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Apple iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Which is best for me?

With Apple’s new phablet, the iPhone 7 Plus, now out in the open, it only makes sense to pit it against its biggest rival, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

iPhone 7 Plus vs Galaxy Note 7: Specs

  iPhone 7 Plus Galaxy Note 7
Screen size 5.5-inches 5.7-inches
Screen resolution Full HD (1920×1080) WQHD (2560×1440)
Weight 188 grams 169 grams
OS iOS 10 Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Front camera 7-megapixels 5-megapixels
Rear camera 12-megapixels (dual lens) 12-megapixels
Processor Quad-core A10 Fusion Octa-core Exynos 8890
Memory 3GB RAM 4GB RAM
Storage 32GB/128GB/256GB 32GB. Expandable via microSD up 256GB
Battery 2900mAh 3500mAh

iPhone 7 Plus vs Galaxy Note 7: Design

Samsung pulled the launch of the Note 7 forward to August this year, giving us more time to inspect it up close. It follows in the footsteps of the company’s other latest top-tier handset, Galaxy S7 Edge, most obviously in is glass-centric build, rounded metal frame and practically bezel-free curved display.

The collective result by Samsung’s design team is a tour de force of elegant aesthetics, powerful hardware and surprising hardiness with the promise of IP68 dust and water resistance. That also extends to the S Pen stylus, a staple of the Note family that adds an extra layer of (potential) productivity to the experience too.

The iPhone feels closer to what we’ve seen from Apple for the last three generations, starting with the 6 Plus, albeit with some important tweaks. The five colourways give you more options than Samsung with regards not only to hue but to texture, with the Jet Black skew adopting a high gloss finish that offers ‘understated cool’ versus the more conventional bead-blasted aluminium finishes of the four other options (black, white, gold and rose gold).

Apple’s rearranged the antenna breaks so that aside from the camera(s) and the company logo, the back of the phone is the epitome of minimal. Hardiness is also on the table with this generation of iPhone, as for the first time the company openly touts the 7 and 7 Plus’ new IP67 certification. By comparison the ‘8’ in the Note 7’s certification means that it technically is capable of being submerged for the same amount of time as the iPhone (up to 30 minutes), but in up to a meter and a half of water, versus a meter for the iPhone.

Both phones also boast fingerprint sensor-laden home buttons, but the 7 Plus’ solid state home button no longer physically depresses, instead simulating the sensation by way of its Taptic Engine haptic motor. Not only does that render it as one less point of potential water ingress, but also a offers a more customisable physical experience, with varying levels of feedback on offer.

The other big departure from traditional phone design with the new iPhone(s) is the absence of the standard 3.5mm headphone jack (which the Note 7 retains). It’s a move that we suspect will grow in frequency, especially now that companies like LeEco, Motorola and no Apple are instigating the change, but right now heaving to rely on the Lightning port as the main method of connecting headphones will like be a notable pain point for some that just simply doesn’t exist on the Note.

iPhone 7 Plus vs Galaxy Note 7: Screen and multimedia

With dimensions identical to that of its predecessor, the iPhone 7 Plus is a relatively large handset considering it features a 5.5-inch display. By comparison, the Note 7 is a touch thicker (7.9mm vs 7.3mm), but markedly smaller in both height and width (153.5mm x 73.9mm vs 158.2mm x 77.9mm), made all the more impressive by that fact that it sports a larger display.

The greater screen to body ratio, paired with a stunning 2560×1440 Super AMOLED display gives the Note 7 far more visual punch and makes it easier to wield, whilst the Full HD panel on the iPhone looks just as good as last year’s offering, but no different – integrating 3D Touch for that extra level of operability.

The iPhone takes the lead on the audio front, with the added benefit of the earpiece now being able to double as a loudspeaker, giving you louder overall output and a better dynamic range than the Note solo speaker.

iPhone 7 Plus vs Galaxy Note 7: OS

Whilst all of Samsung’s latest smartphones come running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and will undoubtedly all see upgrades to 7.0 Nougat once it’s available, subtle changes have been made to the experience on the Note 7 versus even the S7 Edge. The Note’s skinned iteration of Android feels cleaner and tidier than ever before, with a simplified settings menu and smart implementations of S Pen integration.

You can jot down notes without waking the phone, create animated GIFs on a whim within bounding boxes you can lay down anywhere and Samsung’s even added real-time translation, which you can pull off simply by hovering the stylus over words you don’t understand. The large display also makes the most of split-screen and floating window multitasking and the new iris scanner ups the phone’s security credentials too.

iOS 10, which launched just days ahead of the 7 Plus features some notable changes versus iOS 9, but they’re not necessarily improvements or hindrances, just differences that’ll take time to get used to for those already familiar with Apple mobile operating system. Overall notifications and other select elements don’t feel as aesthetically clean as iOS used to be, but the changes appear to centre around a greater focus on 3D Touch within the interface, which makes for rapid navigation around and already fast and clean user experience.

The new iMessage is one of Apple’s biggest talking points and some of the new third-party features it offers, such as Circle mobile payment support, are welcome, but for the most part, it doesn’t change the game in any significant manner.

iPhone 7 Plus vs Galaxy Note 7: Performance

Seldom is performance on an iPhone called into question and the new A10 Fusion processor inside the 7 and 7 Plus looks to be an absolute beast. Not only is it the company’s first quad-core chip in a phone but in the case of the Plus it’s paired with 3GB of (ironically, Samsung-made) DDR4 RAM (another first for an iPhone – the amount, not the manufacturer). This doesn’t just serve to make an already fast operating system faster, but also offers greater battery longevity by way of two low-power cores sat alongside two performance cores.

Battery life is also helped by a larger cell and inside the Plus lies a respectable 2900mAh effort. It’s notably smaller than the Note’s whopping 3500mAh (sometimes explosive) battery, but iPhones have always been more power efficient than Android handsets, so expect a close call come battery comparison test time.

The Samsung does have a few tricks up its sleeve, however, with fast charging, wireless charging and fast wireless charging. Not to mention you can charge the phone whilst listening to music over headphones at the same time without the need of an adapter, now something of a real challenge on the iPhone 7.

The Note 7 is also one of the most powerful Android phones around, although early benchmarking puts its excellent Exynos 8890 SoC slightly behind Apple’s A10 Fusion in various disciplines.

iPhone 7 Plus vs Galaxy Note 7: Cameras

Both phones sport 12-megapixel rear cameras with 4K and slow-motion video capabilities as well as optical image stabilisation. Samsung’s effort comes with a host of additional downloadable modes to affix extra features to it after the fact, whilst Apple has joined the growing number of manufacturers installing two sensors into their star handset’s primary camera arrangement.

In the case of the 7 Plus that means a wide angle and a telephoto 12-megapixel sensor, side-by-side that can calculate depth data to create DSLR-like shallow depth of field shots and give standard snaps up to 2x lossless zoom and superior digital zoom.

The Note 7’s single sensor should offer better low light results thanks to its wider f/1.7 aperture (versus f/1.8 on the iPhone) but a bump in megapixels to Apple’s front-facer (from five on the 6S Plus up to seven in this generation) might mean that the Note falls short when it comes to resolution, but again performs better in low light, with the same wide aperture as its front-facer.

iPhone 7 Plus vs Galaxy Note 7: Verdict

With its superior water resistance, iris scanner, S Pen functionality, stunning design, gorgeous display and advanced battery capabilities, the Note 7 is the more innovative of these two phones, but as ever Apple’s made safer, but important upgrades over last year’s Plus, some of which place it at the top of the pile.

The new camera arrangement, colour options, additional storage and class-leading performance might be enough to win those on the fence over, even with the questionable loss of the headphone jack, not to mention the bad press Samsung is enduring right now, which will only help Apple’s footing at the tail end of the year.

Read next: iPhone 7 Plus vs OnePlus 3: Which is best for me?

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