Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Apple iPhone 6s

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Apple and Samsung have long vied for US smartphone market supremacy, and in 2016, each has a mid-sized flagship in its arsenal: the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Apple iPhone 6s.

Despite the obvious Android and iOS differences, these models have similar designs and feature sets. We already compared the larger Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and Apple iPhone 6s Plus. So for those that want something smaller, which is the best?

Build and Design

The Samsung Galaxy S7 has a slightly larger screen, so it’s not surprising that it’s a bit bigger and heavier than the iPhone 6s. But the differences are so slight that they don’t affect real world use.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 has a slightly larger display and build.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 has a slightly larger display and build.

Apple offers its iPhone 6S in silver, gold, space gray, and rose gold, while Samsung offers the S7 in silver titanium, gold platinum, and black onyx (some US carriers don’t offer the silver S7).  Both devices look fashionable, and depending on color look appropriate for a board room or a nightclub.

They share one unfortunate feature: each smartphone has a slick casing that makes it hard to grip, and makes it easy for it to slide off a desk of table. That’s why we strongly recommend a case that can add some traction.

The Galaxy S7’s most significant design advantage is that it’s IP68 rated, meaning it can technically survive in as much as 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. But as we stated in our S7 preview, this feature is better suited for spill resistance and surviving a rain storm.

While not waterproof, the Apple iPhone 6S seems more durable. This is backed up by smartphone warranty company SquareTrade. It found Apple’s flagship survived its tumble test unscathed thanks to its casing made out of 7000 series aluminum, and had just cosmetic screen damage after being dropped on one corner 10 times from six feet up. The Galaxy S7 didn’t survive the tumble test nearly as well, sustaining “significant damage” to its back panel and minor cracks in the display. This device’s screen also cracked after being dropped on its corner 4 times. Both the iOS and Android devices resisted bending at 170 pounds of pressure.

Display

The Apple iPhone 6s has a 3D Touch display that sets it apart.

The Apple iPhone 6s has a 3D Touch display that sets it apart.

The Galaxy S7 has a slightly larger screen: 5.1 inches to the iPhone’s 4.7 inches. This isn’t a dramatic difference, but to many people even a modest increase in display size is welcome.

The Galaxy S7 also has a higher resolution at 2560 x 1440 and a higher density at a whopping 577 pixels per inch. The iPhone 6s has a 1335 x 750 resolution, resulting in a 326 ppi count. Apple’s claim here is that the iPhone’s pixel density is at the point the human eye sees the display as a continuous surface, not as bunch of tiny dots. This raises an important point: at some point increased pixel density is overkill, and the S7 is well past it. Text and images on both these screens are very sharp, and all the extra pixels on Samsung’s phone do not improve things.

On the other hand, the S7’s Super AMOLED display looks much nicer. This is a technology in which each pixel glows on its own, rather than depending on a backlight, which results in vivid colors. Our review of the Android model said its display is “real beauty,” and the “colors are deep and well saturated.” This isn’t to suggest the iPhone 6S LCD is ugly, but it’s not as good as the S7. Here it’s the difference between great and wonderful.

The Apple smartphone’s pressure-sensitive screen, a system called 3D Touch, is a highlight. This enables the user to press hard on the screen to bring up a convenient menu of frequently used options, which can be a real timesaver.

Ports, Buttons, and Speakers

Users can increase the Galaxy S7’s storage by up to 200GB with a microSD card. Apple continues its refusal to put an equivalent memory card slot in any of its iOS devices. 

The Apple iPhone 6s' fingerprint reader is especially reliable and consistent.

The Apple iPhone 6s’ fingerprint reader is especially reliable and consistent.

Apple iPhone 6s users looking for additional storage capacity can turn to flash drives and microSD card readers that connect to the device’s Lightning data and charging port, but this serves as more of a workaround than an equivalent. Samsung’s offering has a microUSB port, which can be also used for flash drives and card readers, and Samsung’s excellent Gear VR.

Both smartphones include a large home button below the displays that serves double duty as a fingerprint scanner.  We’ve long been pleased with Apple’s biometric security system as its proven consistent, reliable, and fast.  We described Samsung’s as “finicky” on the S7.

The S7 also has a pulse reader, which can be handy for those who want to use their phone as part of their fitness regime. 

Both models have the usual power buttons and volume controls, all in the usual places.

Specs

iPhone 6s

  • 5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
  • 5.04 oz
  • 4.7 inch LCD display, 1334 x 750 resolution, 326 pixels per inch
  • 16, 64, or 128GB  storage
  • 2GB RAM

Galaxy S7

  • 5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
  • 5.36 oz
  • 5.1 inch Super AMOLED display, 2560 x 1440, 577 pixels per inch
  • 32GB storage
  • 4GB RAM

Performance

The S7 supports microSD cards, giving it expandable storage up to 200GB.

The S7 supports microSD cards, giving it expandable storage up to 200GB.

The iPhone 6s is built around a 64-bit, 1.84 GHz, dual-core Apple A9 processor, with 2GB of RAM.  The US Galaxy S7 has 4GB of RAM and is powered by a 64-bit Snapdragon 820 processor that sports one pair of cores clocked at 1.6GHz and a second, faster pair at 2.15GHz.

The result is that the Galaxy S7 performs better on the Geekbench 3 multicore benchmarking test, which Samsung netting a score of 4980 to Apple’s 4330.

Because benchmarks never tell the whole story, neither device is a slouch when it comes to real world performance, handling even the most demanding applications easily. Day-to-day functionality is essentially instantaneous on both.

Apple offers 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB versions of its flagship, while Samsung offers only a 32GB version. That said, the Galaxy S7’s microSD slot allows users to add up to 200GB of additional capacity, so Apple’s advantage here is slight.

Software

At the time of this writing, the iPhone runs Apple iOS 9.3 while the Galaxy is on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. For a more in-depth feature on the differences, see our Android vs iOS comparison.

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Samsung tweaks Android with its TouchWiz UI to include some features the company thinks are missing from Google’s version. Most notably, Samsung includes its split-screen multitasking system, which is nice in theory but has limited usefulness on a 5.1-inch screen. This is much more effective on a tablet.

The iPhone generally has less bloatware, applications for services that manufacturers insist on putting on devices that most people don’t want and can’t delete. The amount of this varies from wireless carrier to carrier, though. Our Verizon Galaxy S7 was loaded down with bloatware, with five apps from Samsung and a handful of Verizon services. Out of the box, the OS and preloaded software takes up about 9.5GB with the Galaxy S7, and a bit less than 5GB on the iPhone 6s.

Wireless

No advantages here, as both the iPhone and the Galaxy are very well supplied with 4G LTE as well as all the latest Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band) and Bluetooth (version 4.2) standards.

Apple, Google, and Samsung each have their own competing wireless payment systems that make use of NFC, but adoption of these by retailers is still in its infancy. However, Samsung Pay supports MTS readers, meaning it can be accepted at just about any swipe card reader, regardless of NFC.

Camera

Apple Live Photos add video and audio with a still image.

Apple Live Photos add video and audio with a still image.

There’s a 12-megapixel camera that’s capable of taking sharp, beautiful pictures built into both of these phones, and each has an advantage over the other. With the S7, it’s outstanding performance in low-light conditions and fast focus. The S7 has an LED flash, but it barely needs it. The iPhone 6s supports Live Photos, an Apple system that includes short videos along with each picture, bring motion and audio to them.

Again, both have 5MP front cameras. In this case, though, the advantage is all for Apple: the iPhone’s display glows white at full power when taking a selfie, which acts as a basic but effective flash. 

Battery

Our benchmark testing shows that the iPhone 6s has a longer battery life than its rival. The exact amount of difference varies depending on how the devices are being used — web browsing, phone calls, video, etc. — but Apple’s offering consistently came out at least a bit ahead. That said, both devices can make it through a typical day of moderate use on a single charge, but neither is up to multiple days unless they are used very little

An advantage for Samsung is its quick-charging technology, as well as built-in wireless charging. These simplify the process of converting a phone with a low battery into something useful.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a slightly better smartphone.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a slightly better smartphone.

Based on our experiences with Apple’s and Samsung’s mid-sized flagship smartphones, we give the Galaxy S7 a narrow victory. It has a somewhat nicer screen, moderately faster performance, it’s water resistant, and it has a microSD card slot.

This isn’t to suggest the iPhone 6s is a slouch. It stands up to punishment better than its rival, has a generally longer battery life, and comes with more built-in storage options.

Samsung’s victory isn’t dramatic enough to encourage iPhone users to switch over, and the iPhone 6s doesn’t offer enough for any Android-to-iOS converts. Both are quality devices, and users will be pleased either way.

Value

The retail price for the iPhone 6s starts at $649 for the 16GB version, while the 32GB Galaxy S7v ranges from $600 to $700 depending on the carrier. Neither really comes out ahead in this category.

Whether these two are a good value in general is another question. Flagship phones are always the most expensive, and are therefore intended for people willing to pay extra to get the latest and greatest. The older iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 are almost as good as the latest models and sells for roughly $100 less.


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