Samsung Galaxy S7 vs. LG G5
Two of the biggest phones of the year were launched head-to-head at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. How does the smaller of Samsung's two 2016 flagship phones compare with LG's innovative modular handset? Let's compare the key specs and features.
A larger battery is one of the reasons Samsung's Galaxy S7 is thicker than last year's GS6, but the LG G5 doesn't beat the S7 by much in the thinness department. LG's phone is also 6 percent wider and 5 percent taller.
The Galaxy S7 follows the design template of the S6 (with glass back and aluminum frame) but adds a curved back, while LG skips the leather and plastic of the G4 in favor of an all-metal unibody design.
The LG G5 has an innovative modular build, letting you yank off its bottom section and replace it with add-ons like a second battery, a camera grip with physical photography controls or a Hi-Fi music player (which can also be used on its own, without the phone).
We still don't know how much these add-ons will cost, but the G5's Modular Type design looks like it could be one of the first major innovations in smartphones from the past few years. It's the first flagship you can customize – and re-customize – to your own taste.
You have three colors to pick from with the Galaxy S7, though so far no US carriers are offering the silver option. The LG G5 will be available in four colors, including a pale pink.
The Galaxy S7 is 4 percent lighter, but since it's the smaller phone, the G5 has the slightly better size-to-weight ratio.
The G5 has an 8 percent bigger display. Those who want a bigger Samsung smartphone can always opt for the 5.5-inch Galaxy S7 edge (not included in this comparison).
We're looking at the same display specs for the Galaxy S7 as we saw for the S6, and, like LG's last two flagships, the G5 also matches its razor-sharp Quad HD resolution.
No surprises here as Samsung sticks with the bright and vibrant Super AMOLED vs. the G5's IPS.
Both manufacturers have come up with always-on display technology so you can see the time, date and various notifications while your phone is sitting on a desk. Both Samsung and LG say the impact on battery life is minimal.
Adding a finely tuned fingerprint sensor is standard practice on top-end smartphones these days and the Galaxy S7 and G5 are no different. Their locations are different, though, with the Galaxy's sensor living inside its home button while the G5's sits on its backside, below the camera (similar to the Nexus 6P and 5X).
The GS7's Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 is what you'll find on US, China or Japan versions – everywhere else, the phone will come with the octa core Samsung Exynos 8990 in its place.
The G5, meanwhile, will give you the same Snapdragon processor no matter where you call home.
Both handsets ship with 4 GB of RAM.
So far US carriers are only offering the 32 GB option for the Galaxy S7 (see the next entry if you find that disconcerting) but everywhere else you can bump up the internal storage to 64 GB or 128 GB.
The G5 only offers 32 GB internal storage, period. Though the G5's 360 CAM module (that's the camera grip one) does add another 4 GB if you use it.
Both these phones will accept microSD cards up to 2 TB in size, but neither are making use of Android Marshmallow's adoptable storage feature, which makes internal and external storage appear as one. That means, like in previous smartphones with microSD slots, their use is limited to storing things like photos, videos and music files.
The Galaxy S7 gets a bump in battery power compared to its predecessor, while the LG G5 comes in a bit behind at 2,800 mAh. If you buy the LG 360 CAM accessory, though, then you get an extra 1,200 mAh of juice to play around with.
There are no removable batteries in the Samsung Galaxy range any longer, but it's one of the key features of the LG G5, with that swappable battery module. If you buy the accessory, juicing up your phone will be as simple as unloading and reloading.
We only wish LG had put a second (much smaller) battery inside so you could leave the phone powered on for truly on-the-fly battery swapping. As it stands, you'll need to power it down and back on, just like swapping out batteries on past Android flagships that had accessible battery compartments.
Samsung sticks with microUSB for data and charging purposes (we're guessing to maintain compatibility with the Gear VR without having to release a new model just a few months after the original), while the LG G5 opts for the newer, faster and reversible USB Type-C.
Both phones use Qualcomm's Quick Charge tech, but the G5 has the upper hand here. It's one of the first phones to use the Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 standard, which can supposedly juice up a phone 27 percent faster and 45 percent more efficiently than the (already fast) Quick Charge 2.0 found in the GS7.
Samsung's 2016 flagship line again supports wireless charging, and faster-than-normal wireless charging if you buy the official (US$70) Samsung fast charging pad.
For snapping photos on the go, Samsung is talking up the Galaxy S7's excellent low light performance and improved focus speeds. The company says the new phone's lens lets in 97 percent more light than the one on the Galaxy S6.
The LG G5 uses a dual-lens 16 MP camera around the back. One of these lenses has a 135 mm wide angle view, enabling you to get more in your shot if needed. It also lets you take wide angle and standard shots simultaneously.
Camera aperture (rear)
The GS7 has the slightly wider aperture, though that's only one factor in its supposed low-light improvements, alongside increased pixel size.
The rear-facing cameras on both handsets come with Optical Image Stabilization to cut down on camera-shake and blur from your over-caffeinated hands.
The Galaxy S7 uses a new (internal) approach to water resistance that protects your phone against water and dust without adding extra bulk or flaps across the ports. That IP68 rating equates to spending up to 30 minutes at a depth of up to 1.5 meters (around 5 ft) underwater.
There's no such water and dust protection on the LG G5, so you're going to have to be more careful with it ... or just invest in a suitably rugged case. The new modular design was probably one reason LG couldn't add any officially-rated protection from the elements.
Virtual reality is big news this year, and both phones are riding that wave. You can pair the Galaxy S7 with the Gear VR and the LG G5 with LG's considerably less appealing headset. In addition to content (huge advantage for the Gear) and display quality (advantage, Gear), another big difference is that the Galaxy S7 slides inside the Gear VR while the G5 attaches to the LG headset via cable.
If you preorder a Samsung Galaxy S7 before March 18 then you get a free Gear VR (and six games) thrown in. Otherwise it retails for $99. There's no pricing news on the LG 360 VR yet.
Both phones run Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the gate, together with each company's own customizations (Samsung TouchWiz and LG UI) sitting on top.
The Galaxy S7 can be yours on March 11, with preorders already open in the US. You'll need to wait a bit longer for the G5, as April is all we know so far about the G5's release date.
Starting price (full retail)
Price-wise you can expect to pay roughly $670 full retail for a Samsung Galaxy S7, though most US shoppers will pay that over two years on an installment plan.
LG hasn't yet spilled the beans on pricing for the G5 or – another announcement we'll be watching closely – any of its modular add-ons. If the clip-on modular accessories are too expensive, that will put a big damper on what's otherwise a bold, forward-thinking smartphone.