It's no secret that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is seeing fantastic uptake of its latest iPhones. The broad set of improvements the company brought to the table with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have proven compelling enough to drive what appears to be -- to borrow Apple CEO Tim Cook's phrasing -- "the mother of all upgrades."
However, while the iPhone 6 models should have several more months to bask in the proverbial sun, Apple rival Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) isn't standing still. Indeed, Samsung's next-generation smartphone – according to various leaks – looks to be a monster that will outclass the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in three critical areas.
Significantly faster LTE speeds
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus feature Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) MDM9625 LTE-Advanced modem, which supports 150 megabits per second download speeds and 50 megabits per second upload speeds. That is 50% faster than last year's iPhone, but today's Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 already supports maximum download speeds twice that of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
The delta appears set to widen with the Galaxy S6. This handset is rumored to feature Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 processor -- at least for the North American variant -- which should feature a cellular modem capable of category 9 LTE-Advanced speeds -- 450 megabits per second download and 50 megabits per second upload.
While it's not clear yet how many carriers can support that level of cellular data throughput, Samsung will almost certainly have a marketing edge here with more spec-conscious buyers.
Much faster Wi-Fi transfer rates
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were the first iPhones to support the 802.11ac standard, which brought substantially improved Wi-Fi connectivity speeds. According to AnandTech, the latest iPhones likely feature the Broadcom (NASDAQ: BRCM) BCM4339 Wi-Fi chipset, which supports up to 433 megabits per second Wi-Fi speeds.
The Galaxy Note 4 already has the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus beaten here, with AnandTech reporting the Samsung phone features Broadcom's bleeding-edge BCM4358 combo solution. This is, according to Broadcom, a 2x2 802.11ac solution supporting up to 650 megabits per second Wi-Fi speeds. I expect the Galaxy S6 to use the same connectivity chip, which should give it greater Wi-Fi capability than the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
More, and potentially lower-power, memory
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus both feature just one gigabyte of memory. By contrast, Samsung's Galaxy S5 featured two gigabytes of memory and the Galaxy Note 4 has three gigabytes. A recent leak of the Galaxy S6's internal specifications suggests the new Samsung flagship will come packed with three gigabytes of memory. However, that's not where the story ends.
If the Galaxy S6 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, as has been widely rumored, then the phone will feature next-generation LPDDR4 memory. This new memory type is widely expected to offer performance and power efficiency gains over LPDDR3, which is the present standard in mobile applications.
Will this be enough for Samsung to claw back share?
Samsung has generally kept ahead of Apple in the smartphone features listed above, as well as in other technical aspects. However, Apple's key business advantages, such as iOS and the app ecosystem, a loyal customer base, and first-rate industrial designs have allowed it to continue to thrive at the high end of the smartphone market.
While I expect the Samsung Galaxy S6 to be a technical tour de force, the Galaxy S5 was one also and it didn't do all that well against the iPhone 5s, selling 40% fewer units than expected (per the The Wall Street Journal). I expect more of the same with the S6, although it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.