The Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4 were released just a month apart from each other earlier in 2015, during the spring launch window that's favoured by so many smartphone manufacturers. After the dust had settled on the hype and hyperbole, these two phones emerged as the handsets to beat in 2015.
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs LG G4: Design
Both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4 were a departure from previous design choices, but they both look so much better for it.
Samsung ditched its plastic chassis and opted for a milled aluminium frame with a shimmering glass back. While slippier in the hand than the S5, Samsung's phone now feels like a proper premium product, something you'd expect from a flagship phone designed to go toe-to-toe with the best Apple has to offer. Also it's shockingly compact for a 5.1in device.
For the G4, LG hasn't completely ditched the plastic design of its previous phones. You can still buy those, if you want to save a bit of money on your G4. However, for the premium edition of the phone, LG gives customers the option of luxurious, hand-stitched leather, available in a variety of colours.
Leather may seem like an odd choice for a smartphone, but it looks absolutely gorgeous, feels amazing and should age more gracefully over time than most other smartphones. The only negative with the LG G4 is that it isn't the slimmest phone around, measuring 8.9mm.
The G4 also has a subtle curve to its body and screen, which means it sits nicely in your pocket despite its large 5.5in screen, and hugs the curve of your face when you use it as a phone.
Both phones are stunners, so it comes down to personal preference. The Samsung Galaxy S6 is slimmer, lighter and glitzier; the LG G4 is just as eye-catching and attractive, but a bit chunkier.
Winner: A draw
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs LG G4: Display
Both Samsung and LG build fantastic screens, so it should come as no surprise that both phones are a joy to behold, slapping you in the face with their resolution, brightness and colour accuracy.
The S6's 5.1in Quad HD Super AMOLED display has a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 and a pixel density of 576ppi. The LG's curved 5.5in IPS LCD display shares the same 1,440 x 2,560 resolution but with a lower 538ppi pixel density. At such a high resolution you'd be hard-pressed to notice a difference in that 38ppi deficit, though.
In fact, colour accuracy, brightness and contrast are far more important. The S6 can go all the way up to a brightness of 560cd/m2 in auto-brightness mode, or 347cd/m2 in manual brightness mode. The LG G4's screen isn't as bright – its top brightness is a lower 476cd/m2 – but it's bright enough for almost any situation you'll find yourself in.
The biggest differences emerge when you consider colour quality. Samsung's Super AMOLED display reproduces an incredible 98.5% of the sRGB color gamut in Basic (sRGB) mode, and even delivers accurate colours in the Adobe RGB colour space. Switching it over to AMOLED Photo mode, it covers 98.7% of the colour gamut. As our reviews editor Jonathan Bray points out, these are the sort of scores you expect to see on professional monitors, not smartphones.
LG claims its screen is capable of producing a wider range of colours, thanks to its accordance with the digital cinema initiatives (DCI) standard. In practice, this means it covers an impressive 97.9% of the sRGB gamut. However, there is one major problem: the LG G4's backlight intensity adjusts automatically depending on what's displayed on-screen, and there's no way of turning that off, which means it's impossible to assess from a colour accuracy perspective.
Which phone has the best display? Once again, the differences are minor. Colours pop, the images displayed on-screen are clean and crisp across both phones, and brightness is good enough to ensure readability in all but the most extreme of environments. But all the small differences fall in favour of the Samsung Galaxy S6, which gives it the win in this section.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs LG G4: Features
Both phones run on Android Lollipop and, what should come as no surprise, both manufacturers have opted to skin Google's mobile OS with their own modifications. For the S6, this means a new iteration of Samsung's TouchWiz UI, while the LG G4 receives the latest version of LG UI.
For the S6, Samsung thankfully cut out much of the clutter and bloat, meaning fewer irritating widgets all over your screen. You'll still have the time and weather app pinned to the top, and a Flipboard-powered newsfeed with a swipe to the right from the homescreen. One rather neat new addition is the ability to wake the S6 using a key phrase, similar to Google Now on the Nexus 6 and the Motorola Moto X.
Other than that, it's business as usual with TouchWiz.
LG's UI has also seen some improvements, and like Samsung's TouchWiz, it's nothing particularly groundbreaking. The biggest new addition is the Smart Bulletin service, accessible by swiping left from the homescreen. Here, you'll find a card-based view presenting notifications from a handful of pre-selected apps. You can customise the view by dragging elements around and turning various services off and on.
The LG G4 also has an upgraded gallery app called “Memories”, which organises photos and videos into event-driven albums, in a similar fashion to Google Photos' Stories feature. There's also a “Timeline” feature allowing you to view all the pictures you've taken in a given day, month or year.
Smart Suggestion has also been approved, now learning from your “lifestyle and usage patterns”. During Jonathan Bray's time with the G4, it seemed to mainly present weather-based advice, of which most was never particularly useful. Also, for those with newish Volkswagens, the G4 supports MirrorLink entertainment and navigation systems, a feature Samsung added to TouchWiz recently.
Which is better, as with all manufacturer Android skins, is really down to preference. It's great to see Samsung slim down its previously unwieldy TouchWiz UI, and LG UI's smart new additions are nice to have. However, neither interface is a system-seller, nor a massive departure from what came before.
Winner: A Draw
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs LG G4: Specifications and performance
In terms of raw power, the S6 has the edge over the G4, although it's unlikely most will even notice.
The LG G4 employs the lower-specification six-core 20nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 808. The difference here is that the 808 is a six-core processor, which splits its processing across a high performance, 1.8GHz dual-core CPU, and a more efficient 1.4GHz quad-core CPU. This is accompanied by an Adreno 418 GPU, and both phones have 3GB of RAM.
In reality, you won't notice the difference, but the benchmarks show that the Samsung Galaxy S6 does have the edge – so if you absolutely must have the best, that's the phone to choose.
As for storage, the S6 comes in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB varieties, while the G4 only comes in a 32GB option. The difference here is that the LG G4 offers expansion through microSD card support, meaning you can add up to an additional 128GB.
As you'd expect from a flagship phone in 2015, both phones support 4G, have Bluetooth 4 and dual-band 802.11ac, but the Samsung Galaxy S6 edges in front of the LG G4 with its fingerprint reader, which you should soon be able to use for mobile contactless payments via Samsung Pay. It also has a heart rate sensor, barometer and – in a major bonus for fitness freaks – support for ANT+ devices.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs LG G4: Battery
Due to its confidence in the S6's 14nm Exynos processor, Samsung reduced the battery capacity of the S6 (over its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S5) by 200mAh to a mere 2,600mAh. While it may sound like the Korean manufacturer has lost the plot here, by reducing battery capacity and then sealing it away behind glass, our tests show there's nothing to worry about.
In our video playback test, the S6's battery capacity fell at just 6% per hour, and while streaming audio over 4G, it dropped at 2.8% per hour. Understandably, due to its quad HD screen, battery life takes a dive when playing games, with the GFXBench battery test estimating just 134 minutes of solid gameplay on a single charge.
The G4, despite its larger 3,000mAh removable battery, actually performed less well in testing, with the video test using up 6.3% per hour, and the audio test 3.6%.
Both devices support quick charging, with LG claiming the G4 can charge to 60% capacity in only 30 minutes, but the Samsung Galaxy S6 is the only one that comes with wireless charging as standard. That's only available to the LG G4 with the addition of a special wireless charging case.
In terms of pure stamina, it's too close to call, with the Samsung Galaxy S6 gaining ground with its support for wireless charging. But the LG G4 claws that back thanks to its removable battery.
Winner: A draw
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs LG G4: Camera
See our road test of the G4's camera here.
Both Samsung and LG have been pushing their phone's camera as the best available in a smartphone, with Samsung firing shots right at Apple's iPhone camera.
At first glance, the S6 camera doesn't seem much better than that of the S5 – retaining the same 16-megapixel resolution and phase-detect autofocus – Samsung has made some significant changes.
It's opened up the S6 camera's aperture to f/1.9, allowing more light to hit the sensor, which means better performance in low light. It's also added optical image stabilisation (OIS) to further enhance the ability of the S6 to capture sharp photographs in marginal conditions.
It may not be a quantum leap better than the iPhone 6's camera, but it's faster and a better all-rounder in tricky light. The front-facing 5-megapixel also takes impressive selfies in low-light thanks to its wide f/1.9 aperture.
Elsewhere, video recording gains a boost thanks to object-tracking autofocus, although using that does disable OIS.
Nobody expected LG to overhaul the phone's camera to quite the extent it did in the G4. Bumping its camera's resolution up from 13-megapixels to 16-megapixels, the G4 manages to outdo some of Samsung's improvements by widening its aperture to an even lower f/1.8, although its image sensor size at 1/2.6in is the same size as the S6's. This means that the G4 can take some superb pictures in almost all lighting conditions.
LG didn't stop there though: it has improved the G4's OIS system, adding in “Z-axis feedback” to keep things super steady. It kept the G3's laser-assisted autofocus, and added in a new “colour-spectrum sensor” to accurately automatically set white balance and flash temperature correctly.
In our testing, the G4 had some issues correctly identifying the right flash temperature to use, tinging some shots with yellow, but LG has included an incredibly extensive manual shooting mode allowing you to tweak everything to your heart's content. Manual not only offers control over ISO, white balance and shutter speed, it also allows you to shoot in raw format (DNG). Unfortunately, the benefits of manual mode don't extend to shooting video, where everything is automatic.
As with the S6, the G4 can take some great shots with the front-facing camera thanks to an 8-megapixel camera. Things are made even easier thanks to a quick launch function, which lets you capture a shot without fussing around with timers by double tapping the volume down key.
In the final analysis, both phones' cameras are fantastic. The LG G4's lags marginally behind for outright quality, due to the occasional issue with white balance, but the ability to output raw images makes up for that.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6, by a whisker
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs LG G4: Price
As most smartphone owners get their phones on a contract basis, the Samsung Galaxy S6 can currently be had from $81 (Telstra) per month contracts, while also through Telstra the LG G4 is a bit cheaper at $75 per month for the cheapest deal.
With such marginal difference in price, it really is down to which phone you like the sound of more. However, for the purpose of this comparison, the S6 wins the price wars by offering up a more powerful phone for a similar price, even if it's just because of a strategic price cut.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs LG G4 verdict:
After assessing the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the LG G4, it appears that, while a close run thing, the Samsung Galaxy S6 just about edges it.
The Samsung is the more powerful phone. It has the better display, its camera is marginally superior, and its features edge it in front of the LG G4, too. Thanks to its recent price cut, there's also now not the huge price difference between the two phones that there once was.
In the end, you should buy the phone that suits your needs the best. If you want a larger screen and like the leather look, go for the LG G4. It's a brilliant handset.
But for if you just want the fastest smartphone, with the best camera, the most features and the best combination of screen-size and pocketability, the Samsung Galaxy S6 is the phone for you.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6