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Galaxy Note 5 vs Microsoft Lumia 950 XL: What We Know



There are some smartphones launches that the technology press and users never see coming. They take us by surprise, with new features and common sense upgrades. With the Galaxy Note 5 that smartphone maker Samsung announced earlier today, only half of that is true. We knew that a Galaxy Note with big upgrades was one the way.

Samsung revealed that the Galaxy Note 5 release date as August 21st and set to work showcasing all the new features and reasons users might want to upgrade when their wireless contract allows them to. Here’s how the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 compares to the rumored Lumia 950 XL, the other big-screened note-centric smartphone expected to arrive soon after the Galaxy Note 5 release date.

Galaxy Note 5 vs Microsoft Lumia 950 XL: Looks & Internals

A Quad High-Definition 5.7-inch AMOLED display dominates the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. By now Samsung, is an old pro at creating large smartphones that people want to buy for good looks and screen release estate. Mostly, the Galaxy Note 5’s design is inspired by Samsung’s Galaxy S6. The edges of the device are metal with colored glass backing and metal accents adding some sophistication and style. A front-facing 5 megapixel camera and a bulbous home button complete the experience. The left and right back sides of the Galaxy Note 5 curve slightly, providing an interesting balance to the heard edges on the top and bottom of the device. To get this premium design, Samsung did give up on some extras like waterproofing and removable batteries.

The Galaxy Note 5 comes with a nice, premium looking stylus that has some visual The S Pen still has its own slot. Removing it from that slot gets the Galaxy Note 5 ready for note-taking instantly.

Read: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 & Galaxy S6 Edge+: 11 Things You’ll Love

Lumia 950 XL concepts from Windows Central.

Lumia 950 XL concepts from Windows Central.

Microsoft hasn’t revealed the Lumia 950 XL’s design yet, but rumored specifications and mock-ups are just about everywhere. Allegedly, the device is codenamed Cityman, and will have a 5.7-inch WQHD OLED display with a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels. That’s the same screen size as the Galaxy Note 5. Rather than use metal, Microsoft is sticking to a polycarbonate plastic body with metal side buttons, according to Windows Central. A 5 megapixel front-facing camera seems like a definite too.


The Galaxy S6+ Edge on the left and the Galaxy Note 5 on the right.

Read: iPhone 6 Plus vs Microsoft Lumia 950: What We Know

Reportedly, Microsoft will copy Samsung’s note-taking idea for the Lumia 950 XL, adding Surface Pen support for jotting things down and navigating the interface.


Octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a MicroSD card slot, wireless charging and a 20 megapixel camera are said to complete the Lumia 950 XL. If that’s true than Microsoft has the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 beat on paper, theoretically. The Note 5 comes with a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera and optical image stabilization. OIS as it’s sometimes called, is key for taking pictures when you don’t have a steady hand. We’ll have to wait and see how the sensors compare side-by-side.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 users get some important extras though. The Note 5 also has an octa-core processor, but comes with 4GB of RAM, beating out the rumored Lumia 950 XL. There’s also wireless charging, just like the Samsung Galaxy Note 6 has.

Galaxy Note 5 vs Microsoft Lumia 950 XL: Experience & Software

The Galaxy Note 5’s built-in wireless charging is a hint at Samsung’s new strategy. The company knows that fast processors aren’t the gadget sellers they used to be. Samsung has to create an experience for users in the same way Apple does. In fact, if there’s one company in the smartphone game doing this correctly besides Apple it is Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ Galaxy Note 5 Features - 8

Apple is adding on-screen multitasking to its iOS operating system this fall. Beating it and Microsoft there is the Multi Window features of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. Users can read in one app and watch movies in another at the same time. Windows 10 Mobile will run on the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL, and there’s no feature like it there yet.

If you’re really looking to multitask Microsoft is hoping that you’ll love Continuum in the Lumia 950 XL. Allegedly, the device will let users connect it to a keyboard and monitor. When that happens users will get almost a full version of Windows.

Microsoft showed off the feature in a video earlier this year.

Read: Microsoft Reveals Stunning Windows 10 for Phones Feature

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 also has a fingerprint reader as a home button, whereas the Lumia 950 XL is rumored to have an Iris scanner for unlocking the device. We’ll have to wait and see how well Microsoft’s system performs before there’s an overall judgement call on that.

A demonstration of Samsung Pay.

A demonstration of Samsung Pay.

Samsung has its own alternative to Apple Pay coming called Samsung Pay and it’s pretty robust. Using the fingerprint scanner and NFC chip inside, users can pay for everyday items without pulling out their wallet. Microsoft has nothing in that respect. It’s a huge gaping hole that the company will need to do something about if it hopes to be successful

Galaxy Note 5 vs Microsoft Lumia 950 XL: Should You Wait to Buy

Wait to buy the Galaxy Note 5? Absolutely not. Samsung says that carriers around the world will announced their pre-order plans today. The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL could be interesting, but Samsung has good build quality and a huge ecosystem of apps and accessories at its disposal. It’s also better positioned for the future of mobile payments and multitasking.

Read: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Release Details

There are 32GB and 64GB versions of the Galaxy Note 5 coming.



  1. don S

    08/13/2015 at 12:12 pm

    It is said the 950 will also have wireless QI charging.

    Also, the lumia 920 windows phone had OIS ~3 years ago, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the 950 also has it.

    • rehman

      08/14/2015 at 12:45 am

      Yes Samsung always copies nokia

      • don s

        08/14/2015 at 4:00 am

        Well I was trying to be more diplomatic…. Than the author…

  2. jim

    08/13/2015 at 12:28 pm

    Ever hear of proofreading?

  3. Gregory Jacobs

    08/13/2015 at 10:21 pm

    Agree with Jim, you need to read what you write. The Samsung price sucks compared to the 950XLs. That extra 350 before taxes is nuts.

  4. Brandon

    08/13/2015 at 10:36 pm

    This article is far from a balanced look at both devices. Microsoft has packed so many features into windows 10 and even old Lumia devices that Samsung has not had for a while. For example, something as basic as an FM radio is not available on Samsung devices, but almost every lumia device comes with this standard. Also, not having a pay app is not a “gaping hole” in my opinion, if you want to buy something and your phone won’t do it for you, use your wallet. That isn’t as big an issue as it should be. I always have a debit card on me to pay, but I have never said “oh my phone is dead let me whip out my pocket FM radio” The new CEO of Microsoft has revolutionized the company and pretty soon we will see Microsoft overpower not only the PC market but the mobile market and the Internet of things (IoT) as well. The cityman has my vote all the way.

  5. Travis Immortalis (@Travis9x)

    08/14/2015 at 12:33 pm

    This article has so many flaws & inaccuracies, I almost don’t know where to start.
    Don already addressed the wireless charging issue. Yes, the 950XL will have built-in wireless charging, something the 920 already had two generations ago, and also long before Apple or Samsung started to include the feature (Samsung was the first after Nokia, with an adaptation for existing phones in the form of a replacement backplate, but the technology still wasn’t integrated to Samsung phones until a generation later).
    Brandon also brings up the pay-with-your phone feature, but he didn’t mention the one really big problem with the author’s claim that Microsoft has nothing on this front. They do, and they had it before anyone else. NFC was INVENTED in a joint-effort by Nokia & Sony, and although Samsung did showcase the first Android smartphone to include the technology, it had little or no use at the time and the phone never became widespread. By the time NFC became a popular feature of Android phones, Nokia and Microsoft had already be using it in Lumia handsets for years. In addition, NFC technology in Lumia phones could already be connected to the user’s Microsoft Wallet as a payment system long before Samsung, Google, or Apple ever even considered the idea. To say that Microsoft has nothing in this department, when they incorporated the idea long before anyone else, is just ridiculous…and Brandon is also absolutely right, that even if your local grocery store doesn’t support using your Windows phone for payment, it’s not some deal-breaking thing because most people will still also have their wallet with them (but no one carries around a pocket FM radio anymore).
    Microsoft is hardly “copying” Samsung in regards to being able to use a pen/stylus, although this is the first time Microsoft is enabling such use on “phone” devices. Microsoft actually invented the tablet PC long before anyone else had even thought of such a thing (except maybe in science-fiction), but it was so ahead of its time that it flopped spectacularly. So using a pointing device on a mobile computer (which is basically what smartphones are) is old hat for Microsoft, especially considering that the phones will be using the same stylus pens already used by Surface tablets, and running the same OS to boot.
    OIS is small potatoes compared to the Lumias’ PureView sensors with Carl Zeiss optics. Lumias are renowned by photography professionals for having the most incredible smartphone cameras, and the 950/950XL will be no different…and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
    Continuum isn’t an “alleged” feature, it’s a key feature. As showcased not just in videos, but also in live demonstrations at various conferences, Continuum-enabled devices (which the 950 and 950XL will most certainly be) will be able to connect to external peripherals such as keyboards, mice, monitors, etc. via USB 3.1 (using the USB-C port), Bluetooth, or a docking station, which just like on Surface tablets will trigger a mode-switch to a desktop-like interface, very much like any traditional PC. Since Win10 Mobile still uses the exact same core as the “normal” Win10 running on PCs, “universal” apps are easy to develop, and work beautifully on these Continuum-enabled devices (Microsoft Office is already available as a Universal app, and was demonstrated at the prior-mentioned live events). How does any of this have practical application? Imagine a corporate environment, much like most corporations today, which deploys Windows PCs and laptops to their employees, as well as iPhones or iPads. Think about that from an IT perspective…they have to manage a Windows domain & servers, with Windows PCs/laptops connecting to that domain…but also iPhones and possibly iPads needing to be managed as well. It’s an IT nightmare, with two near-incompatible platforms needing to work together, and completely different devices needing to be supported. Now, imagine that (especially for the “road warrior” employees) they can replace the laptop-and-smartphone combo, two different platforms & devices, with just ONE single device, running the same platform as all the other computers on the network…talk about simplicity, and streamlining company assets! With these Win10 phones like the 950XL, that fantasy can most certainly be a reality. Those employees will only need the one Lumia smartphone, and a docking station at their desk (just like they’ve already got for the laptop)…and that’s it. One device, one platform, easy support and integration to the company network.
    Windows Hello and biometrics are another key feature that absolutely will not be left out of flagship phones. The 950/950XL will have iris scanners, but future models may use different biometrics, so people can go with whatever authentication method they prefer. For example, the upcoming Surface 4 may have a 3-D infrared front-facing camera to be able to automatically tell when you’re sitting in front of and looking at the device, scan your face, and log you in right away. Future Lumia phones are likely to use a similar method, especially since such sensors used in consumer devices was pioneered by Microsoft with things like the XBox Kinect sensor suite. (and considering they’re also developing such advanced things like the Hololens)

    Considering all of the above points, how can the author seriously say that the Galaxy Note 5 is better positioned for the future of mobile payments & multitasking? I’d say Continuum kicks the pants off of both Apple & Samsung in the multitasking department, and Microsoft already beat out both of them at paying for things with your phone too, coming out with that years before either of them. Yeah, Windows phones are currently lacking in the sheer volume of mobile apps, but the important ones are there, and with Universal app development being so easy now, developers have no excuse to NOT write an app for the whole range of Windows devices (unless they just have a personal hatred for Windows phones…but again, that’s not a legitimate excuse).

    Lastly, I see no mention of whether the Galaxy Note 5 will have an expansion slot or not…being available in both 32 and 64GB varieties doesn’t mean much, when you’re stuck with that much space and no more…whereas the 950/950XL does have that expansion slot, AND with USB 3.1 type-C it can connect to – and use – ANY kind of USB peripheral, including USB flash drives. Not to mention integration to OneDrive cloud storage.

    • Don S

      08/14/2015 at 5:28 pm

      That was a very thorough and well written response. For what it’s worth I have read that the new note will NOT have expandable storage or a removable battery.

    • Riley

      08/15/2015 at 11:08 am

      Your comment is a way better read than the article. Thanks for such a well thought out and informative comment.

    • kevin thomas

      08/16/2015 at 7:17 am

      Amazing and well written response.

  6. Himanshu Singh

    08/17/2015 at 1:41 am

    I was thinking of posting that the author of the article is biased against Microsoft, but most people who have commented have done so already. Just one cent of addition from my side. Lumia 820 did have OIS built in it. Since then every Lumia which has the ‘pure view’ lens has OIS. There are tiny springs that hold the lens and compensate for small vibrations. It has in fact become so common that MS does not even bother advertising it. Also, while MS had NFC long back and allows for payments through mobile Wallet, it also has registered (and got approval for) Microsoft pay, which is the same as Apple Pay. It is just that they are sitting on the registration for now and have not launched a Apple pay kind of service just yet.
    Having said all that, I still feel that Note 5 might sell more than 950 XL, but 950 XL will be a far better phone than Note 5.

  7. Himanshu Singh

    08/17/2015 at 1:42 am

    Edit: Lumia 920 had the OIS and not 820.

  8. Rexford Dundon

    08/19/2015 at 7:22 pm

    I went from a Lumia 1520 to a Galaxy Note 4.. As soon as the Lumia 950XL comes on the scene, I’ll be getting one of them, and setting the Note 4 as a backup phone (I wanted to get another Lumia, but I won’t settle for a base phone, which is what is out at the moment)

  9. Jim D'Amario

    10/07/2015 at 6:40 pm

    Been a Samsung fan since the Note. Lost faith in them with the Note 5. How is competing with Apple translated to making an iPhone? I don’t like iPhones. Since that’s what Samsung made, I’m either staying with the Note 4 or getting the Lumia 950 xl.

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