The best iPhone 7 Plus alternatives
Eyeing the iPhone 7 Plus, but can't seem to pull the trigger? Here are some alternatives to consider. These are all top-shelf phablets with smooth performance, excellent cameras and bloat-free operating systems.
Google Pixel XL
Google's Pixel phones are often seen as the iPhones of the Android world, and for good reason. Since Google controls both the hardware and the software, there is an Apple-like harmony in the user experience.
The Google Pixel XL is quite analogous to the iPhone 7 Plus. Apart from the pure expression of the operating system, it also has an excellent camera, a high-end aluminum unibody (the Pixel adds glass accents), gorgeous 5.5-inch display and zippy internals.
On top of that, the Pixel XL supports the Daydream mobile VR headset and fast charging. It also has a headphone jack. While neither phone is expandable via microSD, the Pixel's free Google Drive cloud storage is much more generous and user-friendly than the iCloud.
The Pixel does come up short in a few areas: Unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, it doesn't have a dual-lens camera with optical zoom (though the Pixel XL's camera is so good, that doesn't bother us much), water resistance or a pressure-sensitive display. See a spec-by-spec breakdown in our comparison.
You'll have to pay an iPhone-identical price, and at the time of this writing, the phone is unavailable through its US retailers (Google Store, Best Buy and Verizon). Only Verizon allows backorders, and gives an estimated waiting time of over a month. If you want the Pixel XL now, you'll need to overpay on someplace like eBay or Swappa.
If you want a high-end Android phone with a large display and an excellent value, this is the 'droid you're looking for. For only US$439, the OnePlus 3T can go toe-to-toe with phones that are much costlier.
It's neck-and-neck with the iPhone 7 Plus in many ways: They both rock 5.5-inch/1,920 x 1,080 displays, classy aluminum builds, optical image stabilization and home buttons with built-in fingerprint sensors (no arching your index finger to the back of the phone). The phones share many of the same or similar specs. However, while the OnePlus 3T's 16 MP front/16 MP rear camera packs in the pixels, it doesn't have the iPhone's dual-lens camera, optical zoom or low-lit prowess.
Android phones in this price range are often bogged down with bloated software or heavy manufacturer skins. Not so with the OnePlus 3T. Apart from minor additions like the heavily-branded default wallpaper, the 3T's version of Android Nougat is near-stock.
Its biggest drawback for US consumers? It's only compatible with GSM networks, not major CDMA networks like Verizon or Sprint. Also, since it's not available through any carrier, you'll have to plunk down the cash up front (instead of getting a payment plan or trade-in deal through your carrier).
iPhone 6S Plus
The iPhone 6S Plus may be a generation old, but it is by no means obsolete. It also costs $120 less purchased new from Apple, though even better values could be found for lightly used and/or refurbished models. Besides, if you want a current (still sold in stores) iOS-running phablet that's not the 7 Plus, it's your only option.
The iPhone 7 Plus' major improvements over the 6S Plus are water resistance and the dual-lens 2x optical zoom camera. The two phones have the same dimensions, display size and resolution, and are nearly identical in appearance (apart from a slightly streamlined antenna line and different lineup of color variants). The other updates, including internal refreshment and hardware tweaks like the capacitive home button, are only slight jumps ahead.
One perk? The iPhone 6S Plus still has a traditional headphone jack, which is conspicuously absent from Apple's 2016 smartphone flagships. Apple has also increased its starting storage capacity to 32 GB from 16 GB, which was the entry-level capacity at launch. Our spec comparison of the two phones break things down further.
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
For years, the Galaxy S series has offered top-of-the-heap premium Android phones. The Galaxy S7 edge phablet is no exception, with its striking curved glass-and-aluminum build, capable internals, industry-leading water resistance and excellent camera. It also boasts expandable storage and Gear VR support.
Our only hesitation in recommending it is that we're expecting a new generation of this phone to be announced in the next month or two. Considering that Samsung is on the rebound from the Note 7 fiasco, there could be some big updates worth waiting for. Even if you don't opt in for the brand new flagship, its release could drive down the price for the S7 series (especially if you go the used/refurbished route) – which would be a welcome price break for the S7 edge, which starts around $790.
Samsung does take a more aggressive approach to personalizing the Android software than some other manufacturers, but we find that the latest version of its TouchWiz skin is inoffensive and more streamlined than it has been in the past.
There isn't an abundance of premium phablets that give the iPhone 7 Plus a run for its money, but any of the above phones are well worth considering. Of course, if you're willing to abandon the phablet proportions, you could also consider a slight downgrade to the iPhone 7. Revisit New Atlas' iPhone 7 Plus review if you're still on the fence.