Samsung Galaxy S7 vs. iPhone 6s
The iPhone vs. Galaxy dilemma lives on in 2016, as the dynamic between the two most popular brands in smartphones (by a longshot) has changed yet again, with the release of Samsung's latest models. Let's see how the new Galaxy S7 compares to Apple's iPhone 6s.
The Galaxy S7 is 4 percent taller and 5 percent wider than the iPhone 6s. The iPhone is 10 percent thinner and, curiously, both phones are a bit thicker than their respective predecessors.
Keep in mind that both handsets have bigger phablet siblings, the Galaxy S7 edge and iPhone 6s Plus, that we aren't including in this comparison (we'll get to them soon enough).
The iPhone 6s is 6 percent lighter.
Like last year's Galaxy flagships, the S7 has a glass back and aluminum frame, but this year its back is curved – similar to the Note 5.
That asterisk is sitting next to the silver Galaxy S7 because US wireless carriers are up to their old shenanigans again, this time not offering the silver version of the standard GS7 (apparently silver is a Galaxy S7 edge exclusive in the US, at least for now).
Unless you're drawn towards the iPhone in other categories, then this could be one of the biggest reasons to go with the Galaxy. For only a little more size and weight, its screen is 18 percent bigger.
The Galaxy S7 also has a 77 percent sharper display, based on pixel density. The iPhone's display looks great in other ways (and 326 PPI still looks fairly sharp), but for this 4.7-inch model Apple is clinging to the same PPI that we saw on 2010's iPhone 4.
This is familiar ground, as Super AMOLED vs. IPS is par for the course in iPhone vs. Galaxy showdowns.
This year Samsung threw in an always-on display for the GS7, which lets you glance at the time, date and notifications without touching your phone.
Apple's 3D Touch lets you take some shortcuts around iOS by pressing your finger on the screen with a little (or a lot) force to pop up previews and bring up menu items.
We found 3D Touch to make the experience a little zippier, and it is more than a gimmick. With that said, we also aren't sold on it as a must-have game-changer (i.e. we don't miss it on other phones).
Both handsets have excellent touch-based fingerprint sensors on their home buttons.
You can use either phone as a sort of wallet replacement, with either Samsung Pay or Apple Pay. Samsung's advantage is that it can work at most regular credit card terminals, not requiring the NFC adapters that need to be installed for Apple Pay.
The Galaxy S7 has a much bigger (higher-capacity) battery, but we'll need to run some battery tests on a S7 review unit before we can jump to any conclusions here.
While nearly all high-end Android flagships these days have Quick Charge tech, Apple has yet to go that route with the iPhone.
The Galaxy S7 still supports wireless charging, as well as fast wireless charging, provided you throw down for a special US$70 Samsung charging pad.
Both phones' batteries are sealed shut. If you want to swap out for a fresh one on the go, you may want to look at the LG G5.
Samsung included a liquid cooling system in the Galaxy S7, which could help your phone chill out during lengthier gaming sessions (including the next category).
If you're interested in mobile VR as an entry-level alternative to high-end gear like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, then the Galaxy S7 is the far better choice, as the $99 Gear VR is far and away the best mobile VR right now. And if you pre-order the GS7, you get the Gear VR for free.
You can pick up third-party mobile VR headsets that will kinda work with the iPhone, but none of them come remotely close to the experience of the Gear. For starters, the iPhone's 4.7-inch screen makes for too narrow a field of view to provide high-quality VR, plus iOS' selection of VR content is extremely weak compared to the Oculus Store's.
Camera resolution is tied up – and both phones take terrific shots. Based on our brief hands-ons, we think the Galaxy S7 has a strong chance of beating the iPhone 6s as a camera, thanks to its incredible speed and low-light capabilities. Stay tuned.
Camera aperture (rear)
One part of the low-light equation is aperture, where the Galaxy S7 wins by a fair margin.
Physical camera shortcut
Samsung's handy home button double-tap shortcut is back, letting you fire up the camera app in record times.
For the iPhone, you'll still need to turn on the lock screen and then swipe the camera icon to jump from a sleeping phone to snapped pic.
Only Apple's larger (5.5-inch) iPhones have Optical Image Stabilization, which can help avoid blur in shaky-handed shots.
On paper, it looks like the Galaxy S7 trounces the iPhone, but you can never judge an Apple mobile chip based on its cores and clock speed alone. The A9 SoC is a speed demon, as is the Snapdragon 820 that you'll find in the US, China and Japan versions of the GS7 (the rest of the world gets an octa-core Samsung Exynos 8990 in its place).
The Galaxy S7 doubles the iPhone's RAM, though this is somewhat remedied by iOS' strong memory management.
We find it annoying that Apple is still selling 16 GB iPhones in 2015-16. With larger photo and video files, as well as bigger app sizes, that just doesn't cut it for many people anymore – at least not without a microSD slot.
Speaking of which, Samsung brought one of those back this year, to complement your internal storage.
Here's another feature Samsung brought back from the dead: like its 2014 flagship, the 2016 GS7 has built-in water resistance. Only this time it's an internal approach, not requiring the external port cover we saw on the GS5.
There have been reports that the iPhone 6s has some unofficial water resistance that Apple isn't advertising, though, so this may not be the huge advantage for the Galaxy that it appears to be.
The Galaxy S7 launches in the US on March 11, while the iPhone 6s has been around for close to six months already.
Starting price (full retail)
Base full retail prices are close (we're ballparking the Galaxy S7's number, as it varies a bit from carrier to carrier). And remember that most US shoppers will pay this total over the course of two years, rather than all at once.
Also keep in mind that the Galaxy S7 gives you double the internal storage in that entry-level tier, in addition to expandable storage. The entry-level iPhone's storage woes reek of an upselling trick, as the second-tier ($100 more expensive) iPhone 6s jumps all the way up to 64 GB.