Can the OnePlus 3 compete with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 for less than half the starting price? Since OnePlus pulled out a few new tricks with this year's flagship and ditched its invite-only purchasing system, this is a more relevant question than ever. Here, we take a side-by-side look at the two smartphones.
The Galaxy Note 7 is one millimeter taller than the OnePlus 3 and one millimeter narrower. It is also half a millimeter thicker. Despite having a slightly smaller surface area, though, the Note actually has the bigger screen (read on).
The Note 7's extra depth and dense build make it nearly 7 percent heavier than the OnePlus 3.
OnePlus made some dramatic improvements in the looks department since last year's phone with interchangeable backs, but its aluminum unibody still looks rather garden-variety next to the Note 7's glassy curves.
There are four body color options for the Note 7; only two for OnePlus 3.
The Note 7 put a larger screen onto a smaller-faced phone. At 5.7 inches on the diagonal, it's 7 percent larger (based on area) than the OnePlus 3.
The OnePlus 3's 1080p display looks just fine until you compare it with the Note's extra-sharp 1440p display. The difference is certainly noticeable, especially if you use the phone to run a VR application.
Samsung's been using AMOLED for years, but OnePlus just made the switch from IPS.
Both displays have a dim "always-on" mode that shows key notifications at a glance. This option is a perk of AMOLED technology.
The curved display is a style trademark of Samsung's latest Galaxy series. The rounded edges make the phone look extra sleek and also play a role in achieving the larger display size mentioned above. The OnePlus 3 display has standard angled edges.
The stylus is a pivotal feature for many power users. The Note 7 is the best stylus-navigated phablet on the market.
Since the Note 7's S Pen stylus has 4,096 different levels of pressure sensitivity, a pressure-sensitive display may be a bit redundant. But the OnePlus 3 also lacks any technology similar to Apple's 3D Touch.
The number of megapixels on the Note 7 actually decreased since the Note 5 (there was no Note 6), but Samsung made up for it with other camera upgrades (read on).
The OnePlus 3 packs on the pixels in both the front and back cameras. It takes selfies seriously: Not only does it have an above-average pixel count on the front camera, it also has an automated "Smile Capture" feature so hitting the shutter doesn't interfere with snapping your next profile pic.
Camera aperture (rear)
The larger camera aperture is a new addition from Samsung. A larger aperture means more light to your camera's sensor, which often leads to better low-light captures.
Optical image stabilization (OIS)
Optical Image Stabilization helps keep photos blur-free despite shaky hands.
Physical camera shortcut
On the Note 7, you can open the camera by double-tapping its home button. The OnePlus 3 has a similar shortcut tied to the power button.
The Note 7 battery is nearly 17 percent larger. That doesn't always correspond perfectly to battery life, though, so stay tuned for our full review.
Both phones have cabled fast charging modes.
Samsung continues to use wireless charging in its flagships.
These batteries aren't going anywhere.
Strangely, the OnePlus 3 launch event was held in virtual reality, and OnePlus Loop VR headsets for viewing it were given away as part of the promotion, but the phone itself is not particularly optimized for VR. Loop VR is essentially a Google Cardboard viewer, compatible with almost any smartphone. We also haven't heard anything about the OnePlus 3 being Google Daydream ready.
In big markets, the smartphones have identical processors. Outside of the US, China and Japan, Samsung uses the octa core Exynos 8990 in the Note 7.
Most people would consider the 4 GB of RAM in the Note 7 ample, but OnePlus steps it up to 6 GB in its 2016 flagship.
Both phones come with 64 GB of built-in storage.
The Note 7 is equipped for external storage. With the OnePlus3, you'll have to make do with internal storage only.
The Note 7 has Samsung Pay, which has only launched in the US and Korea. Samsung Pay works at almost any merchant where cards can be swiped, thanks to Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) technology that emulates magnetic strip swiping. The OnePlus 3 works with Android Pay, which is used in more countries, but requires vendors to have a Near Field Communication (NFC) terminal.
Both phones have a reliable fingerprint sensor.
The Note 7 also has a built-in iris scanner, for the kind of security typically reserved for accessing the mother lode at a casino or a supervillain's top-secret headquarters.
Like most smartphones, the OnePlus 3 is not water resistant. But the whole Galaxy 7 series (also including the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge) has IP68 water resistance, so you don't have to worry about dropping it into a sink or toilet.
All major networks
The OnePlus 3 is unlocked, but it is not compatible with CDMA networks like Verizon or Sprint. The Note 7 works across all major networks.
Both phones run Android Marshmallow, but the OnePlus' OxygenOS is very close to stock "pure Google" Android, while Samsung has a rather potent layer of its TouchWiz UI (which also includes all of the Note's stylus and note-taking goodies, as well as iris scanning) on top.
The OnePlus 3 beat the Note 7 to market by just a couple of months.
Starting price (full retail)
While the Note 7 price varies depending on country, carrier and package, it rings up for about US$850 full retail. The OnePlus 3 is $399. Suddenly, the small differences in the columns above don't necessarily seem like deal breakers.
The Note 7 is unquestionably the higher-end phone, and there are benefits to purchasing from a large company like Samsung (the option of carrier installment plans, more robust support, more accessories available). But is it worth $450 more?
It could be a toss-up for many. Those who root for the underdog might take a shine to the ambitious OnePlus brand. For die-hard stylus users, the Note 7 is the obvious choice. For consumers eyeing costs, it's got to be the OnePlus 3. All other types of users should take a closer look at specs and weigh them against their own needs. The Galaxy Note 7 is an impressive device, but the OnePlus 3 is a real contender.
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