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Ready for a new smartphone? As I write this, there are three smartphones vying for the top spot: the Apple iPhone 7 Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S7, and the Google Pixel. All are excellent every-day phones. Each has its own outstanding features. Yet, often there are two decisions to be made. The first is which phone to purchase. The second is when to make that purchase. So in this article I will give information on each phone as well as an assessment of when to buy.
The iPhone 7
There are two phones in the iPhone 7 lineup: The iPhone 7 with a 4.7” Retina display and the iPhone 7 Plus with a similar 5.5” screen. Both have a 12 MP front-facing camera with optical image stabilization and a 7 MP FaceTime camera with Quad-LED flash. Either will take excellent pictures even in low light. Both shoot high-resolution video up to 4K. Unfortunately, only the 7 Plus has the dual camera setup. In this model there is a standard 36mm f/1.8 lens next to a 56mm f/2.8 lens. This gives you true 2x optical zoom combined with a 10X digital zoom for the best zoom I’ve seen in a camera phone. Apple also has a feature called the Portrait Mode that takes advantage of the dual cameras. Portrait Mode automatically creates a “bokeh” depth-of-field focus effect keeping faces sharp while blurring the background.
The new A10 Fusion chip makes the phone faster than previous versions and provides the longest battery life ever in an iPhone (about 12 hours). Both versions are speedy and responsive with excellent connectivity.
Apple has added water and dust resistance and for the first time stereo speakers. One drawback for some users is the fact that in the 7 and the 7 Plus Apple has removed the headphone jack.
There is little reason to purchase an iPhone 7 right now unless you really get a good deal. Go for the iPhone 7 Plus is you can handle the size. The dual camera setup is outstanding, but this will most probably be included in at least one of the upcoming new models.
Wait for Next Model
Although there are rumors of a delay, Apple traditionally announces their new phones sometime in October. Since this is the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone, speculation abounds. Apple is fairly sure to meet competition with wireless charging and an OLED display. Everyone is hoping that Apple comes up with some spectacular new feature. Unless your current phone is demanding a quick replacement, if you are interested in an iPhone, you really should wait.
Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung also has two models of their flagship smartphone: The smaller S7 has a 5.1” OLED display. The larger S7 Edge has a 5.5” screen, a larger battery, and a curved edge screen with supporting software. Other than that, the two models are identical. Although built quality was lacking in some previous Samsung Galaxy phones, it is now up to par with the iPhone. Speed and responsiveness are also excellent. In a side-by-side comparison, Samsung’s OLED screen is more colorful and a bit crisper. In use, however, you won’t really notice a big difference.
The S7 supports Qi wireless charging and comes with a fast charging cable. In my testing, the S7 consistently added about 50% charge in one hour. It has a Micro SD card slot that can handle cards up to 200 GB. It is also water resistant and has the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack that is missing from the iPhone 7’s.
The Galaxy S7 has 12-megapixel dual-pixel sensor with large 1.4-micron pixels and a wide f/1.7 aperture that lets in more light. This results in bright, vivid and sharp photos, even in low-light conditions. The Galaxy S7 has an outstanding autofocus that is noticeably faster and more accurate than other phones. So fast, in fact, that it is almost instantaneous.
The 5-megapixed front camera has a Selfie Flash mode. Videos and clear and smooth with resolutions up to 4K. Thankfully, both versions have the same great camera. So you don’t have to give up any camera features if you want to purchase the smaller phone.
This phone won a Hardware Secrets Gold Award in 2016. In spite of Samsung’s battery problems with their Note phone, this phone has been stable and consistently good. Buy now only if you get a spectacular deal because the new models are due this spring.
Wait for the Next Model
As usual rumors abound. There are sure to be improvements. It would be really nice if Samsung would WOW us with something spectacular, but that is not a given.
Like the iPhone and the S7’s, the Google Pixel comes in two sizes. The Pixel XL has a 5.5” QHD AMOLED screen and the smaller Pixel has a 5” screen. Other than the XL having a larger battery, other specifications are shared between the two versions.
The build-quality is excellent, comparable to the other two phones in this article. The speed, responsiveness, and screen is also comparable. The Pixel doesn’t have waterproofing, wireless charging, or a microSD card slot. It does, however have a battery than lasts up to 13 hours and an impressive Fast Charging feature that produces up to 7 hours of use from only 15 minutes of charging. It also has a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack.
Like the other camera in this group, the 12.3 megapixel main has large pixels so it performs admirably in low light. The Pixel front-facing camera has 8 megapixels with dual LED flash. Google says they have the best camera on a phone. The Pixel got an 89 DxOMark Mobile score, which is the highest rating ever given by that highly-recognized company.
The Auto-HDR takes some outstanding pictures. Google’s new gyroscope-based software stabilization is impressive, especially for videos which can be taken at up to 4K.
With this phone, Google is also offering free unlimited cloud storage for photos. With the wonderful Google Photos software, this is an excellent offer for anyone who takes a lot of photos.
If you need a new phone or just get a deal on this one, go for it.
Wait for the Next Model
Of the three phones, the Pixel was the last to be released in late 2016. Since it is Google’s first Pixel phone, no one knows when a new model might appear. If you are looking for wireless charging, waterproofing or some other missing feature, you may want to wait and see what Google comes up with in the next version.