Google Pixel vs iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7

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Google Pixel vs iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7

With Google about to release to its new premium smartphone, we compare it against the established market leaders from Apple and Samsung.

The Nexus is dead, long live the Pixel! That's right, Google is no longer outsourcing its handsets to LG and Huawei. And its first two offerings – the Pixel and Pixel XL – look like being the stuff of smartphone dreams.

But where does that leave 2016’s other big hitters? In terms of glowing reviews and strong sales, it’s hard to look past the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7. But are the Samsung and Apple flagships going to be bettered by Google?

With the Pixel set for release this week (on October 20), we compared it with the Samsung S7 and iPhone 7 to see if there’s likely to be a new market leader.

We haven’t been able to thoroughly test the new Google phone as yet, but from the specifications and our early hands-on preview, we know to enough to help point those in the market for a new smartphone in the right direction.

We’ll compare the Pixel against the iPhone 7 later in this feature, but first, let’s see how the new Google phone stands up against the Galaxy S7.

Google, Samsung and Apple flagship phones at a glance
  Google Pixel Samsung Galaxy S7 Apple iPhone 7
Current outright price From $1,079 (32GB) $1,150 From $1,079 (32GB)
Cheapest 1GB plan (per month) $85 (Telstra) $55 (Virgin) $66 Virgin, $68 Optus
Display size and type 5in AMOLED 5.1in Super AMOLED 4.7in LED-backlit IPS LCD
Display pixel density 441 ppi 577 ppi 326 ppi
Processor Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 Eight-core Exynos 8890 Octa Quad-core A10 Fusion
RAM 4GB 4GB 2GB
Built-in storage 32GB or 128GB 32GB 32, 128 or 256GB
Expandable storage No microSD No
Rear camera 12.3MP, f/2.0 12MP, f/1.7 12MP, f/1.8
Front camera 8MP, f/2.4 5MP, f/1.7 7MP, ƒ/2.2
Water and dust resistance No IP68 IP67
Headphone jack Yes Yes No
Weight 143g 152g 138g
Operating system Android 7.1 Android 6.0 iOS 10

We’ve focused on the standard-sized phones in this feature, but all three are available in larger, 5.5in screen versions – the Pixel XL, Galaxy S7 Edge and iPhone 7 Plus. 

Big-screen flagship phones at a glance
  Google Pixel XL Galaxy S7 Edge iPhone 7 Plus
Current outright price From $1,269 (32GB) $1,249 From $1,269 (32GB)
Cheapest 1GB plan (per month) $92 (Telstra) $60 (Virgin) $73 Virgin, $75 Optus
Display size and type 5.5in AMOLED   5.5in Super AMOLED 5.5in LED-backlit IPS LCD
Display pixel density 534ppi 534 ppi 401 ppi
Processor Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 Eight-core Exynos 8890 Octa Quad-core A10 Fusion
RAM 4GB 4GB 3GB
Built-in storage 32GB or 128GB 32GB 32, 128 or 256GB
Expandable storage No microSD No
Rear camera 12.3MP, f/2.0 12MP, f/1.7 12MP, dual
lenses*
Front camera 8MP, f/2.4 5MP, f/1.7 7MP, ƒ/2.2
Water and dust resistance No IP68 IP67
Headphone jack Yes Yes No
Weight 168g 152g 188g
Operating system Android 7.1 Android 6.0 iOS 10

* The iPhone 7 Plus’ rear camera has wide-angle (ƒ/1.8) and telephoto (ƒ/2.8, 2x optical zoom) lenses.

How Google's new phone compares with the Samsung Galaxy S7

Despite its problems with the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung still has the best Android phones on the market with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge – but will the Google Pixel take Samsung’s crown? Here we examine the key criteria of each handset in depth to find out which comes out on top.

Both the Galaxy S7 and Pixel are pricey smartphones, and if that kind of expenditure makes you feel uneasy, you can at least comfort yourself with one thing: you'll get a good looking device.

Design

Both handsets are a beautiful combination of metal and glass and are in the same ballpark in terms of size, at 5in for the Pixel and 5.1in for the Galaxy S7. While the Samsung Galaxy comes in black, gold, white, silver or rose gold, Google gently prods at the pomposity of rival manufacturers' grandiose colour titles with the more straightforward “quite black”, “very silver” and “really blue”.

Two more things to note from the outside. Firstly, both phones have fingerprint security, but they're located in totally different places. While Samsung opts for home button security on the S7, Google is placing theirs on the back of the handset – so it's a question of whether you prefer to unlock with your thumb or your index finger.

Secondly, Google incorporates a USB Type C charging port into their handset, while Samsung sticks with micro USB – probably for the last time. Whether this is a win for either depends on whether you value the faster speeds of the newer port over the convenience of micro USB cables being literally everywhere.

So overall on design, it comes down your preference for the charging port. Otherwise, we’ll call this category a draw.

Screen

Thankfully, this category is a little more clear cut – at least on paper. We should caveat this section by saying that there's more to screen quality than just resolution, and our review will get to the bottom of screen quality when we can put the Pixel properly through its paces.

That said, on paper, Samsung clearly has the upper hand here.

As mentioned above, the Galaxy S7's screen is marginally (0.1in) bigger than the Pixel's, but the resolution difference is huge: 1,440 x 2,560 to Google's 1,080 x 1,920. That means that while the S7 is packing 557 pixels per inch, the Pixel has just 424.

Now it's important not to overstate that, given most people will find a 1080p display fine on a screen of that size – and after all, most of our TV sets are still 1080p and we cope fine with those. However, if you're interested in virtual reality – either with the Samsung Galaxy Gear VR or Google's upcoming Daydream – then this stuff matters a lot more. In short: virtual reality involves having a screen magnified very close to your eyes, and under this kind of scrutiny, every pixel matters.

That means that this round goes decisively to Samsung unless Google really manages to surprise us when we test the Pixel in depth. But given Samsung makes some of the best screens in the business, we’re doubtful the Galaxy S7 will be beaten here.

Performance

Performance is quite a bit trickier to evaluate, because we’re comparing Samsung's own, very fast octa-core 2.3GHz Exynos 8890 chip against the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor in the Google Pixel. The Snapdragon 821 promises a 10% boost on its predecessor, the Snapdragon 820. As we haven't seen had any handsets with the new chip yet, it's hard to validate these claims, but it's likely the Pixel will be very snappy indeed.

Both handsets are backed up with 4GB RAM, so a dead-heat there.

If we were betting on the outcome, we’d put our money on the Google Pixel to be marginally quicker – not just because of the advances of the Snapdragon chipset, but because the new hardware combined with Google software is generally a recipe for buttery-smooth operation. But we won't know for sure until we get one in our labs.

Battery

Again, battery life is difficult to predict because there are so many variables.

We could look at the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Google Pixel batteries side by side and say objectively that the S7's is larger. And that's true: it's 3,000mAh compared to 2,770mAh – but it doesn't tell the full story.

There are two reasons to think that day-to-day use will see the Google Pixel bettering the Samsung Galaxy S7's already strong battery life: resolution and software. The resolution reason is simple: all those extra pixels in the Samsung Galaxy S7 have to be powered, so whenever your screen is on, the battery is working harder than the Google Pixel's.

Software is a little bit more speculative, but basically the argument goes like this: Google makes Android, and therefore any hardware it makes can naturally take advantage of the (newer) version of the operating system.

Given the Google Pixel uses a newer version of the S7's (American) chip, it's very likely that it'll have similar, if not slightly better, battery life. But as this is speculation for the moment, we'll hedge our bets and call this one a draw.

Android version

Google has a natural advantage here because it creates both the hardware and the software. Historically, Nexus devices have been first in line for Android updates and security fixes, unencumbered by the need to ensure device compatibility or carrier approval. This continues with the Google Pixel, which ships with Android N from its release date.

The Samsung Galaxy S7, however, is stuck on Android Marshmallow, with no current ETA on that sweet Android Nougat patch. Historically, Samsung isn't the fastest to update their myriad handsets, so we're betting on the second quarter of 2017.

Either way, the S7 doesn't have Android N right now, so Google wins out of the box.

Price

It's always a little unfair to compare smartphone prices when one handset has been out for half a year, and the other hasn't even been released.

However, in terms of outright pricing, the Pixel is already slightly in front, with Google and JB Hi-Fi pre-selling the phone for $1,079, compared to the Galaxy S7’s price of $1,149.

It’s a different story if you want to buy on plan though. The Pixel will be exclusive to Telstra, with its cheapest plan $85 per month (for 1GB of data). By comparison, the Galaxy S7 is available on all major carriers and its cheapest 1GB plan is $55 per month (from Virgin).

The price of the Telstra plan may come down in the future – and the exclusivity deal may have a time limit – but the greater choice of available plans is likely to favour the Samsung phone for the foreseeable future. And as most people buy premium phones like these on plans, the winner on price is the Galaxy S7.

Verdict

It's always hard to judge a phone that we haven't been able to thoroughly test yet – and especially when it's made by Google, who know a thing or two about getting the most out of Android, but anyone sitting on the fence between the two handsets should feel confident in biting the bullet and purchasing a Samsung Galaxy S7 now.

Not only does it have a higher resolution screen and similar specifications, but it's considerably cheaper to buy on a plan. We'd be surprised if the difference in specs manifests itself in a dramatic leap forwards by the Pixel.

There are reasons to hang on for the Google Pixel, of course. It's also going to be the first phone to run Google Daydream – the company's dedicated virtual reality application. It requires dedicated hardware, so the S7 will never get it – although it does, of course, have the Gear VR if you want to get hands on with virtual worlds.

And if you prefer to buy your phone outright – especially if you're the kind of person who wants the latest version of Android first – the Pixel could be well worth waiting for. Stay tuned for our full, in-depth review as soon as we’ve finished testing the new phone.

How Google's new phone compares with the iPhone 7

As we said in our review of the iPhone 7, it’s one of the best smartphones you can buy right now, but it's about to face some serious competition from the Pixel.

Because the Pixel's hardware and software are designed by Google, it's bound to offer the best Android experience you can get right now – and that's also why it's the perfect phone to compare to Apple's iPhone 7.

So which phone and operating system should you go with? iOS or Android, Apple or Google? In this article we'll compare the Google Pixel and the iPhone 7's features, specs and much more, so you can work out which phone to buy in 2016.

Design

As with most smartphones nowadays, the Google Pixel is constructed from a blend of glass and metal – and it looks great. Although it shows a striking resemblance to the iPhone 7, Google's design does have some pretty unique features. For example, while the front of the handset is glass, the rear of the device is one-third gloss and two-thirds matte. It's a unique look that's smart and different – but it is a magnet for fingerprints. The Google Pixel measures 143 x 69.5 x 7.3mm, and is available in silver and black.

If you've held an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s, you pretty much know what to expect from the iPhone 7. Apple has changed very little on the outside of the iPhone 7, and that's no bad thing, because it's still one of the best-looking phones you can buy. This time around, Apple has given us more choice when it comes to finishes, so you can get your iPhone 7 in Rose Gold, Gold, Silver, Matte Black or the hard-to-find Jet Black finish. Apple's new smartphone measures 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1mm, so it's slightly smaller than the Google Pixel – but it does have a smaller screen.

Camera

The Google Pixel uses a camera pretty similar to the one in Google's last-generation flagships, the Nexus 5X and 6P. It's a 12.3-megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 aperture, phase detection and laser autofocus, and has 1.55um pixels. However, Google has added advanced image stabilisation, so you should be able to get better videos out of Google's smartphone than before.

The iPhone 7 gets an upgraded camera over its predecessor, too. Apple has given the new iPhone a 12-megapixel sensor, optical image stabilisation, a brighter f/1.8 aperture and a quad-LED flash, so it's much better in low-light conditions than it used to be.

While the iPhone 7's camera is an improvement over the one in the iPhone 6s, we found it to be somewhat less impressive than its specs suggested. Furthermore, Google has already stated that the Google Pixel gets a DxOMark Mobile score of 89, making it better than the iPhone 7's score of 86.

Fingerprint reader

The Google Pixel has an onscreen home button, while Google has tucked the Pixel's fingerprint reader onto the rear of the handset. In contrast, Apple has combined the two features into a button on the front of the iPhone 7.

In reality, though, it's not a button at all: Apple has made the new home button pressure-sensitive but non-mechanical. To maintain the illusion of a physical, moving button, the new iPhone uses haptic feedback to give the impression of a click.

Water resistance and headphone jack

Both the Google Pixel and iPhone 7 miss out at least one feature you'd expect to see on a smartphone in 2016. The Google Pixel features a headphone jack, and the iPhone 7 famously doesn't – but the Pixel isn't water-resistant, and the iPhone 7 is. The omission of either of these features is pretty strange, and although they're not as essential as people claim them to be, we'd have liked to see both phones with a headphone jack and water resistance.

Digital assistants

Google's Pixel is the first phone to come with Google Assistant built in. Simply put, this is an AI assistant that can help you with a range of tasks, from finding out the weather to searching for photos – or even translating languages.

As you'd expect, the iPhone 7 comes with the latest version of Siri, one of the first types of digital assistant on the market. Like Google Assistant, Siri lets you check things such as Premier League and the weather, and allows you to send texts hands-free.

Display

The Google Pixel comes with a 5in AMOLED screen which displays 441 pixels per inch (PPI). Apple's iPhone 7 uses a slightly smaller 4.7in Retina HD display with a pixel density of 326ppi. Although the iPhone 7 uses an LED screen rather than an OLED one, we found it performed well when compared to the Samsung Galaxy S7's class-leading screen. That means the Pixel and the iPhone 7 screens should be evenly matched.

Performance and processor

Google has managed to fit in a quad-core Snapdragon 821 processor, while Apple's iPhone 7 uses an A10 Fusion processor. Although we haven't compared the two head to head yet, several reports are already saying the iPhone 7 might just have the edge.

Battery life

Google says the Pixel should give you 26 hours of talk time, 13 hours of Wi-Fi use, and 19 days of standby. In contrast, Apple says the iPhone 7 will last give you 14 hours of talk time, 14 hours of Wi-Fi and ten days of standby. It's impossible to comment on how the two phones compare before we've tested both of them together, but looking at the manufacturer's figure alone suggests the Pixel is by far the longer-lasting handset.

Price, storage and verdict

It’s obviously no coincidence that the Google Pixel is exactly the same price as the iPhone 7: $1,079 for the 32GB version and $1,229 for the 128GB version, although the iPhone 7 also has a 256GB version for $1,379. Even the larger-screen Pixel XL and iPhone 7 Plus have the same pricing: $1,269 for the 32GB version and $1,419 for the 128GB version.

However, when buying on a plan, the Pixel suffers from being a Telstra exclusive, with the cheapest plan $85 per month (for 1GB of data). By comparison, the iPhone 7 is available on all major carriers and its cheapest 1GB plan is $66 per month (from Virgin).

The price of the Telstra plan may come down in the future – and the exclusivity deal may have a time limit – but the greater choice of available plans is likely to favour the Apple phone for the foreseeable future.

And as most people buy premium phones like these on plans, it’s difficult to see how the Pixel is going to lure away many long-time Apple smartphone users.

That said, based on our initial assessment, these phones are very evenly matched. And if Apple’s decision to ditch the headphone jack has put you off the iPhone 7, it may pay to wait for our full review of the Pixel before making a final decision.

This feature is based on two comparisons that originally appeared at alphr.com: Google Pixel vs Galaxy S7 and Google Pixel vs iPhone 7.

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