“Here’s the ultimate battle for the title of the flagship of the year 2016”
The battle lines are clearly drawn between Apple and Android platforms. Each time someone asks what to choose between an iPhone and a device from the Android territory, usually there’s a standard response – if you want a smooth experience and want to invest in an Apple ecosystem, then go for the iPhone, while if you want the flexibility to use the phone the way you want with the wide range of customisability options, then Android offerings would suit your needs better.
But what it you simply want to know which is the best smartphone out there, and don’t want to think hard about the kind of user you are? With Apple pulling the curtains back from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, we thought this would be an apt time to answer this question by pitting the mainstream iPhone 7 with the best of Android. These include the trinity in the form of Samsung Galaxy S7 (review), LG G5 (review) and HTC 10 (review). So, what are you waiting for? Let’s see which one emerges as a winner in this tough fight for the flagship of the year 2016…
If we start with the fierce competitors, the Apple iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7, then you’ll find it interesting that both of them haven’t changed much from their predecessors. In fact, Apple chose to forgo its alternate-year design refresh cycle this time, since the iPhone 7 features a similar design language as the iPhone 6 (review), which was launched two years ago. There are some differences of course, such as clean antenna lines and the inclusion of two new colours in the form of matte black and jet black, in lieu of the space grey variant.
The Korean behemoth pressed the reboot button in terms of the design ethics with the Galaxy S6 duo (review), and its successors follow the same ideology. The Samsung Galaxy S7 is made out of a combination of a sturdy metal frame and shiny glassy rear, resulting in a premium offering.
It’s interesting that LG has never stuck to the same design language for its flagships. The G5 is vastly different from the G4 (first impressions), or for that matter, any other smartphone in the market – thanks to its semi-modular design language. In fact, even though the device features a unibody construction, you can remove the battery, which power users will definitely love. That said, the metallic build of the handset doesn’t arouse as much confidence as the competitors.
HTC was the among the first Android brands to innovate on the design front with the One, launched in 2013, and the 10 continues that tradition. It’s a metal-bodied handset that looks and feels extremely classy. It also is quite ergonomic thanks to its curved rear.
While the design is subjective, our vote would go to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Apple’s iPhone 7, with the 10 just behind them. Samsung’s and Apple’s offerings also score points for being impervious to dust and water, thanks to IP68 and IP67 rating respectively.
If you are wondering why did we chose these four devices for comparison, apart from the fact that they are super-premium offerings, then the display section provides the answer. Instead of following the phablet craze, each of these mobiles are compact options which can be used with a single hand comfortably.
Both the Apple iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 follow their previous iterations, as their display panels are of the same size. The iPhone 7 sports a 4.7-inch display with Apple’s ‘Retina display’, which makes sure that the display is quite sharp with the resolution of 1,334 x 750 pixels. The Galaxy S7 flaunts a 5.1-inch display with brand’s Super AMOLED panel, promising rich and accurate colours. A 5.3-inch IPS display adorns the front of the LG G5, whereas the HTC 10’s window to the world is a 5.2-inch Super LCD3 panel.
In terms of the sharpness, the Android trio blows the iPhone 7 out of the water, as they bear pixel-popping 2,560 x 1,440 pixels resolution.
The Android devices also get the protection in the form of the Corning Gorilla Glass. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 get additional marks for their always-on displays, which show missed notifications without turning on the entire display and thus conserving the battery life.
Without a doubt, this round goes to the Samsung Galaxy S7 for its bright Super AMOLED panel and an eye-popping resolution, along with its always-on capabilities.
The software is one section where these phones are poles apart from each other. The iPhone 7 runs Apple’s latest iOS 10 (read: top 10 features), which has some useful additions such as raise to wake, updated default apps, redesigned control center and notifications among many more.
While the underlying OS for the S7, G5 and 10 is the same – Android 6.0 Marshmallow (with a promised update to the 7.0 Nougat), they run their own skins on top. Over the years, Samsung’s TouchWiz OS has slimmed down, and the one of the S7 is pleasing to use and doesn’t come with unnecessary bloatware. The G5’s UI is quite confusing at first, as it tries to copy Chinese OSes with a unified homescreen and app drawer, but is smooth. HTC has also worked on the UI with its Sense customisation – it’s minimal, and doesn’t come with any duplicate apps, thanks to its special partnership with Google, unlike others.
While we can go on and on about each of these UIs, it’s suffice to say that all of them have their pros and cons.
Things get interesting when we talk about the camera aspect, as each of the phones bring something unique to the table. The iPhone features a 12-megapixel 28-mm sensor with a wide aperture of f/1.8, promising better low-light performance. In fact, it offers powerful illumination thanks to the quad-LED flash module with an anti-flicker sensor. It must be noted that the iPhone 7 Plus features not one, but two 12MP snappers offering 2x optical zoom and some interesting depth-of-field effects, but sadly, its smaller sibling misses out on these features.
Samsung has already established its leadership in the smartphone photography with the Galaxy S7, which offers a 12-meg sensor with a wider aperture (f/1.7) than the iPhone 7, and features a dual-pixel technology. The phone boasts fast autofocussing capabilities and impressive performance even in dim environments.
The LG G5 is among the first devices that managed to amaze us with its implementation of the dual-camera arrangement. It has a 16-megapixel shooter accompanied by an 8MP wide-angle camera. With just a click of the button, you can switch between normal and wide-angle modes, with the latter giving you the ability to fit a larger area in the same frame.
The Taiwanese brand HTC always had an iffy relationship with cameras, right from its ultrapixel technology to duo cameras, it always came up with innovation functionality, that ultimately failed to deliver in real life. With the 10 however, that’s not the case. It sports a 12-megapixel camera at the back and offers good picture quality.
Not just the rear cameras, the phones also compete on the selfie front. While Apple usually lagged behind in this regard, this time it’s different, since the iPhone 7 comes with a 7MP FaceTime camera. The Galaxy S7 gets a 5MP unit, whereas the LG G5 has an 8MP sensor. The HTC 10 might only have a 5MP front shooter, it leaps ahead in this round, thanks to the inclusion of optical image stabilisation which isn’t available in most selfie cameras.
The devices match in the usual features in the camera department – optical image stabilisation, 4K video recording, slow-mo recording, and many more. But if we have to pick a winner, then it’d be a close call between the Apple iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy S7.
Now, it’s time to talk about the guts inside these handsets. At this point, it’s important to mention that Apple’s iPhone’s shouldn’t be put under the same microscope as its Android counterparts in terms of core specs, since the Cupertino giant always manages to deliver stellar real-life performance with the optimised hardware.
That said, the iPhone 7 is without a doubt, the most powerful iPhone ever, all thanks to the A10 Fusion chipset doing the grunt. The quad-core SoC is tuned at 2.4GHz and is 40 percent faster than the iPhone 6s duo. It also gets a massive upgrade in the graphics department with a six-core GPU. While the brand hasn’t officially revealed the details, benchmarks suggest that it hides 2GB of RAM.
The Android triad on the other hand, seem to be cut from the same cloth when it comes to their innards. They come fuelled by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor coupled with 4 gigs of RAM. However, the Indian variant of the S7 is powered by Samsung’s homegrown Exynos 8890 processor.
In terms of performance, all the phones should be able to offer a smooth and lag-free usage, along with delightful gaming experience. However, knowing Apple’s track record, it might just be ahead of the competition, even if it’s just by a split second or two.
The year 2016 marks a big shift in Apple’s strategy as it’s finally offering the 32GB storage in the base model of the iPhone 7. As always, you can’t expand it further, but you can opt for higher-priced versions, available in 128GB and 256GB flavours.
The Android offerings also come with the 32GB memory on board, but they get an edge because of their expansion slots – allowing the user to slide in a microSD card to top up the storage.
Apple hasn’t provided any information about the battery capacity of the iPhone 7, reports claim that it’s a 1,960mAh cell. Apple has also stated that it’s the longest-lasting iPhone in the lineup. In the Android arena, both the S7 and 10 sport 3,000mAh batteries, whereas the G5 draws juice from a slightly smaller 2,800mAh unit. The Android phones also support fast charging, which means you can juice them up quickly with the compatible chargers. The S7 once again, beat others, by offering support for wireless charging.
For the first time ever, Apple has provided stereo speakers on an iPhone, which ensures that the iPhone 7 packs in a powerful sound. At this point, it’s also important to mention that the way you listen to music privately has changed forever as Apple took the plunge – and ditched the 3.5mm audio port – allowing the earphones to be connected via the lightning port only. It’ll be bundling the compatible pair in the retail packaging, but would also offer an adapter to let you use your standard audio accessories. The company is also heralding a wireless future as it unveiled wireless earphones dubbed AirPods, that come with a special W1 chip.
Interestingly, the HTC 10 takes a lead in the multimedia aspect in the Android space. HTC’s offering delivers an oomph factor thanks to the BoomSound speakers. It also among the very few devices that feature Hi-Res Audio certification, thanks to its dedicated 24-bit DAC and a headset amplifier.
For connectivity, the phones keep all their bases covered, with the support for 4G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi. Android offerings get an advantage because of NFC and dual-SIM support (in the S7 and G5, if you chose to forgo the microSD card slot).
C’mon, this is a comparison for the super-premium offerings. Do you really think it’d just be on the basis of specs? Apple’s iPhone 7 is packed with innovations – the pressure-sensitive display offering some cool functionality (3D touch), a new Taptic engine for the Home button, and more.
The LG G5 is also a one-of-its-kind phone as it allows you to plug in modules to extend its usage. If you’re a music enthusiast, then you add the Hi-Fi module from audio major B&O, whereas shutterbugs would dig the Cam Plus module.
The Apple iPhone 7 will go on sale starting October 7th, with the base variant priced around Rs 60,000. Its competitors surely win here, as all of them are already on sale, and priced lower. The Galaxy S7 can be yours for around Rs 44,000, while the LG G5 and HTC 10 can be grabbed for approximately Rs 41,000 and Rs 45,000 respectively. It must be noted that the G5 modules need to be purchased separately.
If you’ve been following the comparison closely, then it’s apparent that this four-way battle is essentially a race to the finish between the Apple iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7. These phones have more in common than just sharing the ‘7’ moniker in their names. In fact, it’s a very difficult decision between these two. And, we have to go back to the fact that we mentioned in our introduction. Instead of looking at these devices in terms of hardware, you have to choose whether Android or iOS meets your requirements better.
That’s not to say that the LG G5 or HTC 10 aren't powerful and compelling options. In fact, the former is quite special due to its innovative features. But it’s just that they can’t match up to the all-round experience offered by the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7.
Which one would you be picking between these four smartphones? Let us know in the comments below.