specs don't always tell the entire story here. While it sounds like Samsung may already have the upper hand, Apple is historically known for making fast, efficient devices that fully optimize its resources to deliver outstanding performance. Our guess is both the Note 5 and iPhone 6s Plus will be neck and neck when it comes to which is the more powerful device.
Despite all the earlier rumors that Apple was finally ditching its 16GB entry-level model, it didn't and it continues to offer the iPhone 6s Plus at a paltry 16GB. Meanwhile, the Note 5 starts at 32GB, making it the obvious choice for people who prefer getting the base version of a device. However, the iPhone 6s Plus does have a 128GB option, compared to the 64GB as the biggest option for the Note 5. If you're a storage junkie and want all the storage space you can get, the iPhone 6s Plus wins in this department.
In terms of size, the Note 5 offers slightly more screen space at 5.7 inches, despite having a smaller profile than the iPhone 6s Plus, which tops at 5.5 inches. The Note 5's Super AMOLED display has a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 pixels, which is double the HD resolution of the iPhone 6s Plus, which is 1,080 x 1,920. In terms of pixel density, the Note 5 also wins with 518 ppi (pixels per inch), compared to the 401 ppi of the iPhone 6s Plus. How much these differences matter, however, is another story, since simply looking at both devices will not show up a lot of noticeable difference to the naked eye.
A notable difference though, is the presence of a stylus for the Note 5, which gives users whole new ways of interacting with the display, such as allowing you to write notes simply by writing on the lockscreen or annotate PDFs and pictures. The iPhone 6s Plus doesn't have a stylus, but it does have Apple's new 3D Touch, which basically differentiates between different pressures of touch and opens up new gestures that can be used to navigate the UI.
Apple has always been a smartphone camera powerhouse, and up until the Galaxy S6, had always been named as having the best camera around. With the iPhone 6s Plus getting a megapixel bump from 8MP to 12MP, Apple makes it clear it's not about to let Samsung get away with the best camera prize. Even if the Note 5 has a 16MP sensor, Apple had always shown its expertise in this department, even with its 8MP camera in the past, so we expect a good battle in this category.
Where the Note 5 may likely prevail is with its f/1.9 aperture, compared to the f/2.2 aperture of the iPhone 6s Plus, which could prove to produce better low-light images. Both phones have optical image stabilization and the ability to shoot videos in 4K.
It's tough to choose between the Note 5 and iPhone 6s Plus, especially since we haven't had the time to go hands-on with both devices yet. Both smartphones are more than likely to be the best and most popular phablets for the upcoming year, until Samsung outs the Galaxy Note 6 and Apple the iPhone 7s Plus. If you're invested in the Android operating system and you're a fan of Samsung's S-Pen, the Note 5 is already available from several carriers and retailers. However, 3D Touch is also something to look forward to, and Apple has of course demonstrated the reliability of its devices over time. If you're waiting to get your hands on the iPhone 6s Plus, it launches on Sept. 25.