Apple and Samsung have always dominated the smartphone market, offering mobile badge with a potent combination of powerful hardware, software and unique functional characteristics.
The recent announcement of the iPhone 7 takes things to a higher level by adding a beefed-up processor, significant improvements in the camera, and waterproofing. Let’s take a look at how the new flagship Apple compared to the Samsung Galaxy S7, one of the best Android phones available.
The iPhone 7 has an attractive design language that retains most of the main elements of last year’s iPhone 6s. You have a metal unibody build (now in glossy jet black or matte black), a glass front that curves at the side to meet the edges, and fairly standard button placement.
The biggest change is the controversial removal of the 3.5mm audio jack at the bottom; the home button is also now a force-sensitive “taptic” feedback button. According to Apple, space considerations prompted the headphone jack removal (consumers must now use the Lightning connector or wireless headphones), while the changes to the home button are to make it responsive and programmable by third-party apps. Another more minor change is integrated antennas, which effectively removes the antenna lines from the back of the phone.
Samsung’s S7 also wasn’t a huge design upgrade over its predecessor. The phone has a glass front and back, a combination of physical home button and capacitive buttons, and a metal strip along the sides. The iPhone 7 measures 5.44 by 2.64 by 0.28 inches and weighs 4.87 ounces, making it a bit lighter than the S7 (5.61 by 2.74 by 0.31 inches, 5.36 ounces). But both should be easy to use one-handed, and in our view, are equally attractive phones in their own right.
Samsung is the king of displays and Apple’s iPhone 7 doesn’t do much to change that. You still have a 4.7-inch 1,334-by-750 Retina HD display, which works out to 326 pixels per inch, a fairly crisp density taking into account its small screen size. Apple also calibrates the display exceedingly well, supporting a wide color gamut, and increasing screen brightness by 25 percent. That said, it won’t match the 5.1-inch 2,560-by-1,440 SAMOLED panel on the S7, which is sharper at 577ppi and has rich, saturated colors and true black.
The iPhone 7 has IP67 dust and waterproofing, meaning it can withstand being submerged in about 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. By contrast, the S7 is IP68 waterproof, allowing you to submerge the phone in 6 feet of water for 30 minutes. It’s not likely to make a difference for most people in real-world usage, as both phones will survive spills, rain, and drops into toilets. As long as you don’t go swimming with the iPhone 7, it should survive just as well as the S7. If you do want to swim, use the Apple Watch Series 2.
Apple may have eliminated the headphone jack from the iPhone 7, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on the sound. The phone now has dual stereo speakers, one on the bottom and one on the top, which Apple claims are two times louder than the 6s. The S7 has a single bottom speaker by contrast, though we’ll have to get the iPhone 7 into PC Labs to determine how audio quality really stacks up.
Processor and Battery
The iPhone 7 has a 64-bit A10 Fusion chip, one of the most powerful new processors available. According to Apple, this chip is 50 percent faster than the A9, has a better GPU, and should be able to give you “console-level gaming on an iPhone.” Naturally, without putting the phone through its paces, it’s premature to judge how well it performs, but it sounds like a snappy chipset that should be capable of matching (or surpassing) the 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 820 processor on the S7. The iPhone 7 is expected to have 2GB of RAM, which is less than the 4GB of RAM on the S7, but performance will depend on real-world usage. Apple iPhones generally don’t run many apps in the back compared with Android phones and tend to be more optimized in general.
Apple has given the battery life of the iPhone 7 a boost, claiming that it can last two hours longer than the iPhone 6s with a wireless video playback time of 13 hours. We still don’t know battery capacity, but it’s reasonable to think that it has increased. In our rundown test, the Galaxy S7 lasted for nine hours when we streamed full-screen video over LTE at maximum brightness, one of the highest scores we’ve seen. The iPhone 6s by contrast, only managed four hours, 21 minutes. If Apple’s claim holds up, the iPhone 7 should manage over six hours in our grueling test, but again, that’s something we’ll be testing in PC Labs.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is well-regarded for having the best camera on an Android phone, but the iPhone 7 might give it a run for its money. It has a 12-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization and a f/1.8 aperture, giving it a bigger pixel size, better low-light capabilities, and longer exposure. The sensor matches the S7’s 12-megapixel shooter on paper, but the iPhone 7’s new image signal processor should use machine learning to process pictures and take ideal shots with tone mapping, noise reduction, and a wide color gamut. Apple has always excelled in post-processing, even if its hardware hasn’t always matched up to its competitors, so it will be interesting to see how it compares with the S7 in a shootout.
In other regards, both phones have everything you’d expect, including 4K video recording at 30fps and 1080p at 60fps. The iPhone 7 has a 7-megapixel FaceTime camera compared with the 5-megapixel front camera of the S7. Both should give you good shots, but the iPhone 7 camera again seems like it has more software features with auto image stabilization, exposure control, wide color capture, deep trench isolation, Live Photos, and Retina Flash.
Software is always a difficult aspect to compare. Android and iOS have drawn closer with more shared features, but they’re still fundamentally different experiences, so it’s hard to say one is objectively better than the other. A lot depends on what you’re looking for. Do you like customizing every aspect of your phone from the icons to the animations, and using third-party apps that give you an unprecedented level of control over your device? Then Android is right for you. If you prefer a less fragmented experience, better app support, and more reliable updates, go with iOS. For enthusiasts, rooting and jailbreaking are options.
That said, the iPhone 7 will ship with iOS 10 (everyone else will get it on Sept. 13). It adds a range of new features like raise to wake, an expansion of Siri’s capabilities to third-party apps, machine learning, and home automation integration. The Samsung Galaxy S7 is currently available with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, but it’s expected to getAndroid 7.0 Nougat, which received our Editors’ Choice for being a polished and useful version of Android that incorporates split-screen app viewing, VR support, and general improvements to notifications.
Both phones support dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, and LTE bands for all major US carriers.
Price and Availability
The Apple iPhone 7 will be available in jet black, black, silver, gold, and rose gold colors. Its configurations are 32GB for $649, 128GB for $749, and 256GB for $849. The jet black and black iPhone 7 only come in 128GB and 256GB flavors. Pre-orders start Friday, Sept. 9, and devices ship Friday, Sept. 16. It will be available on T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and directly through Apple.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is already out and available in the US for $672 on the four major carriers or $699.99 unlocked. Its only configuration for US customers is 32GB, but it does support microSD cards, though with Android’s adoptable storage disabled, making the base configuration of the iPhone 7 slightly more affordable.
Ultimately, the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 are both excellent phones that share beautiful, premium builds, powerful hardware, and many interesting features. You can’t go wrong choosing either, but we’ll be putting the iPhone 7 to the test here at PC Labs, so stay tuned for our full review.