The iPhone 7 is here, and it’s ready to go up against the best of the best Android phones in a battle for a substantial chunk of the cash in your wallet. To win the coveted spot in your hand, it first has to meet the challenge presented by the Samsung Galaxy S7, which can be considered one of the best Android smartphones of the year.
It’s a clash not only between smartphones, but between manufacturers. The Galaxy S7 has already beaten the iPhone 6S in the sales charts, and Samsung will be hoping for a repeat performance against the iPhone 7. Apple wants it to crush the S7 for its impertinence. Six months has passed since the Galaxy S7 went on sale. Can it really beat a brand-new iPhone? We put the two head to head to find out.
Related: Forget the iPhone 7, next year’s smartphone from Apple will be one big screen
It can be a little tricky comparing Apple devices with other phones, largely because of the fact that Apple doesn’t use the same Qualcomm processors that most other major phone makers use, and it’s harder to compare like-for-like apps running on two different operating systems.
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 most commonly has a Snapdragon 820 processor inside, but there are some versions with Samsung’s own Exynos 8890 octa-core chip, which are mostly sold outside the U.S. The quad-core Snapdragon 820 has twice the performance of the Snapdragon 810, and 40x the graphical ability, plus Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology inside for fast battery charging. The A10 Fusion is Apple’s in-house designed chip choice for the iPhone 7. It’s the first quad-core processor from the company, and 40 percent faster than the old A9 inside the iPhone 6S.
Clever technology sees both chips handle workloads in the most efficient manner, by only utilizing certain cores for particular tasks, minimizing power consumption. The Galaxy S7 has twice the RAM of the iPhone at 4GB, but Apple has never stuffed its devices full of RAM, and it hasn’t posed a massive problem for regular users. On paper, the Galaxy S7 beats the iPhone, but in real life, iOS and Android work very differently, and the RAM benefits simply aren’t obvious.
Turning to benchmarks, the iPhone 7 wins by a landslide. The iPhone 7 scored a whopping 178,397 on AnTuTu’s benchmarks, putting pretty much every other smartphone out there to shame. The Galaxy S7 scored 134,599, which still puts it ahead of most other phones out there, but it can’t keep up with the new iPhone. This perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Galaxy S7 exceeds the iPhone 6S’s benchmark scores, the phone it was really taking on when released, and the 820 has since been superseded by the Snapdragon 821, which gets closer to the iPhone 7 in benchmark tests.
In the storage department, the iPhone 7 comes in options of either 32, 128, or 256GB models, while the Galaxy S7 is only available in 32GB or 64GB versions. The larger internal storage capacity is a welcome, although expensive, benefit on the iPhone; but the Galaxy S7 does have a MicroSD card slot. This means even if you pick the basic 32GB model, you can easily give it a boost. Not so with the iPhone 7.
The flexibility provided by a MicroSD card slot isn’t quite enough for the Galaxy S7 to overcome the might of the A10 Fusion chip. It’s impossible to ignore the speed with which it performs, and the fact it’s considerably newer — and will, therefore, remain competitive for longer — than the Snapdragon 820. The Galaxy S7 is fast enough for now, but the iPhone 7 is fast enough for the next year or so, and that makes it the winner here.
Winner: Apple iPhone 7
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 is gorgeous with its glass back, metallic finish, and aluminum frame. Except it’s still the slightly-less-attractive-sibling to the Galaxy S7 Edge. The iPhone 7 refines the iPhone 6S’s shape and improves on it, with a slimmer body than the Galaxy S7, and more concealed antenna bands than older iPhones, especially on the black models.
The Galaxy S7 suffers by not being the Galaxy S7 Edge. It’s pretty, but no prettier than the iPhone 7. Both look great. Thought has gone into making them look stylish and classic, while not breaking away into something too visually challenging. The Galaxy S7 is bigger and heavier than the iPhone 7, thanks to its larger screen; but don’t dismiss the iPhone 7 as too small, because it’s very comfortable to hold and easy to slip into a pocket or bag.
Fingerprints are a problem for both phones. The Galaxy S7’s glass body gets covered in smears, as does the jet black iPhone 7, and even the matte finish iPhone models attract plenty of mess. There’s a wide range of color choices available for both, and we’re particularly partial to the black iPhone 7, and the titanium Galaxy S7. If gold is more your thing, then both phones come in different shades.
Both have camera bumps, both will be expensive to repair if panels or screens crack, and arguments about which one looks better will always end in a stalemate.
The iPhone 7 does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the Galaxy S7 does. That sentence is enough to sway a buying decision on its own. Put simply, if you own a pair of headphones you absolutely love, you must be willing to use the included 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter to listen to them on the iPhone 7. Don’t worry about sound quality being impacted, they’ll sound just as good as always.
That’s not the end of the story. Apple has given the iPhone 7 a pair of speakers for stereo sound, and it’s a considerable improvement over previous models. The Galaxy S7 can’t handle stereo sound. However, it can deal with Hi-Res audio formats for better sound quality, and it has AptX Bluetooth for better wireless music quality.
Commit to Apple’s Lightning connector and it may pay off in the future, as features including power for external Digital Analogue Converters are included, but not exploited so far. That’s for the future. Right now, the Galaxy S7’s greater flexibility wins through, despite the iPhone 7’s better speaker system.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S7
You’ll gaze lovingly at the Galaxy S7’s 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen, because it’s bright, colorful, and has contrast levels worthy of top-notch televisions. The 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution means your pictures will be full of detail, and you’ll be able to watch the Ultra HD videos shot with the camera at full resolution.
The iPhone 7’s Retina HD-LED backlit screen isn’t so impressive on paper. The resolution is much lower at 1,334 x 750 pixels, and the pixel density — which translates into the level of detail you see on screen — is 326ppi compared to the 577ppi on the Galaxy S7. The smaller 4.7-inch size of Apple’s display keeps it from looking bad, though, and the color reproduction is arguably more natural than Samsung’s AMOLED screen.
There is one thing that the iPhone has over the Galaxy S7 — an alternate input technology, called 3D Touch, which allows you to give different input commands based on how hard you press on the display. Combined with iOS 10 this is a feature that deserves more attention. The shortcuts speed up productivity and add an extra dimension to many apps including iMessage and Photos.
However, the Galaxy S7’s high-resolution AMOLED screen is stunning, and it’s an easy win for Samsung.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S7
The iPhone has long been the phone of choice for photographers, but Samsung has seriously stepped up its game in the camera department over the past few years.
The iPhone 7’s rear camera features a 12-megapixel sensor, along with a f/1.8 aperture, phase detection autofocus, and — a first for the standard model of the iPhone — optical image stabilization. The Galaxy S7’s camera has almost exactly the same specs except for the fact that it has a f/1.7 aperture, meaning that it may be able to handle low-light situations a little better.
If you take more selfies, the iPhone 7’s front-facing camera will be a temptation. It has a 7-megapixel sensor with a f/2.2 aperture, while the Galaxy S7 has a 5-megapixel sensor with a f/1.7 aperture. In other words, the iPhone’s photos will be of a higher resolution, but in low light situations, the Galaxy S7 may fair slightly better.
The Galaxy S7 amps up the color in its pictures, giving some an almost hyper-real quality, especially with HDR active. However, where the Galaxy S7 suffered in design for not being the Galaxy S7 Edge, the iPhone 7 suffers here for not being the iPhone 7 Plus. The larger iPhone’s dual camera setup is superb, with a 2x optical zoom and the promise of a clever depth-of-field feature to come in iOS 10.
No matter which you choose, you’re going to capture some awesome pictures you’ll be proud of, so we’re calling this one a draw.
Apple has finally started concentrating on durability for the iPhone 7. The device is now water-resistant with an IP rating of IP67, essentially meaning that it should be able to handle being in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Don’t take it swimming on purpose, but if you happen to drop it in the bath and take it out immediately, you should be fine.
Meanwhile, the S7 has an IP rating of IP68, basically meaning that it can handle up to 3 meters of water. It’s more water resistant than the iPhone 7. You shouldn’t let either phone get wet on purpose, but if you do, the Galaxy S7 will be able to handle a little more than the iPhone 7. Some tests show the iPhone 7 exceeding its water-resistance time limit, so the difference isn’t too big of a deal.
However, the aluminum back on the iPhone is stronger than the two glass panels on the Galaxy S7, which are much more likely to shatter. That curved glass on the back of the phone will be expensive to replace, too. Sure, the front of your iPhone could break, too — it’s glass — but at least the back should survive more falls than the Galaxy S7. Metal is tougher than glass. Given how often people break the glass on their phones, we think the iPhone is more durable where it really counts.
Winner: iPhone 7
There’s no point in making this an ‘iOS vs Android‘ article, but there are a few things to keep in mind. For example, Android is largely considered a little more customizable than iOS, however, iOS is normally considered a little easier to use. Because of that, if you simply want to be able to turn your phone on and have it work with the tiniest degree of interference, then iOS may be a better choice.
That doesn’t mean that Android isn’t easy to use — it is, but if you’re a first-time smartphone user, it’s going to be easier for you to get a grasp on iOS and how it works than Android. There’s also the fact that the Galaxy S7 doesn’t use stock Android. Instead, it uses Samsung’s self-built Android overlay, which is called TouchWiz. TouchWiz basically brings some of Samsung’s services to the forefront, while giving the operating system a slightly different look. Compare iOS 10 to Android 7.1 installed on the new Google Pixel phone, where it doesn’t have a special user interface over the top, and it’s a different result.
Don’t worry about apps though. Samsung has its own app store, plus you get to download all the apps from Google Play, while the iPhone 7 relies on Apple’s App Store. There are millions of apps in each, so you’ll never be short of choice no matter the phone you choose.
Take a closer look and there are a few differences to swing a difficult decision in the iPhone’s favor. The first is Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, which is more helpful than ever in iOS 10. Samsung’s own voice control system can’t keep up, and Google’s Assistant isn’t going to be available on phones other than the Pixel for a long while yet. Secondly, we really like the changes made to iMessage in iOS 10, which makes chatting with iPhone-owning friends a lot of fun.
The iPhone also benefits from regular software updates, potentially immediately fixing security issues should they appear, while Samsung’s situation is complicated by its user interface skin over the top of Android. Google’s updates take much, much longer to arrive, which may mean your phone is open to serious security threats should any be discovered. You’ll also have a phone that doesn’t run the latest version of Android.
We’re going to give this to the iPhone, but with a caveat. If you’re already invested in one ecosystem — whether that’s in experience, apps, or accessories — then it may be cost and time effective to stay with what you know. Otherwise, it’s a close call, but until Samsung sorts out its security patches and provides timely Android version updates, iOS 10 is to be recommended.
Winner: iPhone 7
This one goes to the Galaxy S7, and for more reason than one. First of all, the device has a much higher battery capacity, sitting at a cool 3,000mAh, compared to the iPhone’s 1,960mAh capacity. That’s almost double the amount of battery capacity, but both devices last about a day on a charge, due to the Galaxy S7’s battery having to power a larger, higher resolution screen.
Beyond battery capacity, the Galaxy S7 has other advantages. For example, it offers quick charging, a technology that Apple has long refused to incorporate into the iPhone. It also offers wireless charging, yet another technology that’s overdue on the iPhone.
With a much larger capacity, the ability to charge that battery up again quickly, and wireless charging, Samsung is the clear winner here.
Winner: Galaxy S7
Price and availability
Both phones are available right now on all four major carriers in the U.S., and can be purchased globally through networks and without a contract. Whichever you decide to buy, it won’t take long to find one for sale.
The iPhone 7 starts at $650 unlocked through Apple itself, with the price increasing by $100 each time you up the storage capacity. The jet black model is only available in either 128GB and 256GB versions, so it’ll cost $750 minimum. There are leasing options through Apple too, which makes it easier to upgrade to a new iPhone in the future.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is the pricier option if you choose to buy it through a carrier, but some deals can be found through retailers selling unlocked versions that bring it closer to the iPhone’s $650 base cost. Both phones remain desirable too, so reselling either when it’s time to upgrade won’t be difficult.
The price difference between the two phones is negligible, and if you’re willing to spend $650 on a phone, then another $30 isn’t going to sway many decisions. Both are easy to find for sale, wherever you are in the world.
Overall winner: Draw
Both the iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7 took three rounds each, and there are three rounds that ended in a tie, which means we need a tie-breaker. We love both these smartphones, and are sure that whichever you buy will keep you happy during your time with it, but there is one category that will split the two arch rivals for some people.
There are many chargers, cases, docks, and cables available for both the iPhone and the Galaxy S7. Both are probably the best catered for smartphones by third-party manufacturers, so the choice is wide.
However, Samsung has an ace up its sleeve here: Gear VR. It’s the best mobile virtual reality headset you can buy. It’s designed and supported by Oculus, there is a great choice of apps and games, and it’s cheap. What it does is add value to your phone. No, it’s probably not something you’ll use everyday, but when you do want some VR fun, Gear VR and a Galaxy S7 provide a far superior experience than a universal headset and a third-party app will on the iPhone.
The reason this is a tie-breaker and not a main category? A whole lot of people don’t care about VR, and it’s the phone that you’ll be using all the time. However, if you really can’t decide between the two — and we think that decision should be made based on whether you’re already invested in either operating system — then the fun provided by Gear VR could be taken into consideration.
Winner: Galaxy S7