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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs iPhone 7: What's the difference?

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Note 7 vs iPhone 7

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus: Samsung’s new phablet faces its stiffest competition yet in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

Samsung recently launched the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 to rave reviews, pairing as it does the premium design of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge with the business-orientated features of the Note phablet range.

Given the timing of its release in mid-August, Samsung’s new phone has had a month or so to build up a lead over Apple’s new flagship phone, the iPhone 7. But now that Apple has played its hand, how do the two devices compare?

WATCH: iPhone 7 vs iPhone 7 Plus – What's the difference?

While we’ve spent plenty of time with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (and no, it didn’t catch fire), given its recent unveiling, we’ve been able to observe the specs and features of the iPhone 7 only at a distance. Still, that means we already have a pretty good idea of how these two titans will stack up.

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iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Design

As alluded to already, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 borrows much of its design from the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge – which, as regular readers will know, is pretty much our favourite phone design on the market right now.

It has that alluring dual-curve display, an all-glass back (which is also curved), and that shiny finish that changes according to the angle of the light.

Related: IPhone 7 vs Galaxy S7

iPhone 7 blacks

Conversely, the iPhone 7 looks very much like last year’s iPhone 6S – itself a dead ringer for 2014’s iPhone 6 which, even at the time, wasn’t viewed as much of a looker.

There are differences to the iPhone 7, but they’re slight. There’s the rejigged antenna design, which partially rectifies one of the ugliest aspects of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S. As widely advertised, Apple has also done away with the 3.5mm headphone jack – entirely. Not that this has any significant aesthetic bearing. Nor does the iPhone 7’s newly fixed home button.

There’s good news for those who were fans of the all-black iPhones of old. Black is back, and in two shades no less. Out goes Space Grey, and in comes Dark Black and glossy Piano Black – all the better to co-ordinate with those all-black Apple Watch models.

We’d perhaps back the iPhone 7 when it comes to robustness. The iPhone 6S was a surprisingly rugged phone that could stand up to general nicks and scrapes surprisingly well, so we’re expecting the iPhone 7 to be similar. Samsung’s recent designs, on the other hand, seem to scratch and dink if you so much as look at them sharply – and there are reports of the Note 7 being rather scratch-prone, despite the presence of Gorilla Glass 5.

The Galaxy Note 7 will be tougher than the iPhone 7 when it comes to taking a dip, however. The Samsung is IP68 certified, while none of Apple’s phones have been so far. Sure, the iPhone 7 has IP67 certification,

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iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Display

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has a stunning 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED display. It’s the absolute best in the business, bar none. The Quad HD resolution remains the same as before, for a 518ppi pixel density. Where Samsung has improved things is with the inclusion of Mobile HDR, which leads to an even more vivid, high-contrast picture in your videos.

Conversely, Apple’s mobile display technology remains a bit static. The company opts for the same 4.7-inch display with a 326ppi pixel density for the iPhone 7, and a 5.5-inch display with a 401ppi pixel density for the iPhone 7 Plus. It’s also used the same IPS LCD panel technology for years now, and it finds itself trailing Samsung on pretty much all counts.

Related: iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6S

iPhone 7 Silver

That’s not to say that the iPhone 7 display isn’t an improvement over previous models, though. Apple has given it a wider colour gamut, much as it did with the iPad Pro, leading to a more vibrant picture.

We’ll need to go hands-on to be absolutely sure, but we just can’t see how this will be enough to close the considerable gap between the iPhone 6S display and that of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

Of course, both displays have extra tricks up their sleeves beyond a great range of colours. In the case of the Galaxy Note 7, it takes the form of the S Pen stylus. Popping out of the bottom of the device, it lets you jot down your thoughts and messages in a naturalistic fashion. This time you get an improved 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, too, and you can also use it to instantly translate foreign text or create speedy GIFs from YouTube videos.

As for the iPhone 7, we get a continuation and a development of the 3D Touch technology that debuted with the iPhone 6S. This lets you access further UI elements by pressing a little harder on the screen, and is accompanied by a subtle series of vibrations via a sophisticated vibration motor.

With iOS 10 set to take these 3D Touch elements even further, the iPhone 7 display should provide far more depth and nuance than your average phone.

But more than the Galaxy Note 7? That remains to be seen.

We should take this opportunity to mention one related area of the iPhone 7 that’s unexpectedly taken a leap over the Galaxy Note 7 – its sound output.

Note 7

While the Samsung phablet is stuck with weedy mono sound from a single speaker, Apple has fitted the iPhone 7 with a second speaker in the earpiece section of the device. That means proper stereo sound for landscape video and gaming.

It’s a shame, really – the Galaxy Note 7’s phenomenal screen should have made it the media king. With a set of headphones, it pretty much is, but if you leave those at home then you’re out of luck.

Conversely, of course, if you have an expensive set of wired headphones, you’ll need a fiddly adapter to make them work with the jackless iPhone 7. You can’t have everything, it seems.

iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Performance

The Galaxy Note 7 certainly isn't what you’d call underpowered, but it uses the same chip as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. That means either the Snapdragon 820 or Exynos 8890 CPU, depending on where you live.

Both chips are capable, and they nudge ahead of the iPhone 6S’s A9 CPU in a number of areas. But the iPhone 7 has debuted Apple’s next-gen A10 Fusion chip, and it’s looking to be quite a beast.

Apple has continued with its rate of CPU performance improvement. The A9 was 50 to 70% faster than the A8, and now the A10 marks a 30% improvement over the A9.

We’ll need to run some hands-on tests to be sure, but the iPhone 7 is looking set to be the new mobile CPU champ – at least in a number of the key scenarios (we won’t go into the practical differences between a dual-core and quad-core setup here).

Note 7

The Galaxy Note 7 does have double the RAM of the iPhone 7 – 4GB versus 2GB, with the iPhone 7 Plus having 3GB, apparently – but that’s never been a particularly useful metric for comparison. Android and iOS are simply too different, and with Samsung applying its own clunky custom skin, Apple’s phones have always felt noticeably smoother than those of Samsung.

iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Camera

One key battle between these two phones will be for the camera crown.

For several years, Apple made the best smartphone cameras around. It’s still one of the best, and it arguably remains the easiest to use and most consistent. However, for outright quality – not to mention low-light performance – Samsung took over with the Samsung Galaxy S7 (if not the Galaxy S6 the year before).

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 packs exactly the same camera as the Galaxy S7. We’re talking the same 12-megapixel unit with phase detection, Dual Pixels, OIS, an f/1.7 lens, and a 1/2.6-inch sensor – and we’re not complaining one bit.

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Still, this lack of progress has offered Apple a chance to make up lost ground with the iPhone 7’s camera, and it appears to have done just that. We’re a little disappointed that the plain iPhone 7 is only a relatively minor update over the iPhone 6S, although the 12-megapixel snapper does gain OIS (at last).

Both iPhones also get an improved True Tone system, which doubles the number of LED flashes for better, more natural night shots.

But the real advance can be found in the shape of the iPhone 7 Plus, which adds a second camera to the rear of the device. This dual-lens setup combines a telephoto camera with a wide-angle camera – both 12-megapixel – to create an effective optical zoom option. They can also combine to allow you to alter the focus after the picture has been taken, much like a Lytro light field camera.

Apple has also widened the aperture to f/1.8, which makes a big difference for low-light shots.

iPhone 7 line up

It remains to be seen how these new iPhone cameras perform against the Galaxy Note 7 in day-to-day shots; Samsung’s effort may not be the best-snapping phablet around for long.

iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Software

The one area that we can confidently say the iPhone 7 will beat the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, even before we’ve gone hands-on with final iPhone 7 hardware, is the OS.

Put simply, Apple does software much better than Samsung. While the South Korean phone maker has stepped up its game considerably in recent times, it still employs a custom Android UI that inherently compromises the speed and functionality of the Android OS at its core. Not massively, but enough.

Apple’s iOS, on the other hand, goes from strength to strength. iOS 9 borrowed a bunch of features from Android, which means it’s far more flexible and powerful than before, while retaining Apple’s slick performance and peerless app support.

What’s more, the iPhone 7 will debut iOS 10, and it’s set to be better still. In particular, we’re looking forward to vastly improved notifications, lockscreen functionality, and deeper 3D Touch support.

As for the Galaxy Note 7, it runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow – a great OS in its own right. However, it’s already technically out of date, as Android Nougat has begun rolling out (albeit on a select few Nexus devices). It will be updated, but probably not for another two to three months.

The Note 7 UI is the company’s best effort at modifying Android yet, but it’s still a sub-optimal experience, pushing users towards Samsung’s iffy apps and services when there are often superior Google equivalents readily available.

On the plus side, Samsung’s tweaks allow for strong S Pen integration, as outlined above. But if we could get a Note 7 with a stock Android 7.0 experience (plus some S Pen tweaks), then the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus would really be on the back foot.

iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Storage: Apple gives you more fixed options

These two (OK, three) phones give you vastly different options on the storage front. Samsung has gone with a single, fixed memory allowance of 64GB, which is backed up by a microSD slot for up to 256GB of expansion.

Apple still doesn’t support microSD with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, but it does offer three fixed storage options – and they’ve been dramatically increased over previous years.

At last, the weedy 16GB option is no more. In its place returns the 32GB unit, this time as an entry-level option. We approve, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that this should have happened years ago.

The mid-tier option is a far more capacious 128GB, while the top tier offers a whopping 256GB of fixed storage. If you’re a 4K video-shooting fiend, that’s going to sound mighty appealing.

Of course, the Galaxy Note 7 potentially boasts the most storage for such 4K film makers (although a fast 256GB microSD doesn't come cheap), and that 2K display will do a much better job of reflecting your handiwork when it comes to watching it back on the device.

Apple AirPods 10

Galaxy Note 7 vs iPhone 7 – First Impressions

We’ve spent plenty of time with the Galaxy Note 7 by now, but the iPhone 7 has only just been announced, so a definitive comparison isn’t possible at this point.

However, from the announced specs and features alone, we’re pretty confident that Apple’s new phone won’t give the Galaxy Note 7 anything to worry about in terms of screen or design quality.

Where it could make things interesting is with its new camera tech. The Galaxy Note 7 takes awesome pictures, but it’s no better than the Galaxy S7 on that front. The iPhone 7 Plus, meanwhile, has an intriguing (if hardly original) dual-camera setup that could push its photographic nose back into the lead.

Meanwhile, there’s the age-old disparity between the quality of Samsung’s software and that of Apple. If a slick native UI is all-important to you, the iPhone 7 will likely prove the better pick.

We’ll have a much better idea of which phone is the more appealing in just a couple of weeks’ time, when the iPhone 7 hits the shops.

Tyler Bird

August 4, 2016, 3:30 pm

Android Nutella? Not an android user are you Jon Mundy?
It helps to know what you are talking about before you start to talk about it ... you ruin any reputability of the article when you fail to research...

vcarvega

August 4, 2016, 4:38 pm

I might agree that iOS 10 may perform faster (although early reports of Touchwiz on the Note 7 indicate that it is buttery smooth). However, would sternly disagree that the iPhone 7 will have any advantage in terms of OS... in terms of features, Samsung's OS still MIGHTILY trumps iOS 10, even without an update to the latest version of Android.

joe schmo

August 5, 2016, 1:54 am

Nutella lol, but seriously the iOS is insanely crippled by restrictions. There are millions of apps that cant run on iphones, millions. In my book, thats a major disadvantage in terms of operating system. Features like screen mirroring which is open source gets used millions of times a day all over the world except on iOS phones which need an extra $100 device installed and only works where the appleTV is, people don't screen mirror at home only! Charging $ for free software and making worse is beyond my comprehension. Maybe iOS will add wireless charging (since you didn't mention it), or a retina scanner, or built in stylus, or MST payments, or curved screen, the list goes on and on. iOS is adding multi window i think which has been available on the Samsung phones for at least 5 years. iOS finally allowed 3rd party keyboards after years of non iOS phones having them. iOS used to be innovative, now it barely offers anything different and always offers less than it's competitors. The OS discussion should not be labeled as pretty close between these two phones. The hardware is high end on both phones but that's seperate from the OS.

marketman101

September 14, 2016, 8:35 pm

Finally, finally a semi-neutral review of these two phones. Only thing that's a bit misleading is the pixel density argument. As usual, the truth is a bit more complex than the marketing numbers and I'd expect you to recognize this.

Note 7's PenTile OLED has diamond pixel so there are 2 green pixels to each blue and red. Meaning that on the green sub-pixels Samsung leads 518 vs Apples 401 but on Red and Blue Apple runs 401 vs Samsung's 366 sub-pixels per inch. The marketing of 518ppi pixel density vs 401ppi is only true on one of the three sub-color pixels and therefore, meaningless. So, Apples display is actually ahead of Samsung's when it comes to red/blue sub-pixel density.

The screens only difference is in the technology of LCD vs. OLED where OLED has a higher contrast but lower brightness (359nits vs. 625nits). Side by side, Apple has truer colors and is brighter but the higher contrast of OLED may be more pleasing to some people. Given this, it's not a slam dunk win for Samsung on the screen. Just because it's a newer technology doesn't mean it's better. Especially true in this case.

Don't fall for the marketing hype.

Ana

September 15, 2016, 9:59 pm

this is purely a samsung lover point of view

Jova1588

September 15, 2016, 11:38 pm

Whats the difference? well thats easy see the note series and the s series has always bring new innovations to our android market just like htc and any other android based company as of the iphone well the iphone its just an ipod that can make phone calls other than that it has been year by year exactly the same shit over and over and over not to mention that the features weve been having for years apple came out with them way too many years later. The iphone is for people who want to look like they have money but if u want to make the most out ur close to 1,000 dollars phone than just by a note 7 or any other android phone.

nic

September 16, 2016, 7:07 am

this article is just like all others saying how much better samsung and peasant andriod is . but its not .

nic

September 16, 2016, 7:10 am

dont be such an andriod peasant that you are !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

joe schmo

September 16, 2016, 7:12 am

this isn't politics, no need for posturing. Do you disagree with my opinion? If so, in which specific ways?

joe schmo

September 16, 2016, 7:13 am

Side by Side the Note 7 screen appears much better IMO. I prefer higher contrast though, as you mentioned.

Jeremy Malisse

September 29, 2016, 12:16 pm

They can't ever provide examples. Only circumstantial arguments or hate speech. "android peasant!". Ok. But why?

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