Every year, after Samsung releases its latest Galaxy Note, there's a brief period where the Note is the beneficiary of loads of unfair comparisons. That time is now. Coming a month or so before the next iPhone release, many people want to know how the current-year Galaxy Note sizes up with the latest iPhone Plus – which, at this point, is going on a year old. So be sure to add many grains of salt: It's the 2016 Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs. the 2015 iPhone 6s Plus.
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We aren't sure if it's more about how impressive it is that Samsung squeezed a big screen into a smaller device, or how unimpressive it is that Apple, a company known for minimal and efficient design, keeps releasing phones with so much space wasted on "chin" and "forehead."
Despite having the bigger screen, the Galaxy Note 7 comes out 3 percent shorter and 5 percent narrower than the iPhone 6s Plus.
The smaller Note 7 also comes out 12 percent lighter.
We were impressed with the Note 7's build at our event hands-on. On paper, it's the same glass and aluminum design Samsung has been using on its flagships since the Galaxy S6, but in hand this one feels better than ever, with rounded edges that could be easily mistaken for an all-glass build.
You have four color options for each phone.
The Galaxy Note 7 has a 7 percent bigger screen than the iPhone – and, again, remember that the Note is still the smaller handset.
The Note 7's screen is also 29 percent sharper, based on pixel density. The iPhone's 1080p screen still looks great, but the Galaxy's QHD resolution gives it an extra eye candy pop.
Samsung's new screen is also capable of displaying HDR content, with a wide range between the lightest lights and the darkest darks.
It's the familiar AMOLED vs. IPS on the display panel front.
The Note 7 gives you the option of leaving its screen on while it sits on your desk, showing things like time, date and number of text messages on an otherwise black display.
Unless you count the Galaxy Note Edge from two years ago, the Note 7 is the first primary Galaxy Note flagship with a curved screen. Those curves slope off a bit closer to the edge than on Samsung's previous Edge phones, though, combining with the curved back to give it that smooth rounded-edge feel.
It wouldn't be a Galaxy Note without the S Pen stylus. This year the stylus is narrower, doubles its levels of pressure sensitivity over the last two models and gets its own IP68 water resistance.
Samsung also added its annual set of new software-based features, including a quick translate option that lets you instantly convert a word from one language to another (just by hovering the pen over it), a GIF creation tool and a magnification tool.
Apple's 3D Touch, which gives you iOS shortcuts by pressing deeper on the screen, has yet to be widely copied on the Android side of the aisle.
The Galaxy Note 7 is the first mainstream flagship that lets you unlock it with your eyes. Fingerprint sensors, which require next to no effort, do most of the same things the iris scanner does, though, so we're skeptical about whether this neat-sounding new trick is something you'll want to go out of your way to get.
In addition to the iris scanner, the Note still keeps its fingerprint sensor home button as a backup.
This is the first Galaxy Note to have water resistance. Its IP68 rating means it can soak continuously in 1 m (3.3 ft) of water.
On paper, camera resolutions are identical. But if the new Note ends up using the same sensor as the Galaxy S7 pair (it looks like it does), then it will have the better rear camera. As we said at the top, though, that's hardly surprising given the Note is a year-newer flagship.
Camera aperture (rear)
Part of Samsung's superior camera quality is its low-light shooting prowess, which is largely tied to its wider aperture.
Both of these handsets have Optical Image Stabilization.
The Note 7 has a 27 percent bigger battery, which might suggest longer battery life, but we'll wait for our review benchmark before saying anything definitive on that front.
If there's one feature we think Apple "needs" to add with its next iPhones, it's some form of fast-charging. This has been a huge advantage for Android flagships for the last two years.
The Note 7 also gives you the option of charging wirelessly.
The Note 7's Snapdragon 820 benchmarks a bit faster than the A9 in the 6s series, but we wouldn't be surprised if the iPhone 7 ended up being a little faster than the new Note, which is using an early 2016 CPU.
The Note doubles the iPhone's RAM, though iOS' excellent memory management means it still gives you silky-smooth multitasking.
The Note 7 quadruples the entry-level iPhone's storage. Actually, you can scratch what we said a minute ago: The single biggest feature the next iPhone needs is more than a measly 16 GB storage in the base-level tier.
The Galaxy also lets you augment its internal storage by popping in a microSD card.
Both phones let you pay for stuff by holding the handsets up to a terminal. But Samsung Pay has an advantage over Apple Pay, in that Samsung's service can simulate the swiping of a credit card at regular payment stations that don't support Apple's required NFC.
Apple has yet to toy with the world of virtual reality (at least publicly). The Note 7 unlocks the best selection of mobile VR apps, once you plug it into Samsung's latest Gear VR.
The Galaxy Note 7 launches with Android Marshmallow (with a generous layer of Samsung TouchWiz on top), but will likely get Android Nougat not too terribly long after its public release. The iPhone runs iOS 9 until next month, when iOS 10 launches.
The Note 7 is up for pre-order now, and hits store shelves on August 19.
This is a terrible time to buy the iPhone 6s Plus, at least at anything close to full price. A month from now, we should already know about the next pair of iPhones.
Starting price (full retail)
At this point, this is our biggest concern about the Note 7. In a world where you can buy a high-end flagship for US$399, Samsung actually jacked up the Note's price by $100. Is the justification the iris scanner? Water resistance? Extra storage? It's not that the Note didn't strike us as a terrific, ultra-premium phone in our event demo, it's more that its quality to price ratio could hold back our overall recommendation.View gallery - 31 images