iPhone 6 Plus vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 3: Living with the phablets

Living with the iPhone 6 Plus, part 1: In our first post-review check-in, Tim examines how the iPhone 6 Plus compares with his current go-to phablet phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
3 min read


Welcome to the first in a series of regular updates now that our reviews of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are in the bag. Think of them like bonus content on a DVD -- if you're the type who still buys DVDs, that is. As I spend my week with the Plus I'll be continuing to provide updates and more in-depth impressions of that device. But first, a little background on yours truly.

I'm an avid user of the Samsung Galaxy Note series. My current daily driver smartphone is a Note 3 , which earlier this year replaced a well-used (and well-loved) Note 2. (It's also important to mention that the Note 3 will be succeeded by the Galaxy Note 4 , which goes on sale in just a few weeks.) I primarily bought the Note because I wanted something with excellent battery life, but I was surprised to find myself relying on the stylus far more than I thought possible.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus face off against the competition (pictures)

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Maybe it's the Windows Mobile lover in me, or maybe it's a fondness for antiquated means of entering information. I don't know, but I do find myself sliding out the S Pen at least a few times a week.

No, I'm not firing off silly doodles or creating virtual clippings from webpages like Samsung loves to show in Note commercials. I use it for quick lists, for making revisions to recipes that I'm slowly refining (my ultimate pancake is almost there), but most commonly I use it when conducting interviews. I rely on my Note (and Easy Voice Recorder) to capture audio during interviews, and I use the stylus to scribble down more compelling quotes and points along the way so that I can find them more easily later.

The Note 3, then, has replaced two things: my voice recorder and my Moleskine notebook. As any frequent traveler will tell you, any one thing that enables you to leave two or more other things at home is, necessarily, a very good thing indeed. And yes, I am a frequent traveler.


So, the big question for me in testing the iPhone 6 Plus was this: would it, in turn, allow me to leave my Note 3 at home? So far, the answer has been no, not quite -- but it is good enough to have me thinking about carrying both.

While the 6 Plus is an adept voice recorder, without a stylus I really can't use it for conducting interviews. Yes, there are plenty of capacitive styli out there for iDevices, but none offer the precision of Samsung's S Pen. When your handwriting is as bad as mine, you need as much resolution as possible to try and figure out just what it was I meant to jot down.

Yes, I could enter those same notes using the keyboard, but that poses a few problems. First, while I'm a much faster keyboard typist than a writer, I'm still faster when scribbling a stylus than typing with my thumbs. Secondly, and more problematically, I've found that typing with your thumbs mid-interview changes the feel of the conversation. Writing with a pen -- even a silly little plastic one with no ink -- is perfectly natural behavior for an interviewer. It's obvious what you're doing and it tells the interviewee that you're taking what they're saying seriously.

However, if you start typing with your thumbs on the screen of a smartphone, your interviewee immediately assumes you're texting your BFF, or maybe your mom, or doing something else inane. Even if you tell them you're taking writing notes they immediately think you're ignoring them. This is not good for inspiring flowing conversation.

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So that's a problem, but beyond that, I don't find myself missing anything else on the Note. The screen may be the same resolution, but the increased contrast of the iPhone 6 Plus makes it look better when out and about. The battery life of the Plus seems superior to the Note in how I use it, and every app that I use on the Note I'm also able to find on the Plus. As an Android user this is hard for me to admit, but almost all of those apps look and work better on iOS than on Android.

But there's one big exception: keyboard. Though my favorite keyboard, SwiftKey, is now available on iOS, it isn't nearly as pleasant to use there as it is on Android. How so? Why, stay tuned for the next installment, where we'll cover that very topic.