How the Galaxy S8 stacks up against iPhone 7

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Galaxy S8 in hand
Galaxy S8 is the smartphone to buy, says Consumer Reports.
Photo: Samsung

Samsung delivered the Galaxy S8 series today, and the phones are everything fans hoped they would be. The gorgeous, curved-glass form factor packs the latest specifications, stunning Infinity Displays and features like iris scanning.

But how do the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ stack up against iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus?

It’s no surprise Samsung went all out to blow away fans with the Galaxy S8. The company desperately needs to restore trust and excitement to the Galaxy brand after the exploding Galaxy Note 7 fiasco last fall. Samsung pushed back the Galaxy S8 launch to spend more time making the device spectacular.

And Samsung succeeded. There’s not a smartphone on sale today that’s prettier or more capable than the South Korean company’s latest flagship. But is it for you? Is it time to switch if you’re an iPhone fan? Is the Galaxy S8 worth its hefty price tag?

Galaxy S8 vs. iPhone 7

Here’s how the Samsung Galaxy S8 compares to the iPhone 7 series under the hood.

Galaxy S8 vs. iPhone 7 chart
Click to enlarge.
Chart: Cult of Mac

Galaxy S8 processor

Early benchmarks suggest that the Galaxy S8, which comes equipped with a Snapdragon 835 processor, can easily outpace the iPhone 7 — and any other smartphone. But we’ll need to wait until the device makes its debut on April 21 to find out just how powerful the final version is.

You can be sure it will be impressive. Samsung used a cutting-edge 10-nanometer manufacturing process for both the Snapdragon 835 and the Exynos 8895 processor (which will power Galaxy S8 devices outside the United States).

That means the tiny transistors within each chip are ever so slightly closer together, making it more powerful and more power-efficient. In comparison, Apple built its A10 Fusion chip using a 14-nanometer process.

The Snapdragon 835 also boasts eight processing cores, up to 25 percent faster Adreno 540 graphics, and features like Gigabit LTE. A10 Fusion packs only four processing cores, two of which are low-power cores that take on certain tasks to save battery life when the device is asleep.

Galaxy-S8-multitasking
Galaxy S8 has the power.
Photo: Samsung

But we shouldn’t read too much into this just yet.

Apple proves time and time again that with the efficiency of iOS, it can maximize processing and graphics power like no other smartphone maker. Its A-series chips regularly outpace the competition, despite fewer cores and slower clock speeds.

Where the difference will be noticeable is in memory. Like the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S8 comes with 4GB of RAM — twice as much as the iPhone 7 (the iPhone 7 Plus comes with 3GB). That means web browsing, multitasking and other intensive tasks should be noticeably smoother.

Galaxy S8 internal storage

Samsung doubled the Galaxy S7’s 32GB of internal storage to 64GB in the Galaxy S8, and added a microSD card slot so users can add more if they need it. This offers flexibility, and it’s a lot cheaper than buying more internal storage upfront.

Apple, on the other hand, never offered an expandable storage option with iPhone, so you must ensure you’re getting enough when you buy your phone. However, it did add a 256GB option with iPhone 7, and bumped the entry-level model to 32GB from 16GB.

Galaxy S8 camera

Galaxy fans will be disappointed that Samsung is using exactly the same camera in the Galaxy S8 as it did in the Galaxy S7. It’s a 12-megapixel Dual-Pixel sensor with an f/1.7 aperture and optical image stabilization. However, Samsung says it made improvements in software.

In comparison, the iPhone 7 uses a 12-megapixel iSight sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, while the iPhone 7 Plus boasts exactly the same with a secondary telephoto lens that allows for 2x optical zoom — a feature you won’t find on any of Samsung’s latest devices.

Galaxy S8 camera
Galaxy S8 packs the same 12-megapixel camera as Galaxy S7.
Photo: Samsung

If optical zoom and those awesome portrait effects offered by the 7 Plus are important to you, the iPhone wins here. But if you want pure camera performance, the Galaxy S8 takes the crown.

When tested by the experts at DxOMark, the Galaxy S7’s camera rated better than iPhone 7’s, with “excellent and repeatable exposures in all conditions, fast and accurate autofocus, and a very good compromise between noise and detail.”

Galaxy S8 features versus iPhone 7

Samsung no longer throws everything into its Galaxy smartphones to see what works and what doesn’t. For the sake of simplicity, the company became much more careful about which features make the cut. But that doesn’t mean the Galaxy S8 series is lacking.

It boasts a number of useful features you won’t find on iPhone, including wireless charging, iris and facial recognition, true virtual reality with a proper headset, NFC, a heart rate monitor, USB-C connectivity and Bluetooth 5.0. Oh, there’s also a headphone jack.

Galaxy S8 facial recognition
Galaxy S8 boasts iris and facial recognition.
Photo: Samsung

Galaxy S8 is also Samsung’s first smartphone that’s compatible with the DeX dock, which allows you to connect it to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse and use the device as an Android-powered PC.

The iPhone 7 delivers some unique selling points, too, including Apple Pay, 3D Touch and stereo speakers. It’s also available in red now.

Software: Android vs. iOS

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Galaxy S8 and the iPhone 7 is software. One runs Android, the other iOS — and no matter how good the Galaxy S8 might look, it’s never going to be the right phone for a long-time iOS user with no interest in switching.

This is the first thing you should consider when comparing the latest phones from Apple and Samsung, then. Both platforms offer advantages and disadvantages, and most consumers harbor a preference. Very few like to switch it up every year.

Samsung overhauled its software for the Galaxy S8 to make it cleaner and more user-friendly. It looks incredible, and first impressions tell us it’s a significant improvement over anything Samsung made before.

But iOS came into the world clean and simple, and remains that way. Nothing is more user-friendly.

It’s up to you to decide which one wins here.

Apple still has time to beat Galaxy S8

It’s worth remembering that right now, the Galaxy S8 is competing with last year’s iPhone. When September rolls around, it’s going to be a completely different story. Apple has time to catch up and make the iPhone 8 (or whatever it’s called) even more impressive.

iPhone 8 concept
What the iPhone 8 could look like.
Photo: Concept

Recent rumors promise that at least one version of the iPhone 8 will deliver Apple’s first OLED smartphone display, curved glass, wireless charging and possibly iris scanning. It will also pack Apple’s next-generation A-series processor.

So don’t assume Samsung won the smartphone fight for 2017 just yet. Apple has yet to enter the ring, and with iPhone celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, you can be sure its next refresh will be a special one.