The two flagships face off in 2016's biggest phone fight so far
The battle for best smartphone is always a hard-won race between Samsung and Apple these days, but this year looks to be their greatest contest yet, as the Galaxy S7 goes up against Apple’s iPhone 6S. So far, the S7 has emerged victorious as one of the best Android smartphones ever made – both against the outgoing S6, the Note 5 and even Sony’s Xperia Z5 – so it only stands to question whether it can hold its own against Apple’s latest handset.
Of course, the iPhone 6S will inevitably be replaced by the iPhone 7 later this year, but it still means there will be several months of stiff competition between the two phones before Apple takes the 6S out of commission. Until then, we’ve put together an in-depth breakdown of how the S7 and iPhone 6S stack up against each other, comparing their design, build quality, performance, display, battery life and camera features to give you a definitive verdict on which phone should be the one taking pride of place in your pocket. To see how the S7 differs from its curvy sibling, the S7 Edge, read our S7 vs S7 Edge article.
Design and build
Dimensions: Physically, the S7 and 6S are very different beasts. The Galaxy S7 takes the form of a 5.1in device, measuring 142x70x7.9mm, while the iPhone 6S is a smaller 4.7in handset, creating a footprint of 138x67x7.1mm. In the grand scheme of things, though, the difference in size isn’t all that pronounced, as the S7 is only a few millimetres taller and wider. They’re also both very similar in weight, with the S7 weighing in at 152g, while the 6S is 143g.
Materials: The S7 is coated in Gorilla Glass, front and back, and has a metal frame, while the iPhone 6S has an all-metal aluminium chassis. As a result, the iPhone 6S doesn’t pick up nearly as many fingerprints as the glossy S7, but it does lack the S7’s handy microSD slot, meaning you can’t upgrade the 6S’s storage capabilities. Instead, you have to settle for either 16GB, 64GB or 128GB out of the box. The S7, meanwhile, comes in both 32GB and 64GB variations, but takes cards up to 200GB, making it more flexible overall.
Both phones have a fingerprint reader located in their respective home buttons. Apple’s TouchID sensor was more reliable than ever on the iPhone 6S, but we found Samsung’s fingerprint sensor was still fairly temperamental on the S7, as there were numerous occasions when it failed to recognise our fingers.
Perhaps the most exciting thing that Samsung has achieved with the S7 is its IP68 water resistance and dustproof rating. As far as water damage goes, the S7 can now stand 30 minutes of being submerged in 1.5m of water, making toilet drops much less of a problem with the S7 compared to the iPhone 6S.
Conclusion: Considering the difference in screen size, the two handsets don’t really feel that different in the hand, showing just how much excess space the iPhone 6S has compared to the S7. The iPhone 6S has the superior fingerprint sensor, but it can’t compete with the S7’s IP68 rating and expandable storage. As a result, it’s a win for the S7.
Screen size and resolution: Always a competitive area, Samsung’s had the edge in recent years thanks to its Super AMOLED screen technology. That’s not to say the LED-backlit IPS display in the iPhone 6S is bad, as its 1,334×750 resolution is still very creditable and its colour accuracy coverage of 93.3% of the sRGB colour gamut is very good.
However, the S7’s super deep black levels, perfect 100% sRGB colour gamut coverage and higher 2,560×1,440 resolution are hard to beat, particularly when the S7’s 5.1in screen produces a pixel density of 577ppi compared to the 4.7in iPhone 6S, which only has a pixel density of 326ppi. That makes Samsung’s screen a lot sharper to the eye, and its superior colour accuracy also means colours are a lot richer and more vivid.
One thing to consider is the iPhone’s 3D Touch capabilities; not only does the screen sense when you’re pressing it but it also knows how hard, meaning you can activate alternative actions simply by pressing more forcefully, like the touchscreen equivalent of a right mouse click. For instance, pressing hard on an icon on the home screen lets you jump into a certain part of the app without having to wait for the app to open before navigating there.
The S7 doesn’t have this, but there’s no denying the usefulness of its always-on display. This will show the time, date, battery status and even basic calendar information when the main screen is turned off, making it easy to glance down and see all the important information you need without having to pick it up off the table and turn it on. What’s more, it doesn’t use up much energy either, as Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology will only illuminate the individual pixels needed instead of the whole display, so it doesn’t impact the phone’s overall battery life.
Conclusion: As good as the iPhone 6S’s screen is, the S7 has the technically superior display. However, 3D Touch is very useful, and several members of the Expert Reviews office have said they now can’t live without it. In this case, we’re calling this one a draw.
Processor: The S7 has one of Samsung’s custom octa-core 2.3GHz Exynos 8890 chipsets and 4GB of RAM, while the iPhone 6S has one of Apple’s dual-core 1.8GHz A9 processors and has 2GB of RAM. On paper, the S7 certainly sounds more powerful, but in reality the 6S puts up a surprisingly good fight.
For instance, the S7 scored highly impressive scores of 2,115 and 6,437 in Geekbench 3’s single core and multicore tests, but the iPhone 6S’s single core score was actually faster, coming in at 2,532. The 6S fell behind on the multicore test, though, as it only scored 4,417, but it just goes to show that more cores don’t necessarily mean better performance for low-level tasks.
Likewise, the iPhone 6S came out on top in GFX Bench GL’s offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test, producing 2,474 frames (40fps) compared to the S7’s 2,336 frames (38fps). In practice, though, a difference of two frames is neither here nor there in terms of overall speed, so they should both be able to play power hungry 3D games at equally compelling speeds.
Battery Life: This is where the S7 pulls ahead, as it battery lasted an incredible 17h 48m in our continuous video playback test with the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2, while the iPhone 6S lasted just 11h 18m under the same conditions. This should still get you through the better part of a day, but the S7 is more likely to last you longer into the next morning, even under heavy usage, making it more reliable overall.
Conclusion: The iPhone 6 might have faster graphics and single core CPU performance, but the S7’s superior battery life is arguably more important. We’d much rather sacrifice speed if it meant we could go longer between individual charges, so for this category it’s a win for the S7.
Now this is where it gets interesting, as Samsung has now reduced the size of its flagship camera sensor to 12 megapixels – the same as the iPhone 6S. Both have super fast autofocus, too, but Samsung has made each individual pixel that much bigger, increasing each one’s size to 1.4um, which is up from 1.12um on the S6. The pixels on the iPhone 6S, meanwhile, only measure 1.22um, so they won’t get as much light as those on the S7.
The results are plain to see in our test shots, too, as the S7 produced much brighter, more vibrant pictures than the 6S. Indoors painted a similar picture as well, although the S7’s pictures were perhaps a touch warm compared to the more neutral tones of the 6S. Detail levels were higher on the S7, though, and it also produced much less noise.
^ The Galaxy S7 (above) might produce slightly warmer pictures than the iPhone 6S (below), but there’s less noise and fine details are much sharper
Conclusion: There’s certainly nothing wrong with the iPhone 6S’s camera, but Samsung has clearly stepped up its game with its S7 sensor, and we much prefer the pictures we took on the S7 to those on the 6S. It’s another S7 win.
The Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S are both great phones, and there can’t be many out there who don’t already have some sort of inherent preference for Android or iOS. If you’re truly agnostic, though, then we’d say the S7 has the edge, as it not only has a longer-lasting battery and a better camera, but its display and overal design are also more impressive.
More importantly, you also get a lot more for your money with the S7, as the 32GB version currently costs £569 SIM-free, whereas the 16GB iPhone 6S costs £539. If you want more storage on your iPhone 6S, you’ll have to fork out £619, which is a lot more than current S7 prices.
The S7 is more expensive on contract right now, but again the difference is fairly small. Carphone Warehouse are currently selling the S7 for £80 upfront and then £36-per-month, whereas the cheapest iPhone 6S deal is £60 upfront with a monthly cost of £32.49. That makes the S7 much better value overall, but ultimately a lot’s going to come down to whether you prefer Android or iOS as to which handset you end up choosing. For those that want the very best value for money, though, the S7 is the clear winner.