Galaxy Note 7 vs. iPhone 6s Plus: Battle of the big phones!

I've just spent a week working with the Android Central team preparing for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, the Korean giant's latest salvo in the large smartphone space. I read a lot of words about a smartphone that, instead of making overt changes, subtly builds on the success of its predecessor. And then, after using it, I realized that the sum of those parts is one of the most competitive and interesting smartphones to come out this year. So, how does it compare to the existing Apple flagship, iPhone 6s Plus, and what does it mean for the one coming up, iPhone 7?

Symmetry

The first thing that struck me about the Galaxy Note 7 is its symmetry, with the tight curves in its front and back meeting along the side bezels to form an unbroken connection — something that would have been impossible just two years ago, when the processes for curving glass over flexible AMOLED displays was in its infancy. Pundits similarly remarked on the elegance of Apple's curved metal chassis when the iPhone 6 debuted in 2014, and comparing both the iPhone 6s Plus next to the new Note 7, it's clear both companies are able to command enormous manufacturing advantages over much of the competition (though they are catching up).

While the the ports and speaker holes on the Note 7's bottom still don't line up, the rest of the phone is extremely well balanced, and beautifully engineered. It is narrower than its predecessor, the Note 5, and significantly easier to use with one hand than the iPhone 6s Plus, which is a full three millimeters wider. Indeed, the gulf in screen-to-bezel ratio between the iPhone Plus series and some of Android's biggest phones is widening, with products like the 5.5-inch ZTE Axon 7 approaching (but not quite reaching) the designation of "compact."

Galaxy Note 7 vs. iPhone 6s Plus Specs comparison

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CategoryGalaxy Note 7iPhone 6s Plus
Operating SystemAndroid 6.0 MarshmallowiOS 9.3
Display5.7-inch 2560x1440 (518ppi)
Super AMOLED
Dual edge screen
Gorilla Glass 5
5.5-inch 1920x1080 (401ppi)
IPS LCD
Ion-strengthened glass
ProcessorQuad-core Snapdragon 820 (U.S)
Octa-core Exynos (international)
Apple A9 chip
Storage64GB16-128GB
ExpandablemicroSD up to 2TBNo
RAM4GB2GB
Rear Camera12MP f/1.7
1.4-micron pixels
OIS
12MP f/2.2
1.22-micron pixels
OIS
Front Camera5MP f/1.75MP f/2.2
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 ac MIMO
Bluetooth v4.2 LE
ANT+, USB 2.0, NFC
Wi-Fi 802.11 ac MIMO
Bluetooth v4.2 LE
USB 2.0, NFC (Apple Pay only)
ChargingUSB-C
Fast Charge
Lightning
Fast Charge
Wireless chargingYes, Qi wireless
Powermat wireless
No
InputS Pen stylus
4096 pts of pressure sensitivity
Passive stylus only
Battery3500 mAh2750 mAh
Water resistanceIP68 ratingUnofficial water resistance
SecurityOne-touch fingerprint sensor
Iris scanner
Samsung KNOX
Private folder
Touch ID fingerprint sensor
Dimensions153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
Weight169 g192g

An unfair comparison

Of course, this is an unfair comparison given that the Note 7 is brand new and the iPhone 6s Plus eleven months old and nearing the end of its annual release cycle. For all we know, the so-called iPhone 7 Plus will shrink, as the Note series has over the past few years, while maintaining its 5.5-inch screen size, or it will merely offer a larger screen with the same dimensions. But Apple hasn't shown as fervent a concern with screen-to-bezel efficiency as it has with thinness and lightness — the iPhone 6s Plus is even slightly thicker and heavier than its 2014 counterpart — and there's no reason to believe that won't continue this year.

While the the ports and speaker holes on the Note 7's bottom still don't line up, the rest of the phone is extremely well balanced, and beautifully engineered.

But the Note 7 has many of the features iPhone customers have been clamoring for since the early years of the this decade: water resistance; wireless charging; a high-resolution display; and a generous helping of internal storage as standard. And the return of the microSD card to the Note line will certainly attract a certain subset of core Android users who may have defected from Samsung in the 12 months since the Note 5's launch.

As different as they are, though, the iPhone 6s Plus and Note 7 share a number of truths about the smartphone industry in general: they are wholly iterative replacements for very innovative devices, and eschew gimmickry in favor of reliability and — more than anything — quality. To that end, the Note 7's Android software lacks much of the trickery that was so common just two years ago, opting for flat textures, white backgrounds, and thin, easy-to-read typography optimized for high-resolution displays. Even the announcement of an iris scanner lacked the fanfare such an inclusion would have three years ago; it's just another way to log in to your phone (and hopefully, with an impending API, other secure apps).

Pen vs. Pencil

One of the most interesting things about the Note 7 is its S Pen. Even five years after its debut, the S Pen has managed to retain its importance among a subset of Note users enthralled with its intuitive storage and wide app support. This year's version has 4096 points of pressure, similar in theory to the Apple Pencil to which it will inevitably be compared.

As different as they are, though, the iPhone 6s Plus and Note 7 share a number of truths about the smartphone industry.

We won't know for a month yet if Apple plans to bring Pencil support to the iPhone, but we can safely say that it will not be stored in the chassis like a ballpoint. And while Samsung executives took a soft jab at Apple during the Note 7 keynote by saying that the S Pen needs no external power, nor a special slot in one's bag, the reality is that a feature that in 2011 was dismissed as frivolous has now been acknowledged in some way by the world's most influential smartphone maker. As much inspiration as Samsung draws from Apple in the software department, there is no question that Cupertino's recent flurry of investment in its accessory ecosystem, centred around the burgeoning Smart Connector port, is an idea well worn by other giants of tech.

Peak shine

The Galaxy Note 7 is shiny — not just in a physical sense, but in the way it reflects much of the phone industry's tepid growth and rapid maturity of the past three or so years. From the way its tightly curved glass edges curl to meet a color-matched metal bezel to its port cover-free implementation of IP68 water resistance, the Note 7 is an engineering marvel. Its design is also governed by different values than Apple's. But these differences are shrinking year after year, as Samsung's hardware prowess improves and Android's once-common idiosyncrasies subside.

As the resident cross-platform user at iMore, I'll be exploring the waning distance of these divergences in greater detail over the coming months, but suffice it to say Samsung has engineered its best phone ever with the Note 7, and likely one of the best smartphones, period. It's certainly raised the bar for Apple in the coming month, and that's a good thing for the industry in general.

Now if we could only get Samsung to launch phones with the latest Android version.

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader is a Senior Editor at iMore, offering his Canadian analysis on Apple and its awesome products. In addition to writing and producing, Daniel regularly appears on Canadian networks CBC and CTV as a technology analyst.

77 Comments
  • I think people are more likely to clamour for features rather than clamber for them.
  • Hah! Touché.
  • A more newsworthy piece would be a comparison to the iPhone 7 once it's out, this article jumps the gun a bit. Gotta fill that writing quota somehow I guess :-)
  • Don't worry that will come as well.
  • "Now if we could only get Samsung to launch phones with the latest Android version." And with a faster update schedule. This^^^
  • Utftcsrdwdz Sent from the iMore App
  • And the carriers allow it to happen.
  • Well, technically Marshmallow is still the latest Android version. Nougat is still in Beta for now.
  • On purely form factor, the Note would be the perfect phone...lots of screen space in a slightly smaller/thicker package. My only complaints about my 6S Plus are its a bit too thin and slippery and I hate the huge bezels.
  • I love everything about my 6s Plus, my only complaint is maybe a bit wider, as I don't like the edge design of either the Note 7 or S7 Edge and the width of both Samsung phones are too narrow. The bezels of my 6s Plus don't bother md but f they bother you why not get a case? The bezels on the regular 6s are much worse. Sent from the iMore App
  • I agree with your post. Sent from the iMore App
  • Adding a case does nothing for the already huge bezels and just makes an already large phone for its screen size even larger.
  • Some people are never satisfied. Then get the Note 7 then. Adding a case is for protection and all you do is complain the it makes to 6s Plus bulky and doesn't hide the bezels. Most people use s case and aren't concerned about the bezels like you are, you are nitpicking. Sent from the iMore App
  • So agree.
  • It's not about hiding the bezels with a case. It's about the fact that the Note has a larger screen and a smaller body. The same thing is true of the S7 vs the 6s. I love my iPhone and would never switch to an android but looking at other good hardware and suggesting that Apple incorporate some design elements is not bad. Sent from the iMore App
  • It is to that guy. Trust me. Never, ever, ever, say anything good about Android around him.
  • Yeah, I really wish the bezels were smaller, preferably the top and bottom.
  • The Note 7 sounds like an awesome phone.... but it runs Android. This is the main factor in my not buying one. The iPhone can do things much better with 2gb and last much longer with a smaller battery than any Android phone. But of course, we are on iMore and I'm preaching to the choir. Sent from the iMore App
  • More efficient yes but last longer? You should check your facts. Posted via the iMore app for Android
  • Don't need to. I had the S7 edge, which has a slightly bigger battery than the Note 7, for a month and I still got much longer battery life from my 6s plus. Real life experience.
  • Apparently you don't, I know I have both and no way 6s last that much longer Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Oh. Do you feel better now? Sent from the iMore App
  • He has to take into consideration on the usage of both phone. Android setting power management has the breakdown of what is eating up the battery, I am not sure the same is available in iOS or not. But my point is you have to compare the actual usage.
  • It really depends on which phone you get. I have a 2015 MOTO X Pure Edition and from 6am (when I unplug it and head out of the house) to about 5:30pm (when I get back home), I usually still am left with at least 30% battery charge and that's with moderate use throughout the day. The Doze feature in Marshmallow really made the difference. Also, let's not overlook the fact that many of these Android devices have much higher resolution displays with higher pixel densities than the iPhone and that is largely where your battery usage goes. And don't forget about the fast charging capabilities in these newer phones. Anyway, as both these operating systems and the devices that use them continue to evolve, it really begins to boil down to which ecosystem you prefer using (iOS or Android).
  • You also have to take into account the edge has a much higher resolution screen than the 6s+
  • The S7 has a WIFI browser life of 8.04 hours, 6S Plus 9.05 and S7 Edge 9.58 hours. (Right off Anandtech I could care less what people think/feel). If that 30 min really gives people a chode by all means. The 6S Plus is VERY impressive for such a smaller capacity battery and it being that close. And rumors say the iPhone 7 battery capacity will go up 15%, so theoretically so will the Plus beating the 7 Edge and right with the Note 7 if not slightly better.
  • You're right, the 6S plus has execellent battery life, but you also have to take in account that the S7 and S7 egde have a 2K display.
  • /\ /\ this!! I have to keep reminding people of this specific fact. If apple were to attempt a 2k display without amoled in it's current form factor and current batt. size a 7+ would have worse battery life than my wifes 5s.
  • What can the iPhone do better?
  • Have a longer supported life cycle for one. Sent from the iMore App
  • That and integrate with Apple devices and services. If you upgrade every year or two the support lifecycle is nonfactor though. When I upgraded off my Note 3 to the iPhone, it was running the current Android version. I'm pretty sure things haven't gotten worse since then. Even my old M8 has 6.0.x on it. Google has also decoupled most apps from Android so getting a FW upgrade isn't quite as crucial as on an iPhone. If you don't get iOS 10, a lot of your stock apps won't even get updated...
  • Except, that is not the only issue. The other major factor is the actual delay in software updates well after a new version of Android is released. To me this is a major problem with Samsung, especially if security is any concern. Sent from the iMore App
  • Record multitrack audio on location (via GarageBand) while powering a small external microphone, so that I may transfer it to my Mac for processing later.
  • That's possible on Android (microphone). I can also plug in a full USB hard drive or DVD drive and use it on Android. Tried and confirmed. Can't do that on an iPhone.
  • No doubt killer feature: permanent and non delayed software support from manufacturer.
    Something what android phone from Samsung will never have.
    As much as I don't like iPhone for me there is no other choice at the moment. Sent from the iMore App
  • If your concern is delayed software updates, then go with a Nexus. When new version of Android is released, they are the first devices to get those updates.
  • It runs TouchWiz, which is a crappy fork of Android, though it's supposed to be getting better. As an Android user of six years who got an iPhone 6s four months ago though, I agree with you for the most part. I like using Android more. It's definitely a more matured OS. However, it is neither as efficient, nor as elegant as iOS. There's something to be said about both, but right now I prefer iOS as well. But whenever something goes wrong with my wife's Droid Turbo 2 (which pretty much runs stock Android) I'm all too happy to dive in and play with it for a couple minutes. Android is really cool to play with, but it doesn't move right for me anymore. I've been spoiled by how a phone should work. And how it should be updated (everyone at once rather than "our home country, then everybody but America, then everyone in America but Verizon customers"). For security, Android is horrible if you're on Verizon. Whereas if you're on an iPhone, it doesn't matter where you live and who your carrier is. I happily identify as platform agnostic and I feel I can sell the best parts of any phone to anyone. They all have their strengths. But for my usage, I first need a carrier with signal everywhere I go. And second, a phone that gets prompt security updates. That pretty much leaves me with iPhone and Verizon. If I didn't care so much about updates, I'd probably be rocking the LG G5, my favorite Android phone this year, thus far. (I personally do not like Samsung and won't use them again.)
  • Yeah, Note 7 blah blah blah. It still runs Android. That's it's biggest negative. Sent from the iMore App
  • I hear ya, but android isn't nearly as bad as it used to be. Sent from the iMore App
  • I keep hearing that, but I've tried to jump and can't stay with it due to its quirks.
  • I am suffering from the same issue, but from the other side. I can't convince myself to like the new iPad mini that I bought. I keep on going back to play with my android phone.
  • I think at this point it's mostly a question of habit. I was already an Android user for a few years when I bought my iPad and it took a while to get used to how iOS handles a few things.
  • Still isn't as good as it should be. Sent from the iMore App
  • I am glad the holes don't line up, as long as it bugs René I am fine with that! Yes I sound childish but when you write silly articles about holes not lining up so the phone isn't secure you gonna get called out on it.
    I have an iPhone waiting for me when I get home and it will be interesting to try it out. I will have the best of both worlds a Nexus 6p and iPhone 6s. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I have very much come to the place where i could be satisfied with with either an android phone or an iPhone, i think. Most apps i've use are available on both platforms and the one that isn't is a podcast app of which there are alternatives. Also the big differentiator for iphone, which i currently use, was the music player which originally was good for a power user is no longer a big differentiator. I still have a large library of my own local music not streaming. The old music app was pretty good because It was largely text and well organized and useful for quickly negotiating a large libraries of music. But in recent updates it's become cluttered, convoluted and it's mostly, large album art and eyecandy. It's also focused more on Apple music rather than my needs of easy of being an efficient music manager. Thus the iphone is not nearly as appealing to me. i however do don't buy a lot of phones. i'm still on an iphone 6 with zero interest in buying an new phone. i'll use this one until it breaks or support stops and i just have to upgrade. Until then i can live with this.
  • Yes iPhone is a great phone Sent from the iMore App
  • Just goes to show how much added bulk apple adds with their bezels. 6S+ has a smaller screen and is taller and wider than the note 7...
  • I never heard of 'lightning fast charging' is that a thing? Posted via the iMore app for Android
  • Yup, and also "Unofficial water resistance"... speechless. To me, if it is not stated, then it is not. Because if your phone is damage by water, and Apple is not going to bare any responsibility. Good Luck.
  • Samsung will not bare any responsibility for water damage either. Sent from the iMore App
  • That, I am not sure. Because I don't own a water resistance phone. It is interesting to find out though.
  • Lightning fast as in 2-3 hours? Lol
  • 3500 mAh battery fully charged in 120 minutes
    2750 mAh battery fully charged in 2-3 hours (120 - 180 minutes) How can the smaller battery that charge slower still label as "fast charging"?
  • a pencil on 5.5-inch iPhone ? ick... Reminds me of going back to the old iMate with stylus.. http://im.ziffdavisinternational.com/pcmag_in/photo/i/i-mate-jam/i-mate-... (abit smaller display)
  • Rene - you got to admit Apple is little behind. The year is bust again with iPhone 7, need to see how the supposed big revamp of iPhone 8 turns out.
  • Being an owner of the Note 5 (also own iPhone 6S & iPad) the S-Pen is without a doubt the most powerful tool in mobile tech. The features possible is a professionals dream. The capabilities are endless. Must use to believe. I will be upgrading to the Note 7. Fantastic Device!!!
  • I am note sure about the battery life of the note 7. But the only reason the iPhone is better is battery.even the note 5 blow the iPhone away and we see it on sales and good luck apple getting them back.
  • No mention at all of Apple's main innovation for the 6S(+): 3D Touch (other than in an oblique way "the iPhone 6s Plus is even slightly thicker and heavier than its 2014 counterpart")? Still, Samsung seems to be able to fit more in a smaller frame than Apple. Larger battery, microSD card slot, waterproof, and even room for a stylus. Well done Samsung! Jony Ive has some work to do.
  • I've been an iPhone user since day 1 (stood in line at AT&T for first delivery in 2007) and I just placed a pre-order for the Galaxy Note 7. I am shocked how much "smaller" it feels in hand than my 6s Plus, much more than the specs would indicate. Also impressive how they shoehorn a larger display in a smaller space, plus give you the option of up to 256gb removable storage - all in an IP68 class device. The pen is much better than the version I tried with the Note 4, and looks to add a lot of value for a business user, especially with OneNote now across all platforms. Sir Ive better be rolling his sleeves up to his biceps for 2017, because nothing I've seen about the 7 Plus (other than perhaps dual cameras) will match up to this Samsung offering.
  • Depends on what you want to get out of your phone experience. I'm not a phablet user, but I like the fact that the Note has a larger screen, but is smaller than the iPhone Plus. However, if you are invested heavily in the iOS ecosystem, it may be a tough transition to Android. However, the Note is a little more suited to multi-tasking/power use than the Plus. The multi-window with the s-pen support is great. I wish the Plus made better use of the larger screen. Also, I think Apple should get away from the "retina" screen limits. The SE should have been 720p, 6/6S should have been 1080p, and the plus should be 1440p.
  • I don't think that the Note is the device to directly compare any longer. The Note stands alone in the Premium phone space, b/c of it's focus on unique hardware features centering around the S-Pen (that few people use.) The S7 Edge is the direct Competitor to the 6S Plus. There is nothing, domestically, that practically competes with the Note.
  • It's only on Paper and hardware is so bugy as ****, Everyone knows Copysung is so weak against Apple, Chinese and Korean could never product any high-tech device never ever, but we believe in Japan.
  • I think we should wait 16th September to make a compassion between Note 7 and iPhone 7.
  • we know that apple will just change the look. i was an iphone fan for years and dont think apple will change a lot.
  • Nah.I think they will change something one the phone because if they don't do it a small group of people will upgrade.Apple evey year creates iDevices which are pretty good, but i think this time won S7.
  • If the iPhone 7 has expandable storage, 2K display, IP68, MST & NFC for payment and fast wireless charging I will buy one. But that's to much to ask for.. Maybe the iPhone 10 might be able to compete with the Note 7. Posted via the iMore App
  • Apple already has NFC for Apple Pay and as for having a 2K screen, that's subjective and isn't important as long thr screen resolution is 1080p. Only nerds as Nd geeks care about their screen being a plasma TV screen. Sent from the iMore App
  • You forgot the important part! The note 7 can take notes underwater! And that pretty much sums up Samsung. Gimmicky features that have no real value just to create an illusion of them making big leaps in their phones. The one thing Samsung has is specs and features, but none of it comes together anywhere near what Apple does on way less specs simply because it isn't necessary. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm sorry, but I very much prefer having waterproofing than 3D Touch.
  • It's so you can write in the rain or in the shower, genius. Have some imagination. I'm an architecture student, you won't believe how much ideas popped up inside my head while I'm taking shower. I usually have to wait till I finish my shower to sketch that idea and sometimes I forgot some details because I don't sketch it immediately. This feature will be very valuable and provide lots of conveniences to people like me. So no, this feature is not gimmicky, you're just too důmb to realize it's potential.
  • This will be the first Samsung smartphone for me after using iPhones since 2009. I sorta lost hope when it comes to iPhones. Cant wait to get the Note 7.
  • ios is just not as good anymore. iTunes is so bad. transfer music and video.... do i hate that. still can not believe people using iPhones. but sales going down slowly and we will see what happens in September.
  • There's absolutely nothing wrong with iOS, you're just fickle and one of those people who are never satisfied. But I'll admit the S7 phones and thr Note 7 are good phones but I still won't buy one because I don't like Samsung as thry represent what is bad about Android but I agree with you about iTunes though. Sent from the iMore App
  • He's right. It's not as good as Android, and it has morphed from a pioneering piece of software into a content pushing wallet farm similar to Amazon's FireOS. There are things that the iPhone cannot do, for $646+, that a $100 Feature Phone can do out of the box. Don't get me wrong, I have an iPhone 6S Plus and I choose to plop down the dough for it. However, I think it's sad when people are so engrained in fan wars that they cannot view things objectively. Despite iOS and the iPhone's flaws, there are still great reasons to buy it, including reasons why it would work better than an Android, Windows, or Blackberry device for you - particularly when you factor in the other devices you own (or the services you use). However, iOS having "absolutely nothing wrong with it" is certainly not one of them, because a statement like that is objectively untrue for practically every smartphone OS on the market (and hyper subjective, to boot). There are things wrong with it, and there are many usability issues and QoL chances that could be made to make it better. There are many ways it could be developed to make it more convenient to use (and by that, I don't mean "easy," I mean "if I want to do <x>, the phone lets me get it down with as little trouble or the fewest workarounds necessary"). As far as the Note 7 is concerned, Samsung removed it as an option for me when they gave it an Edged screen. I'll never buy a phone with a screen like that.
  • I find it funny you are saying that comment was hyper subjective, when you saying "he's right, Android is better" is exactly what you are complaining about. IMO, iOS is just as good as Android if not better. I find iOS to do everything well, it works well, and keeps on working without lag (unlike all Samsung phones I've owned). So practice what you preach and add the "IMO".
  • Ok what I meant to say was, iOS is still a great OS and while I've tried Android and is a good OS and all, I just prefer iOS and iPhone, and my experience of Android was mostly frustrating (when Lollipop was the current version of Android) it wasn't until Marshmallow that i finally started to enjoy Android a bit bit t was too little too late and decided to switch back to iOS and for the most part I'm much happier hardly any app crashes and if I got an app that force closes, I can at least reopen it again unlike Android when you have to wait for an update to fix the issue with an app and Android's slow boot up and updates annoyed me too. I probably will never get another Android device but at least I tried Android and while it's a good OS, there's just some issues with it that I just can't get past for me to even consider dumping my iPhone and as someone with a visual disability, Apple's accessibility options for people with disabilities are much better than what Android has to offer. Sent from the iMore App
  • I've been viewing this article for several days now on different devices. Why are most of the photos still missing? Taken down due to copyright issues?