In a match between the new iPhone 7 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which smartphone comes out on top? Here's how the the expensive, stylus-navigated Note 7 stacks up to Apple's latest and greatest, the iPhone 7 Plus.
Both phablets fall in the upper end of the size spectrum of this year's flagships. The body of the iPhone 7 Plus is four millimeters taller and wider than that of the Note 7, but it also shaves off some thickness. At 7.3 millimeters thick, it's nearly 8 percent thinner than the Note 7.
The iPhone 7 Plus is comparatively dense – it's nearly 20 grams heavier than the Note 7. That's a difference of about 11 percent.
The iPhone's aluminum unibody is a little more streamlined than last year's, but mostly maintains the Apple look we're used to. Meanwhile, the Note 7's curvy glass body gives it a standout look and feel.
Apple's ditched the space gray option in favor of two new blacks, one glossy and one matte. The rest of its options are metallic tones. The Note 7 is available in a similar palette, with a blue option in lieu of Apple's pinkish rose gold.
Though the iPhone 7 Plus has a larger front surface area, its screen is actually 7 percent smaller. The iPhone's home button – which has haptic feedback (read on) – takes up more real estate than the one on the Note 7, and there's a broader "forehead" on the iPhone as well.
Apple is one of the few manufacturers holding onto IPS display technology; Samsung has long embraced AMOLED.
The Note 7 has a handy lead in resolution and pixel density.
The smaller iPhone display is bordered on all sides, but the Note 7's screen follows the rounded edges of its body, curving toward its minimal frame.
AMOLED technology helps the Note 7 offer an "always-on" option where the lock screen displays important notifications without needing to unlock the phone. No such feature on the iPhone.
The iPhone 7 Plus retains Apple's 3D touch feature, which allows for navigational shortcuts based on how hard and long the screen is pressed. The Note 7 does not have a pressure-sensitive display, but it's not necessary due to the next item.
The Note 7 remains the only high-end stylus-operated phablet on the market. The S Pen stylus offers thousands of levels of pressure sensitivity and numerous shortcuts.
According to Apple, the 7 Plus has the most powerful iPhone battery yet, but it has not released an exact mAh measurement. We'll verify that metric once we get ahold of one. On the other hand, the Note 7 has a 3,500 mAh battery, but that bulk of power may be contributing to the device's recent charging dangers and subsequent recall.
The iPhone is charged through its Lightning port, but the Note 7 uses USB-C.
We're not alone in wishing the iPhone had an expedited charging option. Fast charging is possible with the Note 7 and many other Android phones.
With the purchase of a charging pad (sold separately), Note 7 can be charged wirelessly, another iPhone incapability.
Dedicated headphone jack
Apple bid adieu to the dedicated 3.5-mm headphone jack in this year's flagships, but Samsung held onto it. Lightning-port headphones and a 3.5-mm-to-Lightning adapter ship with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
The two phones have matching megapixels in their rear cameras, but Apple just boosted the front camera to 7 megapixels. That makes for sharper selfies with the iPhone.
Smartphone manufacturers are opting for larger camera apertures across the board. That's a big help for taking pictures in darker settings. The Note 7 just barely edges out the iPhone 7 Plus's aperture size (the smaller the f-stop, the larger the aperture).
Dual lens camera for optical zoom
The iPhone 7 Plus has a dual camera with one standard 28 millimeter-equivalent lens and an additional telephoto lens. The telephoto lens brings 2x optical zoom to the iPhone for the first time, and boosts the possible digital zoom up to 10x (up from 5x previously). Bottom line, the dual lens camera takes sharper pictures of objects in the distance.
Apple also added a software-based portrait feature to the 7 Plus that can give shots a bokeh (blurred background) look that may rival DSLRs.
Optical image stabilization (OIS)
Both cameras have optical image stabilization, so you don't need to worry as much about keeping your hands steady through long exposure times.
Apple also updated the flash in its new flagships; it now has twice the LEDs and a "flicker detection" feature for adapting to artificial light. It's better tested than described, but it should be another helpful feature for making clear captures in a variety of environments.
Water resistance has finally come to the iPhone, but it's not as water safe as the Note 7. Apple's IP67 rating denotes protection from immersion in water between 15 centimeters and 1 meter deep; Note 7's IP68 rating means the phone is safe in water over 1 meter deep.
Both phones have a handy fingerprint sensor for security and shortcuts, which is practically an industry standard in middle-of-the-road and high-end phones at this point.
The Note 7 has another biometric security measure: iris scanning. Read more about this borderline party trick feature in our full-length Note 7 review.
Capacitive home button
The iPhone's home button has vibration-based haptic feedback similar to the Force Touch technology on its MacBook touchpads. The Note 7's physical home button keeps it simple.
Samsung released a new Gear VR headset to connect to the Note 7 via USB-C, with games available through the Oculus store. Apple touted new gaming capability during its keynote speech unveiling the iPhone 7 Plus, but has yet to touch VR.
Note 7 has 4 GB of RAM, which is twice the amount in last year's iPhones. We've yet to confirm the amount of RAM in this year's iPhones, but since Apple has always made operating efficiency a priority, we don't foresee a deficiency even if RAM doesn't budge.
The Apple new A10 fusion chip is surely powerful, but we have yet to confirm an exact processing speed. The Note 7 has an ample Snapdragon 820 chip in large markets; outside of the US, China and Japan, it has an octa core Exynos 8990 processor.
Apple majorly upped the storage capacity of the iPhone this year, with 32 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB tiers (though the jet black version is not available in the 32 GB size). 64 GB storage is the sole option for the Note 7, but that's not a major concern due to the next point.
Unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, Note 7 has microSD compatibility. With the Note, it's easy to opt for external storage if the 64 GB capacity is insufficient.
Apple Pay may have more name recognition, but Samsung Pay is actually easier for merchants to accept. Apple Pay requires a contactless-capable (NFC) point of sale terminal. Samsung Pay can be used with a contactless terminal or it can mimic the swiping of a magnetic stripe. That means any merchant with a stripe reader should be able to accept Samsung Pay.
The iPhone 7 Plus ships with iOS 10. The Note 7 has started shipping with Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Samsung's custom skin. Samsung has stated the Note 7 will receive the Nougat update before the end of this year, but in light of more urgent issues (see below) we wonder if that will prove true.
The Note 7 hit shelves a month earlier, but was almost immediately recalled due to a manufacturing defect that caused some batteries to explode or catch fire. Now, Note 7 replacements and shipping seem to be a little touch-and-go. Apple unveiled the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus at their September 7th keynote event; the new phones start shipping September 16th.
The Galaxy Note 7 has more features that the iPhone lacks than vice versa, but are they worth almost $100 extra? It's debatable, especially if you're wary about the Samsung recall. To us, the features most likely to make or break the decision (apart from operating system loyalty) are the stylus and dual lens camera.