Every year without fail, Apple says its latest iPhone is the best one yet. That’s to be expected, of course, but just how good is it compared to the best Android handsets? In this article, I’ll be putting the iPhone 7 head to head with what’s arguably the top Android phone of 2016, the Samsung Galaxy S7.
Of course, we haven’t had the iPhone 7 in for testing yet, so we won’t be able to directly compare benchmark figures and camera samples until we’ve got one in for review. What we can do, though, is give you a quick, initial run down of how each phone’s specs differ as well as a rough idea of which phone you should be thinking of buying. I’ll be updating this article with more detailed test results as soon as we have them to hand, but until then, here’s how the iPhone 7 currently stacks up against Samsung’s Galaxy S7.
Samsung’s S7 has a glass front and rear bound together by a metal frame, but the iPhone 7 is made entirely out of aluminium. You can still (sort of) achieve that glass-like finish if you opt for the special Jet Black iPhone 7, but the rest of Apple’s colour options are all matt, making them less prone to messy fingerprints.
The iPhone 7 is also lighter than the S7, weighing a mere 138g compared to the S7’s 152g. It’s a fraction smaller as well, measuring 138 x 67 x 7.1mm as opposed to the S7’s 142 x 70 x 7.9mm. That’s not really very surprising, though, as the S7 has to accommodate a large 5.1in display. The iPhone 7, meanwhile, only has a 4.7in screen, so it’s pretty impressive that Samsung’s handset is only a few millimetres out given the extra 0.4in of screen space it has to squeeze in.
The S7 has a higher level of waterproofing protection than the iPhone 7, with its IP68 rating trumping Apple’s IP67 rating. This means the S7 can stand being submerged in up to 1.5m of water for 30 minutes rather than just a metre like the iPhone 7. In real terms, though, they’ll both survive a toilet dunking and heavy rain shower, so unless you plan on drawing a particularly deep bath, that extra 50cm of protection probably won’t make a huge amount of difference.
Both phones have a fingerprint reader hidden away in their respective home buttons, but the iPhone 7 now incorporates Apple’s Force Touch technology as well, giving you the same kind of Taptic feedback as the Macbook Pro’s Force Touch Trackpad. This is quite significant, as it essentially removes the mechanical part of the home button to make it less prone to faults and failure. It will still click when you press it, but it should hopefully be more reliable and longer-lasting than previous Apple home buttons.
The iPhone 7 has the same 4.7in, 1,134 x 750 resolution display as the iPhone 6S, which, on paper, looks pretty poor show against Samsung’s 5.1in, 2,560 x 1,440 Super AMOLED display.
However, Apple’s made several improvements to the quality of the iPhone 7’s display this year, as it’s now much brighter and supports the wider DCI-P3 colour gamut. This is the same colour gamut used by digital cinema projectors, so it should display a richer, more vibrant range of colours than the iPhone 6S display.
Of course, the S7’s display is already pretty vibrant thanks to its Super AMOLED panel, so it will be interesting to see how the S7’s colour accuracy holds up against Apple’s new IPS panels. It’s likely the iPhone 7 will be brighter overall, as I was only ever able to achieve a peak luminance level of around 490cd/m2 with the Galaxy S7, which is a long way off Apple’s claim of 650cd/m2. However, the S7 will definitely have the edge when it comes to contrast, as AMOLED’s ability to switch individual pixels on and off to produce pure 0.00cd/m2 blacks means it potentially has an infinite contrast ratio, taking it much higher than Apple’s stated ratio of just 1,300:1.
Speed is always a key proving ground for any top-end smartphone, and Samsung’s S7 is by far the fastest Android handset I’ve tested so far. Powered by one of Samsung’s octa-core 2.3GHz Exynos 8890 chips and 4GB of RAM, the S7 surpasses pretty much every other Android handset currently available, so it will be very interesting indeed to see whether it’s faster than the iPhone 7’s new A10 Fusion chip.
The iPhone 7 may have fewer cores than the S7, but Apple’s hardware has always been prized for its high levels of efficiency, which is why the iPhone 6S‘ dual-core A9 chip has a higher Geekbench 3 single core score than the S7. As a result, I’m expecting the A10 Fusion to perform a similar feat when we get one in for testing, but whether it will be able to beat the S7’s multicore score remains to be seen.
The iPhone 7 will also have a tough time beating the S7’s astonishing battery life. In our video playback test with the screen brightness set to our standard measurement of 170cd/m2, the S7 lasted an incredible 17hrs 48mins, which is far beyond Apple’s estimate of just 13hrs. As always, I’ll update this section with our own findings as soon as we can.
Both the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 have a 12-megapixel camera sensor, but the S7 has a wider f/1.7 aperture than the iPhone 7’s f/1.8 aperture. This means the S7 can let more light into its lens than its Apple rival, so it should, theoretically, produce superior pictures in low lighting conditions where there’s less light to go around.
Both phone cameras have optical image stabilisation, though, so any unwanted effects of hand-shake should be kept to a minimum on each handset. I’ll update this section as soon as I have some camera samples to compare.
For the first time ever, the entry-level iPhone 7 will be available with 32GB of storage, putting it on par with the S7. However, while the S7 also comes in a 64GB variation, it also has a microSD slot so you can expand the phone’s storage yourself at a later date. It supports cards up to 256GB in size, so you should have plenty of space for all your files.
The iPhone 7, however, doesn’t offer this level of flexibility, so the amount of storage you buy upfront is what you’ll be stuck with for the life of the handset. In this case, you have 32GB, 128GB or 256GB options available.
Of course, if you want more storage on the iPhone 7, you’re going to have to pay more for the privilege, which rather puts the iPhone 7 at a disadvantage when it comes to overall pricing. With the 32GB version available for £599, the 128GB version available for £699 and the 256GB version available for an eye-watering £799, it starts looking very expensive compared to its Samsung rival.
Right now, for instance, you can pick up a S7 SIM-free for around £549 and, if you really need it, Sandisk’s Ultra 256GB microSD card from Amazon for around £129, bringing the total cost to £678. That’s over £100 less than the 256GB iPhone 7.
SanDisk Ultra 256 GB up to 95 MB/s Class 10 microSDXC Memory Card with SD Adapter
£128.99 Buy now Most people won’t want to pay that much upfront, though, so it’s more likely you’ll be buying both phones on a contract rather than SIM-free. Again, though, the S7 has the edge here, as contracts start from around £34-per-month with no upfront cost.
The iPhone 7, on the other hand, costs around £50-per-month with varying degrees of upfront cost depending on where you shop. You can check out our Best iPhone 7 deals article for more information, but the only way to get a contract for around the same price as the S7 right now is to pay several £100s upfront, which isn’t exactly ideal.
There’s no denying that both phones are excellent in their own right, but right now, the S7 is probably better value for money, if only because it’s had six months for its price to settle down post-launch.
We’ll be putting the iPhone 7 through its paces very shortly, though, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we can give you a definitive verdict on which phone is best.