Vaughn Highfield
8 Sep 2016

Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus has one win over Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7: it doesn’t explode. Of course, I jest, Samsung has jumped on its exploding phone problem faster than Usain Bolt on a sprint track and is in the midst of recalling all previously-released phones. However, that doesn’t mean that the iPhone 7 Plus and the Galaxy Note 7 aren’t comparable phones, Samsung’s flagship phablet has been designed to be the best phone on the market right now and that’s the same exact slot Apple wants to claim with the iPhone 7 Plus.

For you, the consumer, what does that really translate to? Which phone is really going to be the device you want to have in your oversized pockets? Well, worry not as I dive into the depths of phablet rivalry, eeking out all the facts you need to know to make an informed purchasing decision between the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. I’d call it the battle of the seven armies, but The Hobbit beat me to it.

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iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Design

Samsung’s Galaxy Note range is renowned for its pocket-busting size and wonderfully large screens. The same can be said of the Galaxy Note 7, but thanks to its edge-to-edge screen, it's 5.7in display is more than pocketable for a phablet. It also continues with the sumptuous glass and metal design that Samsung has employed since the Galaxy S6, this time leaving enough space for a pleasingly clicky slot for the S Pen stylus to slide into. It may be a big slab of a phone, but up-close this is one real looker.

As with a new generation of iPhone, you’d expect Apple to overhaul the iPhone 7 Plus’ design but no, Apple has decided to stick to the same all-metal flattened pill design that the iPhone 6 and 6s used. Beyond a now Force Touch-enabled home button, a new glossy Jet Black colour option and repositioned antenna lines, there’s really not that much different about how the iPhone 7 Plus looks.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Display

Samsung’s edge-to-edge AMOLED display is, on paper, nothing overly special for a Galaxy device. It’s 5.7in across but sports the same resolution as the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge’s 2,560 x 1,440-pixel 5.5in display. It also uses the same flexible screen tech, meaning the Note 7 has soft, subtle and lovely curves adorning its two longer edges. It’s also incredibly colour accurate, with perfect contrast.

Apple’s iPhone range has recently fallen behind on display technology compared to Samsung’s devices. The iPhone 7 Plus, however, closes that gap somewhat. It may still the same 5.5in 1,920 x 1,080 resolution Retina Display found in the iPhone 6s Plus, but Apple has injected it with a wide colour gamut support and increased its brightness by 25%.

Obviously we can’t say for certain which display is best until we’ve given the iPhone 7 a thorough going over, but for now we think that Samsung still holds an edge over Apple here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Features

Okay, so, this could get long if I delve into every single feature both phones offer, so I’m not going to do that. Instead, all you really need to know is that the S Pen has been improved upon from the Note 6’s, Samsung has added iris recognition alongside its fingerprint scanner for secure login, its ditched micro USB for the first time in favour of USB Type-C and it has dual ambient light sensors to automatically adjust display brightness more accurately than any other smartphone on the market.

On the flip side, Apple has finally added waterproofing to its phones – although it’s IP67 rating isn’t as good as the Note 7’s IP68 rating meaning. This means that Apple’s phone can be immersed up to 1m, while Samsung’s can go to 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. Apple has also ditched the mechanical home button for a Force Touch-enabled one and it now has stereo speakers instead of a piddly mono one.

Apple has also decided to drop the stupidly small 16GB model of its phone in favour of a 32GB base model. That’s not the only thing it’s decided to ditch, either, removing the 3.5mm headphone jack from its phone in favour of Lightning Port-connected ones or wireless earbuds.

The iPhone 7 Plus’ new features represent a welcome upgrade for existing iPhone users, but anyone who’s been using an Android phone for the last couple of years, they’re not all that groundbreaking. Aside from dropping the headphone port, all Apple has done here is pull its smartphone into line with the competition.

Winner: Close, but Samsung Galaxy Note 7

iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Performance

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 makes use of the same Exynos 8890 octa-core processor found in the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. We know that Samsung’s custom chip can trounce the iPhone 6s Plus’ A9 chip when it comes to performance in Geekbench’s multi-core benchmark, scoring 6,175 to the iPhone 6s Plus’s 4,374, but we have no clue how well it’ll stack up against the iPhone 7 Plus’ new A10 Fusion chip.

According to Apple, the new chip can push out 40% better performance than the A9, but given that it’s still a dual-core processor (its other two cores are for low-power tasks), multi-core performance will probably “only” draw level with the Samsung. For single-core performance, the iPhone 7 ought to stretch out an even bigger lead over the competition, however. Obviously, as soon as we get a chance to benchmark the heck out of the iPhone 7 Plus, we’ll put that to the test.

If Apple’s A10 Fusion is as powerful as it’s supposed to be, we’ll also see an improvement in its graphical capabilities. At Apple’s iPhone event it touted “console-like” visuals on mobile – although that’s an ever-shifting barometer. In terms of graphical performance, Samsung’s Note 7 loses out to the iPhone 6s in terms of both native and 1080p performance, so it’s safe to say the iPhone 7 Plus will best it here too. Obviously, some consideration has to be made for the fact Samsung is pushing around twice as many pixels as the iPhone 7 Plus, but the benchmarks show the Exynos isn’t quite up to scratch in the games department.

Winner: (Probably) iPhone 7 Plus

iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Battery

The Note 7, peculiarly, doesn’t have as large a battery as the Galaxy S7 Edge. That’s not to say it’s incapable of running your phone for a day as it’s equipped with a beefy 3,500mAh battery that – in our tests – lasted for nearly 22 hours of video playback in flight mode. Obviously with 4G, Wi-Fi and bluetooth turned on, it’ll last significantly less, but it should be more than enough to see you through the day.

We have no idea how large the iPhone 7 Plus’ battery is yet, but according to Apple’s specifications, it’ll last up to 384 hours on standby, 21 hours of talktime on 3G and 60 hours of music playback. Conversely, Samsung states that the Note 7 offers up 26 hours of talk time with 3G on and 75 hours of audio playback with the always-on display switched off. Samsung doesn’t state standby time, presumably because it’s the most pointless statistic for someone to roll out...

We’ll give it a proper test once we get one in, but one thing in favour of the iPhone is that the new A10 Fusion chip has finally adopted the BIG.little approach of many of its Android rivals. With a lower-power dual-core chip able to take the strain off the batter for less demanding tasks, the iPhone 7’s battery life could be significantly better than it predecessor’s.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (probably)

iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Camera

Thanks to Samsung’s iterative improvements to its camera technology, it now has the best smartphone camera on the market. Because the Galaxy Note 7 also uses the same camera found in the Samsung Galaxy S7, it’s takes excellent photographs.

Not only does its 12-megapixel snapper have a very bright aperture of f/1.7, it also has dual-pixel phase-detect autofocus, so every pixel on the sensor can be used for super-fast phase-detect focussing. It comes complete with optical image stabilisation, dual-LED flash and a large 1/2.5in sensor with μ1.4 pixels, making it unparallelled for low-light photography.

Apple gave its iPhone camera a much-needed boost with the iPhone 6s, and the iPhone 7 has seen another significant jump in technology too. Just like before, Apple has used the iPhone 7 Plus’ camera capabilities to differentiate it from the standard iPhone 7. This time around, instead of just adding simple features, it’s decided the iPhone 7 Plus needs a dual-camera setup to take the best photos.

One lens is your standard 28mm iPhone 7 camera (which we’ll come onto in a moment) while the other is a 56mm telephoto lens. The idea here is that you get, effectively, a 2x optical zoom (plus up to 10x digital zoom), which you can deploy by tapping or dragging a small icon on the camera app screen.

Apple has also finally introduced optical image stabilisation into the iPhone 7 camera – a much-needed addition to stop all those blurry photos appearing on your Facebook feed. iPhone 6s Plus users will already be familiar with such a feature, but its introduction into the iPhone 7 shows Apple’s commitment to improving its smartphone’s optics. That said, the iPhone 7 Plus’ sensor size still has the same 12-megapixel resolution as the 6s, but its aperture has been widened to f/1.8, making it 50% brighter than the previous generation’s f/2.2.

As for the front-cameras, Samsung uses a 5-megapixel f/1.7 camera where Apple has upgraded its to a 7-megapixel f/2.2 snapper.

As you may have noticed, the iPhone 7 aperture isn’t quite as low as Samsung’s Note 7. Again, we can’t make a definitive opinion on just how good the iPhone 7 Plus’ camera will be – especially in low-light conditions – but it’s looking as if Samsung has beaten it to the post yet again.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

iPhone 7 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Price

The Galaxy Note 7 isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive Samsung phones ever released. SIM free, the Note 7 is £740, which gets you 64GB of storage. As you can imagine, you have to wonder if it’s really worth all this money, especially when you can grab the equally impressive S7 or S7 Edge for far less.

The iPhone 7 Plus is also not particularly cheap. In fact it will set you back £719 for the 32GB model in Silver, Black, Gold and Rose Gold. If you fancy the Jet Black finish, the base price is £819 for a 128GB model.

Despite the price difference between base models. you can pick up a Galaxy Note 7 on contract for around the same price as you would for an iPhone 7 Plus, though, so that’s definitely worth considering.

It should also be factored in that the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 also comes with twice as much storage at the base price and allows for expandable storage, meaning you are getting a little bit more for your money.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

iPhone 7 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Verdict

Going by early impressions of the iPhone 7 Plus and our in-depth knowledge of the Galaxy Note 7, it seems that Samsung’s phone is the better of the two.

We still have questions in regards to the iPhone’s raw performance and the capability of its new dual-camera setup, though, so until we can put the iPhone 7 Plus through its paces, we’ll have to remain somewhat on the fence in those areas, while on the design and features front, it’s worth noting that it’s largely down to your individual preferences rather than cold-hard facts. Going by the total tally of “wins” in each segment, the current winner can only be the...

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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