It’s obvious that large smartphones have seen a rapid growth in popularity over the years, and while big displays have more or less become the standard in the Android world, even Apple finally gave in to the trend last year with a Plus iteration of their flagship smartphone. Apple recently unveiled their latest 2015 flagships, with there once again being a larger version in the mix, and it’s natural to be curious about how this device fares against the best large screen smartphones that Android has to offer.
As far as the design is concerned, neither smartphone features a dramatic departure from their predecessors, and in the case of the iPhone, the design language is identical, given that this is an “s” iteration. The Moto X Style also retains a lot of the design language of the Moto X (2014), featuring the same metal frame, an identical placement of the buttons and ports, as well as the significant curve along the corners and the rear. The difference in the style comes when looking at the signature Motorola dimple on the back however, which is now housed in a metallic strip that includes the camera and flash, and is also much smaller in size and takes on a more subtle look.
As mentioned, the iPhone 6s Plus features the same design language as the iPhone 6 Plus before it, but unlike previous generations, where Apple has typically made the “s” iteration thinner and lighter, the iPhone 6s Plus is actually slightly thicker and heavier than its predecessor. This is because the iPhone 6s Plus is now made with a stronger 7000 series aluminium, which makes it less likely to bend, and there is also an additional pressure sensitive layer below the display, needed in order to utilize the phone’s new 3D Touch feature.
When comparing the two, the Moto X Pure Edition is thicker, but manages to be less tall and not as wide as the iPhone 6s Plus, despite the former featuring a larger display, courtesy of the very thin bezels the device features along the sides. This difference in size also means that the Moto X Pure Edition has the edge with regards to the handling experience, but both are still very large smartphones that do fall just outside the realm of comfortable one handed use.
One aspect that makes the Motorola flagship hard to beat is when it comes to the customization possibilities available to you. Moto Maker allows you to pick and choose your own color scheme, accent colors, and material for the back cover, and you also have the ability to add custom engravings and messages on the back, for that little bit more of a personalized touch. On the other hand, things are far simpler with the iPhone 6s Plus, with your choices limited to space gray, gold, and silver, with there now also being a rose gold version available for those who want it.
On the display front, the Moto X Pure Edition comes with a 5.7-inch IPS LCD display with a Quad HD resolution, while the iPhone 6s Plus features a 5.5-inch IPS LCD screen, but with a lower 1080p resolution. The display of the Motorola flagship is understandably the sharper of the two because of its higher resolution and resulting pixel density, which allows for a great media-viewing experience.
Of course, the display of the iPhone 6s Plus is no slouch either and looks fantastic in its own right, but some differences are noticeable when looking at the two displays side by side. The screen of the iPhone 6s Plus does get significantly brighter, and the colors are more natural, when compared to the more saturated color tones of the Moto X Pure Edition. This default saturated look may be more appealing to some, but if it doesn’t quite suit your tastes, you do have the option to change it, which can easily be done in the Settings.
Judging purely by specs, the Moto X Pure (Style) certainly looks like it could easily trounce the iPhone 6s Plus, but let’s remember that there’s more to the story here. These two phones run on very different software, and Apple’s tight control over its ecosystem allows it to provide a level of optimization that Android OEMs just can’t offer. The subsequent result is that Apple can make due with much less aggressive specs and yet still offer flagship-level performance.
As far as their respective processing packages are concerned however, the Moto X Pure Edition comes with a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, backed by 3 GB of RAM. In contrast, the iPhone 6s Plus features a dual-core Apple A9 processor, with 2 GB of RAM in tow, doubling the amount of RAM available with the previous generation of the iPhone.
Despite the significant difference on paper, there is barely any disparity when it comes to real world performance. Both devices perform extremely well, and both handle multi-tasking and gaming equally impressively. That said, the iPhone 6s Plus actually manages to outperform the Moto X Pure Edition when it comes to benchmark scores, with the former featuring much higher single core and multi-core scores when compared to the latter, when using Geekbench. The Moto X Pure Edition is certainly of the snappiest Android devices available in the market right now, but you are going to get an overall more consistent experience on the iPhone, when it comes to things like gaming.
When it comes to on-board storage, the Moto X Pure Edition is available in 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB iterations, while the iPhone 6s Plus also features a base 16 GB model, but with the larger storage options being 64 GB and 128 GB. 16 GB is not a lot of storage with any smartphone, but is still a possible choice with the Motorola device, given that it also comes with expandable storage via microSD card, by up to 128 GB. With no expandable storage available with the iPhone 6s Plus, 16 GB of on-board storage may not be enough for a lot of users.
The iPhone 6s Plus doesn’t hold a candle to the Moto X Pure Edition when it comes to speaker quality however. The dual-front facing speakers of the latter not only get very loud, but also provides high quality audio, further enhancing the media-consumption and gaming experience. The speaker of the iPhone 6s Plus does delivery some decent audio as well, but considering that it is a single speaker unit mounted at the bottom, the audio experience is obviously not going to be the most impressive around.
Neither device packs a whole lot extra on the hardware front, but the iPhone 6s Plus does get the leg up here with the addition of a a really good fingerprint sensor. Touch ID is faster than ever, and simply pressing the home button will instantaneously unlock the phone. The fingerprint sensor is actually a little too fast, which is a weird thing to complain about, but if you are trying to glance at your notifications in the gap between pressing the button to turn on the display and the device unlocking, you will likely not be able to. The obvious work around here is to use the power button to wake the device first before unlocking it, but is something you may have to get used to, depending on which device you switch from.
When it comes to the battery, the Moto X Pure Edition packs a 3,000 mAh battery under the hood, while the iPhone 6s Plus comes with a 2,750 mAh unit. The battery life is pretty good with both smartphones, with both comfortably allowing for a full day of use, which sometimes goes up to a day and a half with the iPhone 6s Plus. Where the Moto X Pure Edition has the advantage here is when it comes to charging. With Motorola’s Turbo Power charger, the Motorola device charges extremely fast and will get you back to full capacity in around 75 minutes. On the other hand, the proprietary lightning cable may not allow for any fast charging, but the cable is reversible, which sounds minor, but makes plugging in the device that much easier and more convenient.
Historically, flagships from Motorola and Apple have been at opposing ends of the smartphone camera quality spectrum, with Apple releasing great cameras year after year. As expected, Apple has introduced a few improvements to their camera experience with the iPhone 6s Plus, but this time around, Motorola promised a significantly improved one as wellm with the aim to at least bring its camera at par with the impressive competition out there.
With the Moto X Pure Edition, you get a 21 MP rear camera with a dual tone LED flash and phase detection autofocus, while the iPhone 6s Plus features an also upgraded 12 MP unit, with optical image stabilization on-board. This is a significant bump for both smartphones, and in the case of the iPhone, the new sensor finally allows for video recording in 4K. Another new feature the iPhone 6s Plus comes with is called “live” photos, which essentially records 1.5 seconds before and after a photo is taken. To see them, you use 3D Touch on the photo you took, and image will instantly come to life in the form of a short video.
The front-facing cameras have also received upgrades on both smartphones, with both now featuring 5 MP units, compared to the 1.2 MP and 2 MP front-facing cameras seen with the iPhone 6 Plus and the Moto X (2014). The interesting part about the Moto X Pure Edition’s camera is the availability of a front-facing flash, included to help with taking selfies in low-light conditions. The iPhone 6s Plus may not have this, but comes with what Apple calls “Retina Flash,” which is basically the screen lighting up when you a take a photo.
Neither implementation is revolutionary, but Apple’s Retina Flash does work a little better at evenly illuminating the face, and isn’t as blinding as the front-facing flash on the Moto X Pure Edition. Another difference between these two front-facing cameras is that the Moto X Pure Edition camera is of the wide angle variety, which will allow you to fit multiple subjects into the frame, which isn’t possible with the iPhone 6s Plus.
The camera of the Moto X Pure Edition has proven to be very good this year, but when compared to the images of the iPhone 6s Plus, there is a big disparity in the way that both devices handle post-processing. The images with the Motorola smartphone are a lot more saturated and with more contrast, while the iPhone 6s Plus maintains a more natural look. Which one you prefer boils down to personal taste, but where the iPhone really outshines the Moto X Pure Edition is in dynamic range. There is a lot more detail to be found in darker areas like shadows, and highlights aren’t blown out like they are on the Moto X.
Things remain along the same lines when it comes to taking shots in low-light conditions as well. The photos with the Moto X Pure Edition aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, and there is certainly a huge improvement when compared to the camera of its predecessor. That said, the highlights are typically blown out, and there is quite a bit of noise reduction and over brightening being performed, which results in a much softer and grainier photo. For something that doesn’t feature OIS, this camera is a decent performer in low light, but definitely pales in comparison to the much sharper and cleaner looking images that the iPhone 6s Plus manages to capture.
As is the case with any Android versus iPhone comparison, you are looking at two completely different experiences and ecosystems on the software side of things.
With the Moto X Pure Edition, you get a near stock Android experience of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, which helps keep everything running smoothly, and should also provide for speedy updates to future versions of Android. There are some really useful features baked in by Motorola though, such as Moto Voice, that lets you use a custom catch phrase to call on the device, even when the phone in an idle state. There is also Moto Display, Moto Actions, and Moto Assist, that allows for a variety of different features, like subtly peeking at your notifications, twisting your wrist to launch the camera, or automatically silencing your phone during any preset times.
With the iPhone 6s Plus comes iOS 9, and if you having been using iPhones previously, there won’t be too many surprises here. Everything remains largely the same aesthetically, and it is still the same grid of icons as it has always been, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you are looking for a pretty straightforward software experience.
The most notable addition with the latest iPhones is the addition of 3D Touch, which lets you perform functions that Apple likes to call “peek” and “pop.” Keep in mind that 3D Touch isn’t the same thing as a long press, which still works as it would normally. With 3D Touch, you are physically applying pressure on the display, and this will allow for access to certain additional features and functions.
As an example, if you are in the Mail application, pressing down on a e-mail lets you take a quick glance at it without fully opening it, and pressing a little harder will take you into the full email, if you decide that it something you want to go through further. This can also be done with applications on the homescreens, so if you were to use 3D Touch on the camera app, you can quickly take a photo, record a video, and even take a selfie.
Most of Apple’s own applications already come with 3D Touch support, and while third-party app support is limited for now, that number will continue to go up as more developers update their applications. Even without a heavy amount of third-party support, there is still a lot you can do with 3D Touch, such as easily moving the cursor around by pressing down on the keyboard, or jumping into the multi-tasking screen by pressing the display and sliding from the side. It is quite fun to just poke and prod at things to see what works and what doesn’t, and from the looks of it, this feature certainly offers a lot of potential for Apple.
Moto X Style / Pure Edition
iPhone 6s Plus
5.7-inch TFT LCD display
Quad HD resolution, 520 ppi
5.5-inch IPS LCD display
Full HD resolution, 401 ppi
GPS + GLONASS
NFC ( with Apple Pay only)
Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
153.9 x 76.2 x 11.1 mm
158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
Pricing and final thoughts
The Moto X Pure Edition is easily one of the most affordable flagship smartphones currently out there, and for just $400, you can get yourself a completely customized device. The iPhone 6s Plus, on the other hand, with set you back $750 for the 16 GB base model, and pricing goes up from there, based on your storage needs. The iPhone 6s Plus is definitely not cheap, but you do have the option of picking it up at a subsidized rate through network carriers, an option that isn’t available with Moto X Pure Edition.
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Moto X Pure Edition vs iPhone 6s Plus! You of course, can’t go wrong with either smartphone, but what the Moto X Pure Edition brings to the table is customization, a clean software experience, and microSD expansion, all for a price point that is significantly cheaper that most other current-generation flagships. The iPhone 6s Plus will offer everything you’ve come to expect from previous iPhones, will adding and improving features like the camera and 3D Touch.
If you absolutely want an iPhone, the iPhone 6s Plus, is the best one that money can buy. On the flipside, for those that want the freedom provided by Android, and also want to save some hard cash, the Moto X Pure (Style) remains one of the best choices on the market.