Which phablet is for you? iPhone 7 Plus vs Note 7
UPDATE: The Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s recall means that it's no longer an option for those looking for a large-screen phone. However, this comparison might be instructive to see how the iPhone 7 Plus would have compared against what would have been the premium large-screen Android smartphone. Those looking for an alternative to the iPhone 7 Plus could consider the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which doesn't appear to suffer from the Note 7's overheating problems.
The iPhone 7 Plus is something Apple dismissed as a concept just four years ago. Remember the iPhone 5 advert that said that 4in phones were perfectly evolved for the human thumb?
That “common sense” has now been abandoned for three generations in a row with the iPhone 7 Plus being the third phablet Apple has released. And as we pointed out in our iPhone 7 Plus review, it’s faster than its predecessor, has a better screen and more storage, and it's water-resistant. The new dual-lens camera is very good and the 2x optical zoom works brilliantly.
Samsung, of course, have been doing this for years and in our Galaxy Note 7 review, we named the phablet the new undisputed king of smartphones due to its waterproofing, iris recognition, improved stylus and performance.
The Note 7 is, of course, coming back from a product recall due to a serious battery overheating problem. But that appears to be over, with replacements available for those who bought the phone and the Note 7 expected to go back on sale in early October.
So is it worth waiting for? Or should you go for the iPhone 7 Plus?
By now, all top-of-the-range phones look pretty damned sleek, and it should come as no surprise that both the iPhone 7 Plus and the Galaxy Note 7 are both quite the lookers. The iPhone 7 Plus doesn't look too dramatically different from the iPhone 6S Plus – although the Jet Black colour is new – while the Note 7 works on the super design work from the Galaxy S series.
Both wear their phablet dimensions as a badge of honour. The iPhone 7 Plus has a slightly smaller screen at 5.5in to the Note 7's 5.7in. Despite this, the Note 7 is the smaller handset overall: it's 153.5 x 73.9mm to the iPhone 7 Plus’ 158.2 x 77.9mm. It’s lighter too, with the Note 7 tipping the scales at 169g to the iPhone 7 Plus’ 188g. The iPhone 7 Plus is thinner though – it's just 7.3mm thick, managing to shave off a little bit of its girth as it ditched the headphone jack (the Note 7 is hardly fat at 7.9mm).
Verdict: The iPhone 7 Plus’s styling has plenty of fans and rightly so, but Note 7 wins by a nose due to its clever design that squeezes a larger screen into the smaller body.
The iPhone 7 Plus has a 5.5in IPS display with a resolution of 1,080 x 1,920 pixels, resulting in a pixel density of 401 pixels per inch. That’s plenty of pixels, but not as many as the Galaxy Note 7, which packs a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 pixels into its display, resulting a pixel density of 518ppi.
The iPhone 7 Plus is 25% brighter than the iPhone 6S Plus, and the colour gamut is wider. As a result, colours are a little bit warmer than the older model, without being over-vibrant – improving an already very good display.
However, the Note 7 is brighter again, managing an impressive 872cm/m2 in our tests. It also has a larger 5.7in screen, with a higher 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution. Even more impressive is the Super AMOLED screen’s colour accuracy and perfect contrast – and it uses the same flexible technology as the Galaxy S7 Edge to offer curved edges and always-on edge display.
Verdict: While the iPhone 7 Plus has a great display, the Galaxy Note 7’s screen is bigger, has significantly higher pixel density and is, quite simply, stunning.
Apple has finally killed off the 16GB entry level for iPhones, which is great news because it was hugely stingy, but also kind of irrelevant here as the Note 7 starts with 64GB storage – and it also keeps the microSD card expansion slot, something which Apple refuses to budge on.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 also comes with the S Pen – Samsung's clever stylus which allows you to doodle on the screen and which has been improved since the previous version. The iPhone 7 Plus doesn't, but the two are both water resistant, although as we explained the in the iPhone 7 vs Galaxy S7 face-off, the Samsung handset has a superior IP68 rating.
And, of course, the Note 7 comes with a headphone jack which the iPhone 7 Plus infamously doesn't. Not to be outdone on the inconvenience stakes, the Note 7 is the first Samsung phone to ditch the micro USB port. There are all kinds of advantages to USB Type C, but in the short run, you're probably going to struggle to find spare cables around. On the plus side, it does have wireless charging which, again, the iPhone 7 Plus lacks. And while both offer a fingerprint scanner, the Note 7 goes further by adding an iris scanner for even more convenient access.
Verdict: Again, both phones are packed with features, but with its stylus, iris scanner, slightly better water resistance, expandable storage and a headphone jack, the Galaxy S7 is the clear winner.
The Note 7 offers the same excellent 12MP camera as the Galaxy S7, so against any other phone it would be a winner. However, the iPhone 7 Plus sets a new standard with a dual-lens camera that offers a 27mm lens alongside a 57mm lens with 2x optical zoom.
The iPhone 7 Plus’s camera wasn’t perfect in our low-light testing, but overall it’s better than its predecessor’s camera – and after using the 2X optical zoom for a while, we began to wonder how we could live without it.
Verdict: The Note 7 takes consistently good photos in a range of conditions, but the very handy 2x optical zoom sees the Apple phone win here.
The Galaxy Note 7 uses the same eight-core Exynos 8890 processor as the Galaxy S7, backed by 4GB RAM, while the iPhone 7 Plus has 2GB of RAM and Apple’s incredible new A10 Fusion chip.
That means the comparative performance is pretty much the same as for the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 – the Samsung phone is fast, but the iPhone 7 Plus is quicker again.
Verdict: Did we mention the A10 Fusion is the fastest smartphone processor ever? In fact, some tests suggest the iPhone 7 Plus is even faster than the current iPad Pro.
Apple isn’t making outrageous claims about the iPhone 7 Plus’s battery life, saying it will last up to one hour longer than the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 7 (using the internet on Wi-Fi).
Samsung, meanwhile, powers the Galaxy Note 7 with a huge 3,500mAh battery which, combined with the efficient Exynos 8890 processor and improved AMOLED display, enabled the Samsung phablet to last a whopping 21 hours 57 minutes in our battery test.
Verdict: When it comes to battery life, the Galaxy Note 7 comfortably beats not only the iPhone 7 Plus but also every other smartphone that we’ve tested.
With the Note 7's previous overheating problem and the iPhone 7 Plus's lack of headphone jack, both of these phones have their controversies. But if you can look past those issues, these are among the very best phablets available.
The iPhone 7 Plus offers better performance and a standard-setting dual-lens camera with 2x optical zoom, but the Galaxy Note 7 has a superior screen, much better battery life and a number of extra features, including its useful stylus.
So it’s a narrow win to the Note 7 due to its battery life and features, but ultimately which you choose will probably come down to which ecosystem and operating system you prefer.
Of course, Android users who don't want to wait for the Note 7 might want to consider the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge – which has the same processor, camera and many other features as the Note 7 but with a slightly smaller (5.5in) screen and no stylus.