iPhone 6S Vs Galaxy S7: What's The Difference?

6 years, 6 months ago - July 07, 2016
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 (right) has learnt a lot from Apple’s iPhone 6S (left). Image: Gordon Kelly

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 (right) has learnt a lot from Apple’s iPhone 6S (left). Image: Gordon Kelly

For millions of people around the world Apple or Samsung will be their toughest gadget decision of 2016. Yes, the (controversial) iPhone 7 is just two months away but many won’t wait.

So what are the key differences between them? Let’s break it down…

Note: for tech enthusiasts  epic iPhone 6S vs Galaxy S7 review from Gordon Kelly compares both phones in great detail. This guide will satisfy those looking to identify the main differentiators.

Design – Style Vs Style and Substance

In 2015 Samsung finally stepped up and made a phone (the Galaxy S6) which was every bit as stylish and well made as Apple. And now Samsung has gone a step further. 

  • Galaxy S7: 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9mm (5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31in) and 152g (5.36oz)
  • iPhone 6S: 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28in) and 143g (5.04oz)

As you’ll immediately spot, the Galaxy S7 also has much smaller top and bottom bezels which means it is roughly the same size and weight as the iPhone 6S, despite packing a much larger display (more in the next section).

Water submersion poses no problems for the new Galaxy S7 Image credit: Gordon Kelly

On top of this, the Galaxy S7 has key features the iPhone 6S is missing: water resistance (IP68 certification allows it to be submerged in 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes), wireless charging and microSD expandable storage. It is also more comfortable in hand thanks to greater curvature on the rear of the phone.

It’s not all Samsung wins though. Its glass back is more fragile than the aluminium back of the iPhone 6S and the glass is slippery when your hands are cold and sticky when they are warm – that’s the trade off for it enabling wireless charging (which aluminium blocks).

Displays – Brains Vs Beauty

When looking at the two phone displays, the result isn’t even close – the Galaxy S7 is miles ahead. It is brighter, sharper, has more vivid colours, deeper blacks and is easier to read in bright daylight.

Even outdoors the Galaxy S7 (right) has a dramatically sharper and more vivid display than the iPhone 6S. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

The stats also show a substantial difference:

  • Galaxy S7: 5.1-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixels, 534 pixels per inch (ppi), Super AMOLED
  • iPhone 6S: 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750 pixels, 326 ppi, LCD

But the iPhone 6S does have one big advantage: brains. ‘3D Touch’ means the iPhone 6S display is pressure sensitive and different pressures of touch on the screen are recognised by iOS and provide handy ‘peak’ and ‘pop’ shortcuts.

These can be as simple as pushing an app icon harder for shortcuts (eg the camera brings up: selfie, video and slow mo modes) or previewing emails and URLs without having to open them. As it stands third party support is still hit and miss, as is the quality of implementation but there’s huge potential here.

Beauty or brains? It’s a tough call, but until 3D Touch support matures I’d go for beauty.

Performance – iPhone 6S Defies The Specs

Up to know it has been plain sailing for the Galaxy S7, but when it comes to performance it is a different story – despite what the specs would suggest:

  • Galaxy S7 (US)- Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core chipset: Dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo CPUs, Mali-T880 MP12 GPU; 4GB of RAM
  • Galaxy S7 (International variant) – Exynos 8890 octa-core chipset: Quad-core 2.3 GHz Mongoose and quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex A53 CPUs, Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB of RAM
  • iPhone 6S – Apple A9 chipset: Dual-core 1.84 GHz Twister CPU, Six-core PowerVR GT7600 GPU, 2GB of RAM

On paper it appears Samsung should have this in the bag, but there’s no doubt that the iPhone 6S is consistently far quicker than the Galaxy S7. That’s not to say Samsung’s handset is slow, it isn’t (particularly the Exynos variant) but after a few weeks of ownership it does start to stutter and lag in a way the iPhone 6S does not.

The blame for me lies in Samsung’s extensive customisation of Android and needless bloat (around 50 apps are preinstalled). A perfect example of this is in comparison to the Nexus 6P. It runs stock Android and is smoother and faster to use than the Galaxy S7, despite having one generation older hardware and less RAM.

Yes, iPhone’s do slow down over time (notably with new generations of iOS, cynics will note) but right now Apple is untouchable in this area.

The iPhone 6S also has the better fingerprint reader. To its credit Samsung has improved immeasurably since the horrible days of its Galaxy S5 swipe-reader, but the Galaxy S7 doesn’t recognise prints as quickly and accurately as the second generation Touch ID reader in the iPhone 6S.

Cameras – Samsung’s Big Win

The Galaxy S6 finally saw Samsung steal the camera crown from Apple and the Galaxy S7 extends this lead – despite actually reducing its resolution from 16MP to 12MP:

  • Galaxy S7 – 12 megapixel Sony IMX260 F1.7 sensor (some Samsung ISOCELL variants exist), OIS, LED flash, Dual Pixels, 4K video. Front facing 5MP F1.7 camera, 1080p video
  • iPhone 6S – 12 megapixel sensor, F2.0 lens, Focus Pixels, EIS, dual-LED flash – 4K video. Front: 5MP sensor, F2.0 lens, 1080p video

The funny thing is this big win comes despite Apple upping its iPhone 6S sensor to 12MP from the 8MP in the iPhone 6 -so that’s an 8MP gap closed when combined with Samsung’s resolution reduction.

The iPhone 6S (right) is no match for the Galaxy S7 (left) in low light. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

The real talking point here is low light. The iPhone 6S has actually reduced its pixel size since the iPhone 6 (1.5 vs 1.22 µm) which means each pixel can’t take in as much light and shooting is darker conditions has actually regressed. By contrast the Galaxy S7 is exceptional in similar conditions.

Samsung’s ‘Dual Pixel’ technology is also remarkable as it uses every pixel to aid camera focus and the result is a phone that’s locks onto its target far quicker than the iPhone 6S (or any rival phone for that matter). If you want one phone to pull out your pocket and grab a quick snap, it’s the Galaxy S7.

In good light both the iPhone 6S (left) and Galaxy S7 (right) are excellent, but the S7 still delivers more detail and better colour balance. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

This lead is also true of video where Samsung’s optical image stabilisation makes for far less shaky results – particularly when shooting 4K video. Needless to say, the iPhone 6S camera is still excellent but it has stagnated in the last few years and Samsung is the clear leader now.

Battery Life – Samsung First To Listen To Customers

In recent years smartphone batteries have actually got smaller, but with the Galaxy S7 Samsung has broken this trend while Apple has not:

  • Galaxy S7 – 3000 mAh battery capacity (Galaxy S6 – 2550mAh)
  • iPhone 6S – 1715 mAh battery capacity (iPhone 6 – 1810 mAh)

As you’ll see Apple has actually taken a step back in capacity with the iPhone 6S, though it lasts as long as the iPhone 6 due to the more efficient A9 chipset. Still only matching the iPhone 6 is not great when that was one of the weakest aspects of the phone.

The Galaxy S7 makes massive improvements from its predecessors. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

By contrast Samsung has given the Galaxy S7 roughly a 20% increase in battery capacity over the Galaxy S6 and it lasts much longer than the iPhone 6S as a result – despite the greater efficiencies of iOS. This is an all day phone even with heavy use while the iPhone 6S will need you to keep a charger nearby come early evening.

The Galaxy S7 is also much faster to charge (an hour vs the iPhone 6S’ two hours) and will achieve a 30% charge in just 15 minutes. On top of this it has wireless charging which Apple continues to ignore. Samsung ignoring the new USB Type-C specification to stick with micro USB is the only potential problem here – but as many will like this as dislike it.

Speakers – Much Room For Improvement

Both Apple and Samsung let the side down here. While a number of rivals have front firing stereo speakers, the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S have a single mono speaker on the bottom edge and each lacks volume and bass.

And yet the iPhone 6S is the better of the two – not because it has improved but because the Galaxy S7 speaker has regressed. This is due to the layer of waterproofing Samsung has added so it has some excuse, but both companies should do better here (and Apple is poised to do exactly that).

Value – Storage By Different Names

Now this is trickier than you might imagine:

  • Galaxy S7: $699 (32GB)
  • iPhone 6S: $649 (16GB), $749 (64GB) and $849 (128GB)

As you can see the base level Galaxy S7 is a tempting prospect, but that’s the only size Samsung is offering in the US. The reason for this is the return of the microSD expansion slot ($50 buys a 128GB UHS Speed Class 3 card), but users wanting seriously fast, premium native storage will be disappointed.

By contrast Apple’s 16GB model is a disgrace in 2016(again something that may soon change) but the 64GB edition is the clear sweet spot.

Bottom Line – Samsung’s Stands Out

Samsung wins the big battles here: the Galaxy S7 has a better display, camera, battery life and charging speed. It is also nicer to hold, offers cheap memory expansion, water resistance and a better value starting price.

Where the Galaxy S7 falls down is software with Samsung continuing to needlessly butcher stock Android and it hurts performance (particularly a few months down the line). By contrast this is the iPhone 6S’ strong point, but for me it’s not enough to make up for Samsung’s other big differentiators.


Text by Forbes

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