Samsung and Apple are the undisputed kings of the smartphone world, and both own right about 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 or strut into local wireless carrier shops to compare the latest and greatest smartphones. On the top of their lists of options will be the GS6 and iPhone 6.
I got both my GS6 review phones last Tuesday, so I've had more than a week to spend with the new Galaxys. And I've been using the iPhone 6 since the day it was released last September. 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 GS6 and GS6 edge. While it's too early to make a decision between the iPhone 6 and the GS6, I will say this: I like the new Galaxys. A lot. And the new phones do quite a few things that Apple's golden child cannot. This article is not intended to point out each one of them. Instead, it's meant to spotlight the things that jumped out at me because I can't do them with 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, "4 things iPhone 6 does that Galaxy S6 can't." To be clear, I am not saying the GS6 is better than the iPhone 6, or suggesting the GS6 would win in an arm-wrestling bout.
Now that that's out of the way, on to the things the GS6 does that iPhone 6 cannot. (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 in this post apply to both new handhelds.)
1) Galaxy S6, Samsung Pay and MST tech
In March, Samsung announced its upcoming mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, which will be available on both GS6 devices "later this summer." Much like Apple Pay, it will use NFC and fingerprint authentication to enable secure mobile payments.
The main competitive differentiator, and competitive advantage, for Samsung Pay compared to the popular Apple Pay is its support of magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology, which in theory lets you pay at any PoS terminal that accepts magnetic stripe credit cards. That includes about 90 percent of U.S. retailers, compared to the roughly 5 percent that support NFC and Apple Pay, according to Samsung. (Read "4 things you need to know about Samsung Pay" for more details.)
Of course, Samsung Pay is not yet available. When it is released, however, it has the potential to see much wider adoption than Apple Pay because it's expected to work at so many more retail locations. Samsung also told me that GS6 users wouldn't need any sort of accessory or add-on to enable MST payments via Samsung Pay, so you'll be able to use the service at many different retail locations as soon as it's available.
2) Samsung Galaxy S6 and wireless charging
Both new GS6 smartphones support wireless charging without any sort of add-on accessory. The devices support both the Wireless Power Consortium (PWC) Qi (pronounced "chee") and Power Matters Alliance (PMA) wireless charging standards, so they work with charge mats that use either technology. In other words, hungry GS6 users can charge their famished phones at select McDonald's, some of which have PMA charging stations, and GS6 owners in need of caffeine fixes can also wirelessly charge their sleepy smartphones at some Starbucks locations, where Qi stations are available.
It takes longer to charge the GS6 wirelessly than if you use a traditional power cable. For example, using the special charger that came with the GS6 edge, which enables "Adaptive Fast Charging," I was able to fully charge that dead device in just under two hours, while it took me almost three hours to fully charge the dead GS6 edge using Samsung's new Wireless Charging Pad, which costs $50 and uses Qi. In many cases, wireless charging is more convenient, though.
iPhone 6 users can purchase cases to enable wireless charging, but most of these accessories support only one standard, and many are bulky and relatively expensive. (On a separate but related note, the GS6 phones both use standard micro USB ports, compared to Apple's proprietary Lightning ports, so you can use micro USB cords and accessories from a variety of other manufacturers with Samsung phones but not Apple devices.)
3) Samsung Galaxy S6 security and Smart Lock
The GS6 and GS6 edge both support Android Smart Lock features that let you keep your device unlocked when it's in range of a trusted Bluetooth device, NFC tag or when it's in range of a designated trusted location, such as your home or office.
A GS6 owner can, for example, set his Android Wear smartwatch to be a trusted device, so his phone stays unlocked when in hand or in a pocket but then locks if he takes the watch off and walks off. Or he can program NFC tags, such as Samsung's TecTiles, to be trusted tags, then set his phone on the tag to keep it unlocked at his desk or on a night stand.
Android's Lollipop Smart Lock features are not unique to the Galaxy S6 — other newish Android devices also offer variations of Smart Lock, including a unique "face unlock" option that's absent from the GS6s — but you won't find anything like them in the iPhone 6. (Certain IT policies may block the use of Smart Lock on corporate connected devices, so if you use Android for work, you may not be able to take advantage of Smart Lock.)