iPhone 7 Plus vs. Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
How does the latest and greatest iPhone match up against the most analogous flagship from its biggest Android competitor? Let's weigh the iPhone 7 Plus against the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, one spec at a time.
The new iPhone 7 Plus is nearly 5 percent taller and 7 percent wider than the S7 edge. It's also thinner than the S7 edge by about half a millimeter.
The larger, denser iPhone is almost 18 percent heavier than the S7 edge. A 31-gram difference is definitely noticeable heft.
Smartphones these days tend not to deviate very much in build. These two are about as different as leading flagships seem to get. The iPhone has its characteristic aluminum unibody; the S7 edge has a curved glass front and back that earned it big points in our review.
Water resistance has finally come to the iPhone, but its protection falls short of Samsung's. The iPhone has an IP67 water resistance rating, meaning it will withstand immersion up to one meter deep. The S7 edge's IP68 rating means it can withstand depths over one meter. Samsung has further clarified that the phone is protected in up to 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Either way, there's no need to sound a death knell if your phone is accidentally splashed or takes a quick dip.
Apple ditched the headphone jack in favor of stereo speakers and a capacitive home button, but the iPhone 7 Plus does ship with Lightning-port earbuds and an AUX-to-Lightning adapter. The S7 edge hangs onto the headphone jack, so you can can keep using your favorite headphones without being fettered by more cables.
A plus side of ditching the headphone jack is that the iPhone 7 Plus has an additional speaker, which should make amplifying "hacks" like cupping the speaker obsolete. Apple has said the stereo speakers will make the iPhone twice as loud, and we look forward to putting that claim to the test.
Black, white and metallics are the palette of choice these days. The matte black and glossy jet black iPhones are black on the front as well; the metallic colors sport the white fronts we've grown used to seeing from Apple. Samsung keeps it simple with monochrome phones and three different color options.
Despite being bigger and heavier, the iPhone has the same size screen as the S7 edge. Presumably, that extra header and footer space is being used for speaker, camera and home button hardware. Meanwhile, the S7 edge has a higher screen-to-surface size ratio.
No question here – the S7 edge is the clear winner in this department. Its pixel density is 28-percent higher than the iPhone's, for truly superior display sharpness.
Both manufacturers have been loyal to the same screen technologies for years.
True to its name, the S7 edge's screen hugs the curves of its glass front. The iPhone screen is a typical flat rectangle.
The S7 edge's always-on setting places key notifications, like time and message count, on the phone screen at all times. You still need to "wake up" the iPhone 7 to view your notifications.
This unique Apple feature is better known by its proprietary name, 3D Touch. The pressure-sensitive display launches iOS shortcuts based on how hard you touch the screen.
This biometrics-driven security measure isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It's integrated into the capacitive home button on the iPhone (read on) and the physical home button on the S7 edge.
Capacitive home button
Not only does the iPhone's home button contain its fingerprint sensor, it also gives haptic vibrational feedback for a tactile, shortcut-driven experience.
The Galaxy does have capacitive menu and recent apps keys flanking its home button, but they lack the iPhone's nifty Force Click feedback that makes it feel physical.
The pixel density of the S7 can be put to good use with a Gear VR headset. Apple spoke about gaming several times during this year's iPhone reveal event, but if VR is on the horizon, the company didn't show it.
The rear-facing cameras are neck and neck, but the 7 megapixel front camera on the iPhone translates to sharper selfies.
While dual-lens cameras can be used to accomplish different things (for example, the Honor 8 uses one lens to capture monochrome and the other to capture full-color), the iPhone 7 Plus pairs a traditional lens and a telephoto lens. The result? 2x optical zoom, for sharper shooting from a distance. It's not the first smartphone to offer optical zoom – the Asus Zenfone did it last year and Samsung tried it with a novelty phone three years ago – but the S7 edge is still restricted to digital zoom only.
Camera aperture (rear)
Both flagships opted for bigger lens apertures this year. This is a good thing: Larger apertures allow for better low-light shooting and (sometimes) depth-of-field manipulation closer to a DSLR. The S7 edge comes out on top here – the lower the f-stop, the larger the aperture.
Optical image stabilization (OIS)
Both phones have OIS, which minimizes unwanted camera blur. This hardware feature keeps the phone's imaging sensor stable, even if your hands quake.
Apple hasn't released a specific mAh spec for the iPhone 7's battery, but we will be able to confirm that soon after the phones start shipping. Apple has given battery life estimates: up to 21 hours of 3G talk time; up to 13 hours of internet browsing over 3G or LTE or 15 hours over Wi-Fi.
The S7 edge's 3,600 mAh battery offers up to 36 hours of 3G talk time. For internet use, it's up to 13 hours over 3G, 14 hours over LTE, or 15 hours over Wi-Fi.
Apple has yet to offer any alternatives to single-speed charging via the Lightning port. The S7 edge can get fully charged in a fraction of the time.
With the purchase of an additional charge pad accessory, the S7 edge can be charged wirelessly.
Apple's built-in storage tiers have finally caught up to the 21st century. If you're eying that glossy jet black iPhone, know that it's only available in the two larger sizes.
There are no expandable storage options for the iPhone, so the increased built-in storage mentioned above is an important step up. However, the S7 edge has a microSD slot, so its lower levels of built-in storage are not as much of an issue. Through microSD, you can add an additional 256 GB.
The iPhone is equipped with Apple Pay, which requires merchants to have a contactless payment reader. The S7 edge has Samsung Pay, which can mimic the swipe of a magnetic strip in addition to being scanned by a reader.
The S7 edge has more RAM than the iPhone, but at least the iPhone RAM capacity has been inched up from last year's paltry 2 GB. Historically, iPhones have performed smoothly even with relatively low RAM, but we'll have a better idea about that when we perform our full-length review.
Similarly, we have not yet tested Apple's new A10 fusion chip, but the Snapdragon processor in the S7 edge has already proven itself duly capable. In regions outside of the US, China and Japan, the S7 edge has an octa core Exynos 8990 instead.
This year's iPhone flagships ship with iOS 10. The S7 edge is currently running Android 6.0 Marshmallow with its custom Samsung Touchwiz UI. Speculation suggests it will get the Nougat update in early 2017.
The iPhone 7 Plus is just about to start shipping; the Galaxy S7 edge is six months old.
Starting price (full retail)
The iPhone 7 Plus starts at US$769. Galaxy prices vary depending on carrier and payment plan, but expect to shell out about $790.
In many ways, these premium phablets are neck and neck. Each has perks that the other does not, and the price point is nearly identical. Personal usage preferences should therefore end up taking a bigger role in the decision making process than parameters like power or price. Crave the convenience of fast charging, love VR gaming, and have a soft spot for a curved display? The S7 edge has got your number. Think you'll put the optical zoom to good use, you want sharper selfies, and iOS is your happy place? iPhone it is.