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Smartphone wars: The big clash of the titans

Between Apple, Samsung and Google, who has the best flagship phone?

brunch Updated: Oct 31, 2016 09:38 IST
iPhone7
Which is the best phone?

The smartphone super flagship war has been an interesting one. For years it played out between Apple and Samsung on one side, and a changing star cast of other brands on the other. For a few years, HTC had a flagship with the chops to take on these two giants; at another point Google Nexus phones gave them a run for their money; and then either LG or another brand played a guest appearance and quickly faded into oblivion. For the last few years, though, it’s been a straight out battle at the top among the Apple iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy S series and the Samsung Note phone. It even started to get a little boring. That dramatically changed this year.

The Pixel from Google came out with all guns blazing. It’s a phone that has no weaknesses, ticks all the boxes on the hardware front, a phone that slaps on glass and metal on the outside to make itself look very pretty and then adds even more firepower with its Google Assistant add-on. And to ensure that everyone got the point that this was a top-of-the-line flagship phone, Google also priced it really high.

The contenders

There are others that should be part of a flagship shootout. Xiaomi, One Plus, Honor, Motorola, Lenovo, HTC, LG – all have contenders. But this is about the tussle for the top spot and also about being brutally realistic. The Samsung Note 7 blew itself out of this race (literally), the HTC 10 is a brilliant phone but hasn’t been able to take on these three (I do hear though that HTC has some mind-blowing phones up its sleeve that may well bring it back in competition soon) and all the others have great products but can’t be considered if this is a battle of the Super Flagships. That leaves us with three phones that truly can rule the roost. The iPhone 7 Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and the Google Pixel XL. Let’s take them apart in a super shootout.

Looks

The Pixel XL has a glass and metal back and nice style chops but nothing that would blow your socks off at first glance. The Apple iPhone 7 Plus Jet Black does manage to take your breath away but is prone to serious scratches, and eventually, does have the same form factor as the previous versions. The S7 Edge is the easy winner here as the curved glass form factor and all the materials used make it quite a masterpiece.

Google Pixel XL claims to have the best camera, but is also priced at Rs 67,000

Display

This is bread and butter on phones this large. The Pixel XL has a stunning AMOLED Quad HD display which matches the S7 Edge’s Super AMOLED Quad HD display dot to dot. The 7 Plus loses the resolution battle but more than makes up for it with its very real colour saturation. However, while watching high-res movies, reading an ebook or playing a game, the difference between a Quad HD and Apple’s Retina display does become obvious.

Camera

The iPhone 7 Plus has really got its optics game on point. And this is because of a very intelligent use of its dual lens. It can be used as an optical zoom and also does a great job with diffused DSLR-style backgrounds. I also found its optical stabilisation to be far superior. While the Pixel XL is claimed to have the best phone camera ever, my results were great but not as good as the 7 Plus (except in low-light photography). The S7 Edge has a great camera but is beaten by the other two phones quite convincingly.

The iPhone 7 Plus’s looks may take your breath away, but it’s prone to scratches

Battery

I’m glad to announce that none of the three phones come with an extra feature where the phone battery blows up. But there is an added twist in the tale as mAh ratings don’t tell the real story. On paper, the Pixel XL and the S7 Edge have better battery packs built-in, but in real life, the iPhone 7 Plus outlasted them in every test I tried. This is a huge deal for Apple as its most criticised feature has always been its very poor battery life.

The curved glass form factor makes the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge quite a winner

Disruptive feature

Each has one that really matters. The S7 has the curved screen and uses it very intelligently, the Pixel XL has Google Assistant that works well, while the iPhone 7 Plus dual camera is a game changer. No winners here because great innovation deserves a pat on the back.

Price

The S7 Edge has been around for a while and thus, its price has taken a nice, comforting fall. You can get one for about Rs 50,000. The Pixel XL wants to be seen as a premium flagship and is priced at Rs 67,000 and the iPhone continues its legacy of being super high-priced and thus, clocks in at Rs 72,000. Apple seems to have the best cashbacks (of upto Rs 12,000), but you can get some good deals online and offline on the others too.

Final winner

Many ways to answer this. If you own an iPhone 6, buy the 7 Plus. If you own an iPhone 6S Plus and still want an upgrade and a change, control that urge and wait for the next iPhone. If you own an Android phone and want to upgrade to something newish, buy the Pixel XL. If you aren’t in any camp or have no loyalty to any brand/OS or are an intelligent person not swayed by hype or just want the best bang for your buck in a Super Flagship, the S7 Edge is the way to go!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, October 30

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