The iPhone 6 was announced just a day before the Galaxy Alpha goes on sale, as finally Apple and Samsung square up to do battle with equally new phones sharing the same sized screens and with the same focus on slim, aluminium-clad design.
These two are undeniably the must-have phones of 2014 - but which one should you get?
iPhone 6 vs Galaxy Alpha: Design
Samsung had always lagged some way behind Apple (and HTC, and Sony…) when it came to design. The Galaxy S range’s use of cheap-feeling plastics and fake chrome always made the handsets feel cheap - but with the Galaxy Alpha has rewritten its own rule book to create a phone which is light, thin and crafted from aluminium. The Alpha is a gorgeous handset which takes influence from Apple’s design but still makes it Samsung enough to avoid any more nasty lawsuits.
Marketed as a smaller, more compact and better-looking version of the flagship Galaxy S5, the Alpha well and truly takes the fight to Apple. Meanwhile, the iPhone 6 sees Apple create its biggest iPhone ever - and the first to come in two different sizes
But we’ll get to the screens in a minute, because purely in terms of design the iPhone 6 is another masterstroke for Apple and its British design chief Jony Ive. Slimmer than the iPhone 5s which it replaces, the 6 continues Apple’s trend of taking a block of aluminium and carving a beautiful phone out of it. However, to our eyes the newest iPhone isn’t quite the home run recent models have been; we’re not sure on the grey lines on the back of the handset, or how the rear camera protrudes slightly from the aluminium case.
That being said, the iPhone 6 is still (mostly) a work of art. The edges are curved to help make it easier to hold - compared to the squared-off Galaxy Alpha - and the back is metal rather than plastic like the Samsung.
iPhone 6 vs Galaxy Alpha: Screen
Apple had increased the iPhone’s screen from four to 4.7 inches, while Samsung has trimmed the Galaxy S5 down from 5.1 to 4.7 on the Alpha. This puts the two companies at the same size for the first time, but screen resolution varies - the Alpha offers 720 x 1280, while the iPhone 6 is a slightly larger 750 x 1334. This doesn’t mean much in the real world, other than that to truly judge a winner we’ll need to examine both phones closely. We reckon the Galaxy Alpha’s Super AMOLED technology will make for a brighter and more vibrant experience, but we have concerns over how saturated colours will be; the iPhone’s LCD Retina display could be the more accurate of the two, but at this early stage it’s anyone’s game.
iPhone 6 vs Galaxy Alpha: Camera
Perhaps to save it from stealing the Galaxy S5’s thunder, Samsung has toned down the Alpha’s rear camera from 16 to 12 megapixels, but this still - on paper at least - overpowers the eight megapixels on offer in the iPhone 6.
But this isn’t all about pixel count - as HTC One (M8) and it’s 4mp sensor will be keen to demonstrate - and this battle could boil down to optics, stabilisation and software before we find a winner. Samsung is known for packing its flagships full of photography features, while Apple takes the opposite approach and creates a camera app with little more than the very basics.
With the Alpha and iPhone 6 the story continues as expected, with the latter and its iOS 8 software offering little for photographers to tinker with, while the Alpha has more for those who want it.
New for the iPhone 6 is digital image stabilisation, a feature already included with the Alpha and several other Android handsets. It’s a shame that only the iPhone 6 Plus will get the far superior optical image stabilisation, but this is often omitted from handsets due to space constraints.
Image quality with the 6 and Alpha will no doubt be close, but we’ll have to wait until we’ve used both handsets before calling that one. For now we see the Alpha appealing more to users who have a deeper understanding of photography, while those wanting the best quality with the least effort will be drawn to the iPhone.
iPhone 6 vs Galaxy Alpha: Software
A few years ago it was fairly easy (if boringly predictable) to state iOS’s superiority over Android due to its larger app catalogue, but times have changed and now Google’s alternative - on phones at least - is just about on par with Apple.
Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface was also a stalling point of old, but since the Galaxy S5 earlier this year the company has worked to flatten and simplify, removing bloatware and gimicky apps to create a better experience.
There’s now VERY little to choose between iOS and Android - it’s really down to personal preference and which system you’re most used to.
iPhone 6 vs Galaxy Alpha: Price, colour and storage options
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has 32GB of storage with no microSD card slot to increase this; the handset is available in black, gold, silver, white and (exclusive to Carphone Warehouse at launch) blue. SIM-free, the Alpha costs £549 and goes on sale in the UK from Samsung stores on 10 September, and two days later through the networks and other retailers.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 6 has storage options of 16GB, 64GB and 128GB which are priced at £539, £619 and £699 respectively. All models of the iPhone 6 are available in silver, gold and “space grey” which is essentially dark grey with a black front. As with the Samsung, there is no microSD card slot on the iPhone 6.
The Galaxy Alpha goes on sale in Samsung stores today, 10 September, and more generally from the 12th. The iPhone 6 goes on sale on 19 September, with pre-orders opening on 12 September.