This is the 2016 biggest smartphone battle. The Galaxy S7 is in the red corner – undoubtedly one of the most impressive smartphones Samsung has ever made. The iPhone 7 is the blue corner – undoubtedly the most controversial smartphone Apple ever released. Both are both frustrating and amazing, but which one should you purchase?
Note: I am grateful to Three UK, Samsung UK, and Samsung UK for their long-term loans for the iPhone 7 & Galaxy S7 that were used in this review.
Design – Desirable Durability
Finally, After many years of lobbying, Apple and Samsung finally realised that customers want phones that are both stylish and practical. Both companies have focused on durability in 2016.
The Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7 will both sport Series 7000 aluminium chassis and water and dust resistance. This is a Samsung innovation after the Galaxy S6’s bizarre disappearance.
Differences? The differences? Although it’s not an important difference, the Galaxy S7 is slightly more likely to survive a fall into a pool.
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (pictured) are both certified to withstand full immersion in water … [+]
An interesting development is
The phones are not identical in terms of durability. Here, I give Samsung the edge. Although the iPhone 7’s iconic design is well-known, it is getting old. Three generations later, the iPhone 7’s large top and bottom bezels are a waste of space. This makes the handset 4.7 inches larger than it should be.
The iPhone 7 is more slippery and the Galaxy S7 has less grip. However, the tapered back of this phone provides better purchase and makes it less likely that you will drop it. Although it won’t make a difference if you place your phone in a case, there are tangible benefits and disadvantages to using a box.
Apple wins when it comes to the smallest details. The phones are both beautifully constructed, but the Galaxy S7’s home button is plastic. This is especially noticeable compared to the iPhone 7 which has a new taptic sapphire button that provides convincing vibration feedback. Apple cleverly amplified audio from the earpiece to make stereo audio. The iPhone 7 has superior external audio. Although it isn’t as good as dual front firing speakers, it beats the Galaxy S7’s muffled speaker.
It’s difficult to assess the iPhone 7 design without looking at its most controversial feature, the removal of the headset jack. This will be a deal-breaker for some, while it will not for others. However, I will state that Apple’s reasons (water resistance, larger battery, age) for excluding the jack are absurd.
The iPhone 7 lost its headphone Jack but got dual speakers. The Galaxy S7 has a single mono … [+]
Samsung beat Apple in both water resistance (be sure you check the Battery Life section down). While age is irrelevant, the headphone jack works great and is reliable. Contrast that with the Lightning port, which is proprietary and incurs a licensing fee. Also, digital audio requires a DAC to be integrated into each pair of headphones in order to convert it into analogue sound waves. (Another cost).
Even Apple’s most loyal fans will be condemned to adaptors as long as Apple refuses to update MacBooks with Lightning audio, or force them to purchase wireless headphones. This is another compromise in sound quality and another device that needs to be charged regularly.
One last tip: The ‘Jet Black iPhone 7’ is beautiful, but it’s not the best. It’s a magnet for fingerprints and is highly susceptible to scratches. If you counter that, you can put it in a case so you don’t see the jett-black finish anyway.
Galaxy S7 wins – This is a close match, as the iPhone 7 has stereo speakers and better home buttons, but Samsung’s design is more modern, compact, and water resistant, while still keeping the headphone Jack (for now).
iPhone 7 vs iPhone 7 Plus: Which one should you upgrade?
Displays: Peak LCD is No Match for OLED
OLED panels are not available in sufficient quantities to satisfy Apple’s demand, so iPhones have been called “too popular”. It’s a good problem for Apple, but it’s still a problem.
- iPhone 7 – 4.7 inch LED-backlit, IPS LCD with 1334×750 pixels (326ppi), 65.6% screen to body ratio
- Galaxy S7: 5.1-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixels, 534 pixels per inch (ppi), Super AMOLED
The iPhone 7’s LCD screen is not as good as the Galaxy S7 OLED. Apple has done a lot to make a 750p panel look like this (it’s 25% brighter and offers excellent colour accuracy than the iPhone 6S), but OLED is the future.
The Galaxy S7’s display is brighter, sharper, and more vivid than the iPhone 7. Image credit: Gordon… [+]
The Galaxy S7 wins hands down if you place the phones side-by-side. The Galaxy S7’s significantly higher pixel count produces a crisper display (and VR-ready), while the LORD’s jet blacks excel at delivering a contrast ratio that the iPhone 7 can’t match.
The iPhone 7 has 3D Touch but needs to integrate with iOS better. It is difficult to use 3D Touch enabled because of the ‘press and guess” system that determines what is. This makes it less intuitive and turns many users away from it. Although there is potential, it’s still not yet seen in the iPhone 6S.
Galaxy S7 Winner – While I still believe in 3D Touch, the truth is that Apple’s greatest LCD display has been surpassed by Samsung’s OLED.
Performance – Two Supercars and One Clear Winner
However, the roles are reversed when it comes down to performance. Despite Samsung’s attempts with Exynos (international), and Qualcomm (US) variants, Apple is still the king of performance.
- iPhone 7 – Apple A10 Fusion chipset – Quad Core 2.34GHz CPU, six core PowerVR GT7600 GPU and 2GB RAM
- Galaxy S7 (US – Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core chipset: Dual Core 2.15GHz Kryo and dual-core 1.5 GHz Kryo CPUs; Mali-T880 MP12 Graphics Card; 4GB RAM
- Galaxy S7 International – Exynos8890 Octa-core Chipset: Quad-core Cortex A53 CPUs at 2.3GHz Mongoose, and quad-core Cortex A53 CPUs at 1.6GHz Cortex A53, Adreno530 GPU, 4GB RAM
The Galaxy S7 may appear to be faster than the Galaxy S6 and is very fast straight out of the box. However, it still suffers from all the usual Samsung flaws. It feels fast but is not smooth. For example, webpages load quickly, but then stutter while scrolling – this is a flaw that is unacceptable after Google demonstrated that Android can deliver a silky experience using the Pixel or Pixel XL.
Samsung’s customization of Android is still bloated and lacks smoothness. Image credit:… [+]
It’s still a lot of bloat. TouchWiz is much more user-friendly these days. However, you still get approximately 50 pre-installed and permanent apps (excluding any garbage your carrier adds). It’s something I repeat every generation. But, why-oh Samsung thinks it smart to offer two email client, two photo apps and two voice control systems? Two app stores, two SMS applications, three media players? Perhaps the slim and mean Google Pixel will scare Samsung into increasing its game in 2017.
The iPhone 7 is, however, the fastest smartphone in the industry. Even with all its flaws, and more to come, the iPhone 7 beats the Galaxy S7 in terms of raw grunt, especially when multitasking even with 2GB RAM. And the Pixel can’t match the iPhone 7’s unbreakable smooth responsiveness.
The new iPhone 7 sapphire fixed taptic home button is more accurate and of better quality than … [+]
The fingerprint sensor is another major performance winner on the iPhone 7. Although many other manufacturers are now able to match the accuracy and speed of TouchID (including Google and Huawei), Samsung has yet to master it. There are many instances when the Galaxy S7 fails in reading your finger, with multiple failures locking you out. Samsung is likely to bring its gimmicky fingerprint scanner to the Galaxy S8 next spring, but it’s not the solution.
Winner: iPhone 7- Samsung continues to make good hardware out of weak software. While customisation is fine for Android, it’s too bloated and could threaten Apple’s dominance. Google now shows how Android should work.
Continue reading – iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6S: What is the Difference?
Cameras – What are the Industries Best? No more
Apple and Samsung have been the leaders in the market for many years. However, their roles have changed with Samsung taking over Apple’s Galaxy S6 and Samsung keeping that lead with its Galaxy S7.
- Front: 7MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture and 1080p recording
- Galaxy S7 – 12 megapixel Sony IMX260 Module, f/1.8 Aperture (some Samsung ISOCELL variations exist), OIS LED flash, Dual Pixels and 4K video. Front: 5MP f/1.7 camera, 1080p video
Samsung’s iPhone camera has been beaten by Apple in 2016, while making it more flush into the body … [+]
You’ll notice that the phones are much closer than ever. Apple has a better front camera than Samsung. This is a significant shift from years ago, when Galaxies had twice as many megapixels of iPhones (16 and 8). Apple also added optical image stabilisation to the 4.7 inch model. It introduced a faster f/1.8 aperture. Samsung has a slight advantage with f/1.7.
Apple has closed the gap with its iPhone 7? But it is not enough. Even the dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus falls short.
Composite photo – Garden path. Galaxy S7 (left), vs iPhone 7(right) is a clear victory for Samsung with … [+]
The Galaxy S7 photos have a distinct advantage in terms of colours and detail. You can see this in the image of the tree and the gateway to the garden. The iPhone 7 has the unfortunate tendency to make photos look greyer if they are shot in very bright or very low light conditions.
A composite image showing the iPhone 7 (left), iPhone 7 Plus (right), and Galaxy S7(bottom). … [+]
This is especially evident in the comparison of streetlights. The Galaxy S7 produces accurate inky blacks in darkest parts of the shot. However, the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 7 Plus make these areas greyer and are more likely to blow out brighter areas.
Composite photo – the iPhone 7 (left), and iPhone 7 Plus are good in isolation, but the … [+] look better.
The Galaxy S7’s victory is sealed by its significantly faster opening speed (thanks in part to its handy double tap home button shortcut) as well as focusing (thanks its Focus Pixels), making it easier to capture spontaneous moments.
However, there is a catch and it’s big.
Although the Galaxy S7 may be better than the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 7 Plus, it was beaten to the title 2016’s best smartphone camera camera by a newcomer: Google. Google has its first true smartphones, the Pixel as well as the Pixel XL. Google actually holds a larger lead than Apple in terms of the number of users who have purchased Samsung’s Galaxy S7.
The Google Pixel is currently the best smartphone camera, with the Galaxy S7 following and the … [+].
The three-way comparison shot above shows this. Only the Pixel can balance the sky on a hot sunny day. However, the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7 lose details in low light areas of the bushes. While the Galaxy S7 is clearly the best, it struggles with the sky, tree line and exaggerated greens of grass. The iPhone 7 fails in all areas, losing detail in low-light areas and the disappointing grey filter that it adds to photos. Low light is also a similar story.
Google Pixel retains more detail and colour than its acclaimed competitors. Image credit:… [+]
Samsung and Apple have good news: the Pixel will not be able to take any significant market share away from the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7 for now. However, both companies will recognize that they need to improve their camera capabilities in 2017.
Where is the win? The Galaxy S7 also takes the win over the iPhone 7 in this area: pixel size. Although all three phones are equipped with 12 megapixel sensors, the pixel sizes of each phone differ (iPhone, Galaxy S7, and Pixel are 1.12um, 1.40um, and 1.55um respectively). Larger pixels can absorb more light faster, which is a significant advantage, regardless of the shooting conditions.
We’ve had megapixel wars that didn’t mean anything in the past. A fight over pixels size (microns), would be much more productive.
In sunny shooting conditions, pixel photos balance colour accuracy with high and low lighting areas [+]
What about video? The Galaxy S7 is still better than the iPhone 7 in bright daylight, producing richer colours and a slower mode that matches Apple’s gold standard. While the Pixel has the best bright-light video (thanks in large part to OIS rather than super steady image stabilisation), it is less reliable in low light.
Samsung Galaxy S7 wins – Samsung retains its smartphone lead over Apple. However, both phones are now outnumbered by the Pixel XL and Google Pixel XL in a wider context.
Review: Should You Upgrade to Pixel XL?
Charging and Battery Life – Two Upgrades, One Clear Winner
- Apple and Samsung are working together to fix their 2015 battery problems.
The battery capacity of the Galaxy S6 (2550mAh) as well as the iPhone 6S (1715mAh) has been reduced from the Galaxy S5 (2800mAh) or iPhone 6 (1810mAh) respectively. Why? It was part of an absurd battle to chase thinness, something that the average customer couldn’t care less about at this stage. Things have changed now:
- Galaxy S7 – 3000mAh
- iPhone 7 – 1910mAh
Given the amount of internal space that the headphone jack takes up and its subsequent elimination, I expected Apple to do more here. Apple’s teardowns revealed Apple occupied most of the space with the taptic motor in the new fixed-home button.
How does the duo do? The Galaxy S7 wins easily. The iPhone 7 is fractionally better than the iPhone 6S. However, it still struggles with a full day of work. Heavy use, however, will not help. This could be a crucial feature if you frequently travel.
To accommodate a larger battery, the Galaxy S7 is slightly thicker this year than the iPhone 7. Image… [+]
Charging is another key difference. The Galaxy S7 offers fast charging and wireless charging, which is a significant advantage, especially if you don’t have time to charge your phone. The Galaxy S7 charges in 15 minutes, while the iPhone 7 takes about 6-8 hours. A full charge on the Galaxy S7 takes 55-65 minutes, while the iPhone 7 takes approximately 1 hour 50 minutes.
This, combined with the iPhone’s lack of a headphone jack means that you can’t charge your phone and use wired headphones simultaneously. Apple must address this urgently in 2017. Fast charging is crucial, but rumours encourage it.
Galaxy S7 is the winner – there’s no other contender. The Galaxy S7 charges faster and lasts longer than the Galaxy S6.
Price and Storage – Apple Takes Up
The iPhone 7 has scrapped the 16GB entry-level model. Get your party hats on! Apple has actually doubled the storage capacity at each step, creating some incredible options: iPhone 7 32GB ($649) 128GB ($749), and 256GB (849)
The 32GB Galaxy S7, which costs $699, may seem small in comparison. But it has an advantage: Expandable storage is back. Samsung was criticised for removing it in the Galaxy S6 but, just like the battery life booster, Samsung has learned its lesson.
The Galaxy S7 Edge and Galaxy S7 Plus have integrated microSD slots into the sim tray, making … [+]
Galaxy S7 owners will be able to spend less upfront (and there are many deals that reduce the Galaxy S7 price right now), and add up to 512GB storage via microSD at any given time. It’s not all positive news. Expandable storage is slower than internal storage, so it’s really only good for video and photos.
However, 32GB (around 25GB user-accessible) should suffice for apps. Hardcore mobile gamers might disagree. It is a mystery why Samsung doesn’t offer the Galaxy S7 with larger sizes. Samsung is hurting its customers and itself by not offering higher internal memory sizes, given that profit margins are increasing as capacities increase.
Winner: a Draw – iPhones aren’t cheap but offer a lot of storage. The flexibility of the Galaxy S7 and its expandable storage makes them a huge draw. However, Samsung is missing a trick by not offering greater capacities.
Continue reading – iPhone 7 vs iPhone 7 Plus: What is the Difference?
Samsung and Apple have learned from their mistakes and continue to make them with the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7.
Samsung has made the most of the Galaxy S7’s water resistance, larger battery size and expandable storage. Samsung hasn’t figured out how to stop using bloatware on its phones and they don’t perform as well as they should. This is especially true with the Google Pixel showing Samsung what it should do.
I believe the Galaxy S7 is more balanced than the iPhone 7; it’s a better purchase. The Google is… [+]
Apple also responded to criticism by adding water resistance to its iPhone 7 and a larger battery. They also found a solution for the home button issues of previous iPhones. The iPhone 7 design is ageing, the battery life is still disappointing, fast charging remains inexcusable, screen resolution is ridiculously low, and the camera has not caught up to Samsung (and the Pixel). Also, the headphone jack is no longer useful.
For me, the Galaxy S7 is the winner in the annual battle of titans. This is especially because its strengths (design and display, battery life, charging, and battery life) are also the weaknesses of the iPhone 7. However, performance/software is still Samsung’s Achilles heel. Apple does this every year.
Yet, the most significant smartphone story of 2016 is not about either company. I would buy the Galaxy S7 over my iPhone 7, but I’d rather buy the Google Pixel than both. This promises to be a very exciting 2017.