Phablet Smackdown: iPhone 6 Plus Or Google Nexus 6?

Who’s ready for a phablet smackdown?We spent time with two of the biggest and most popular smartphones of the year — the iPhone 6 Plus and the new Google Nexus 6, for a back-to-back comparison test.

Which one is for you?

The phablet — bigger than a smartphone, but smaller than a tablet — is the biggest trend in smartphones this year, as consumers wean themselves off the smaller phones that had been standard.

Both the iPhone 6 Plus and Nexus 6 are as big as any that preceded them and are beloved by folks who strain to read small text or simply like viewing photos and video on a bigger screen. Detractors question whether these phablets can really fit into a purse or pocket.

This much is clear: Photos, video and general Web surfing has never looked so good on a phone. The iPhone 6 Plus and Nexus 6 are so exceptional they call into question the need for a tablet.

Why spend $399 on the 8-inch iPad Mini when you can walk around town with a big iPhone in your pocket?

Let’s take a look at the features:

• RESOLUTION: The iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch HD retina LCD screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution compared to the 5.96-inch AMOLED of the Nexus 6 with 2560 x 1440 resolution.

So both look great, but the Nexus gets the advantage in packing the most high-res pixels.

CAMERA: The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have the best camera I’ve ever seen on a smartphone, capable of not just great snapshots in a variety of lighting situations, but terrific video as well. Apple has built-in image stabilization that is so good we’ve shot many times for USA TODAY on the iPhone without using a tripod.

The 6 Plus has one camera feature not seen on the smaller iPhone 6 and that’s optical image stabilization for still photography, which keeps the camera steady in low light situations, a feature that’s brought many photographers to the bigger phablet instead of the plain ol’ 6.

In specs, the Nexus has a 13-megapixel rear camera, compared to the 8 megapixels of the iPhone rear camera. (Apple is larger than usual.)

For testing purposes, we shot back-to-back videos and photos with the Nexus and 6 Plus.

The Nexus also has image stabilization, and came in a very respectable and close No. 2 in terms of keeping the video and photos steady. However, the colors weren’t as lifelike as the iPhone and the image wasn’t as sharp. Here it was no contest. Advantage: Apple.

• ERGONOMICS: Many folks thought they would buy the bigger iPhone, only to realize after checking it out that the device was too big to use with one hand. Can you text one-handed with the iPhone 6 Plus? I couldn’t. The curve design of the Nexus makes that easier over the flat iPhone. Both are still too big to use as a one-handed smartphone — you’ll need both hands. Advantage: Nexus, by a hair.

BATTERY LIFE: In its demos for the new device, Apple showed how its battery was nearly twice the size of the one in the smaller iPhone, due to the extra real estate, and would provide more oomph. It promises anywhere from 12 to 14 hours of playback. Perhaps if the brightness is turned down to half way and you don’t use much Wi-Fi. But in our full brightness real-world tests, running an endless video playlist on YouTube, we only got 4 hours and 39 minutes of life.

Google says the Nexus should last 24 hours on a charge, and sells an accessory Turbo Charger for a quick boost that Google says will add six hours of battery life after 15 minutes of charging. That said, we didn’t need the boost. The Nexus lasted for five hours and 55 minutes on our charge, playing that same endless YouTube playlist, at full screen brightness. Advantage: Nexus.

AUDIO: Start listening to music on the Nexus or watching a video and wow — it’s twice as good as the iPhone. There’s no disputing this, and it’s not a subjective comment. The iPhone has one speaker; the Nexus has two. Thus, way better sound. Advantage: Nexus.

BOTTOM LINE: The new Nexus, made by Motorola, is the flagship of the Android line and differs from other popular Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy line or the LG G3 phone in that it’s a showcase for Google and Android, and has no bloatware — promo apps that Samsung, LG and wireless carriers stick on their phones, which is a huge positive.

But the Nexus 6 isn’t bargain-priced like the previous Nexus 5, one of the best bargains in smartphones at $350 without a contract.

Nor does it offer features found on the Galaxy phones like a removable battery or expandable memory.

The big Nexus costs $650 and is only available direct through Google or Motorola — the wireless carriers haven’t started selling it yet. However, the phone is currently out of stock at both locations.

The iPhone 6 Plus is sold at the entry-level subsidized price of $299 with a two-year contract at AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. If you’re considering the bigger iPhone, be sure to stop into a store and take a good look at the big one vs. the smaller and make sure it’s not too big.

Nexus 6 or iPhone 6 Plus? The Nexus clearly outshines the iPhone in a variety of features, save the camera, and, for me, usability. I find the iPhone experience and IOS navigation more user friendly than Android, but that’s a subjective view.

It comes down to personal preference. If you’ve always used iPhones, you’d probably be more comfortable with the 6 Plus and vice-versa for Androids and the Nexus. Neither device is likely to change your mind.

Whichever one you choose, you’ll be getting quite a beauty of a phone.

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