The best iPhone 7 alternatives

Suggestions for smartphones to stand in for an iPhone 7

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Not interested in being an iPhone 7 owner? Here are some alternatives. These are all premium smartphones with great cameras, bloat-free operating systems, and a satisfying user experience.

Google Pixel

The Google Pixel has an iPhone-like approach, right down to the price tag (US $649). Here’s a spec-by-spec comparison of how these phones stack up.

Like iPhones, Pixels’ hardware and software are made by the same company (technically HTC manufactured the Pixel, but Google claims the design as its own), so there is a harmony between the internals and the externals. If you’re departing the iOS ecosystem, you still have to adjust to Android, but you won’t be fettered by common Android problems like bloatware or aggressive manufacturer skins. In addition, you’ll be first in line for future operating system updates, so the Pixel will continue to offer the best Android experience around.

The Pixel also has one of the best smartphone cameras on the market – on par with or better than the iPhone 7’s, depending on who you ask. At this point, it’s also the only phone that ships with Google Assistant, the Android answer to (and improvement on) Apple’s Siri.

And if you’re departing the Apple world because the company just doesn’t seem to serve its customers, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Google perks like its 15 GB of free cloud storage via Google Drive. Photos taken on the Pixel don’t count against that storage total.

OnePlus 3T

Don’t be deterred if you don’t recognize the name OnePlus. The Chinese startup company’s OnePlus 3T is the best value in smartphones today. For a starting retail price of $439, the phone ships with a near-stock version of Android Nougat, a high-end camera with strong low-light photography, excellent battery life, and fast, smooth performance rivaling that of the iPhone or Google Pixel.

The OnePlus 3T is a bigger phone than the iPhone 7, but at 153 mm x 75 mm x 7.4 mm (6 in x 3 in x 0.3 in) it’s not so massive as to be intrusive. It also packs in a 5.5-inch display, which is 27-percent larger than the iPhone’s.

One major caveat for US customers: The 3T only works with GSM networks. It’s not compatible with Verizon or Sprint, which use CDMA.

iPhone 6S

Yes, the iPhone 6S is a generation old, but if you want to stay in the iOS 10 ecosystem without spending any more, it’s probably your best bet. You won’t get the latest-and-greatest features like IP67 water resistance, an incrementally improved camera and a solid state home button (big whoop) but what will you get? A headphone jack and a fatter wallet. iPhone 6S is available new from Apple for $549, but you’ll get an even better value if you buy it lightly used or refurbished (recommended).

If the gadget lover in you is cringing at buying a phone from 2015, take heart in the fact that many of the key features are identical or nearly so – and its A9 processor still feels fast running the latest mobile OS. Between the two phones, there are few differences in size, build, display or overall user experience.

Samsung Galaxy S7

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a great phone, despite the explosive reputation of its cousin, the Note 7. One piece of advice before we extoll its virtues: Scour the market for a good deal. Samsung is expected to release an updated version of this flagship within the next few months, and there’s no reason to pay full price for a previous generation phone.

The Galaxy S7 is a glassy, curvy, IP68 water-resistant phone with an excellent camera, microSD for expandable storage, fast/wireless charging and great battery life. It recently received the update from Android Marshmallow to Nougat, with a layer of Samsung’s TouchWiz interface on top. It’s not the purest version of Android, but modern TouchWiz is one of the more reasonable manufacturer software additions out there.

HTC 10

This is another option that’s expecting a new upgrade soon, but regardless, the HTC 10 is one of our favorite flagships from 2016. The previous advisory applies: Only consider it if you can score a bargain over its original $699 asking price. HTC’s next-gen flagship launches in March, and it’s possible the company will have another high-end phone this year.

This phone’s angular build is still noticeably high-end. It also boasts worthy internals, a good-looking QHD display, warm and rich audio, microSD expansion and a very subtle UI over a near-stock version of Android. For more info, check out this spec comparison.

If you’re still on the fence about the iPhone 7, check out New Atlas’ review. Alternatively, you could always upgrade to the iPhone 7 Plus, a bigger and more expensive phablet.

 

Emily Ferron

 

 

iPhone 7 vs. iPhone 6s

New Atlas magazine

Apple unveiled the iPhone 7 yesterday. What’s come to pass since last year’s flagship, the iPhone 6s? While many specs are identical, there are a few standout upgrades and at least one divisive change.

Measurements

No updates in this department. This year’s iPhones are the exact same dimensions as those unveiled at last year’s September event.

Weight

Despite being the same size, the new iPhone 7 is a hair lighter than last year’s flagship. The five grams Apple shaved off means it’s nearly 4 percent lighter, but to keep things in perspective, that’s about the weight of two US pennies.

Build

iPhone 7 has the same aluminum body we’re used to seeing from Apple. This time, there’s a more cohesive unibody structure, making the camera and internally housed antenna less visible (the antenna lines are only around the edges now, as opposed to stretching across).

Colors

Gone is the long-standing “space gray” color, replaced by two new blacks. Jet black is glossy, while plain black is matte. Trendy silver, gold and rose gold options are sticking around.

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Display size

Display size is another holdover from last year. Android manufacturers consistently fit larger screens onto similarly sized phones, but that doesn’t seem to be a priority for Apple. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge have 5.1-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively.

Display type

Apple stays loyal to IPS technology over AMOLED, but the iPhone 7 is said to have a wider color gamut and 25 percent brighter display.

Display resolution

When it comes to resolution, we have another instance of identical specs.

3D touch (pressure sensitive display)

This feature – which creates shortcuts depending on how long and hard you press the screen – first made its appearance in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Despite it being left off the budget-minded iPhone SE earlier this year, it returns again to the iPhone 7. Apple has said that its newest iOS will make 3D touch more powerful.

Battery

At the launch event, Apple said that the iPhone 7, on average, should last two hours longer per charge than the iPhone 6S. But in typical Apple fashion, they have not published an exact mAh spec. We’ll figure that out once we get our hands on one.

Headphone jack

It’s true – Apple’s bid goodbye to the designated headphone jack. Instead, headphones plug into the same Lightning port as the charger. Before you bemoan a loss of compatibility, know that a pair of Lightning port earbuds and an analog-to-Lightning adapter are both included with the iPhone 7. Apple is also trying to make wireless headphones happen: AirPods become available in October, for an additional US$159.

Camera megapixels

The megapixel wars are over for the most part, but we’re still seeing worthwhile gains in front-facing cameras.

Camera aperture

Consistent with what we’ve seen from other manufacturers, Apple has installed a larger aperture lens in its rear-facing cameras. The larger aperture lets in more light, and allows for better low-light photography and shallower depths of field.

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Optical image stabilization

This photography boost, which is new to the 4.7-inch model this year, is incredibly common in recent Android flagships. Optical image stabilization helps keep your photos blur-free, even with long exposure times and unsteady hands.

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Camera flash

Apple also updated its flash, another boon to low-light photography. It doubled its amount of LEDs, and added flicker detection to correct anomalies in artificial light.

Water resistance

IP67 water resistance is a welcome addition to the new iPhone. This rating means the phones are protected from immersion less than one meter deep. It falls short of the IP68 rating on the Galaxy S7 series, but it’s enough to give iPhone users a brand new peace of mind.

Touch ID

The fingerprint sensor stays, and it’s still intuitively placed on the home button.

Capacitive home button

The characteristic iPhone home button has been updated in the iPhone 7. The button now has vibrational haptic feedback, similar to the Force Touch in the trackpads of newer MacBooks, though it will be interesting to see how that technology plays out on a much-smaller phone button.

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RAM

There were conflicting rumors that iPhone 7 would have either more RAM or the same amount as the 6s, but Apple stayed silent on that point at the launch event. A seemingly paltry 2 GB is about half of what is commonly found in Android phones at similar price points, but thanks to iOS efficiency, we don’t expect lack of RAM to be an issue, even if the amount does remain stagnant.

Processor

This year’s iPhone flagships are the first to include quad core processors. We don’t have an exact speed measurement yet, but since the iPhone experience was already pretty snappy, there’s no reason to doubt the iPhone 7’s processing power.

Storage

Doubled internal storage could prompt sighs of relief from iPhone devotees, though it also may raise a new dilemma: Upgrade iCloud accordingly to accommodate larger backups, or do some other type of file wrangling? Note also that the glossy jet black version is only available in the two larger sizes.

The asterisks, by the way, denote older storage configurations for the 6s, which will be phased out as Apple moves to its new tiers.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay support shows no sign of slowing down. It’s being offered in more devices and is accepted by an increasing amount of merchants.

Release

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were revealed yesterday; the iPhone 6s is now a year old.

Software

iPhone 6s was released with iOS 9, but iOS 10 is scheduled to be released — and thereafter forced upon iPhones — on September 13. iPhone 7 will ship with iOS 10.

Starting price (full retail)

If you’re disappointed that Apple didn’t make more sweeping upgrades, be consoled by the fact that the price didn’t get an upgrade, either. The new model starts at the same $649 that the 6s launched at a year ago. With the iPhone 7’s arrival, the 6s got the token one-Benjamin price drop.

The new iPhones start shipping on September 16, and once they do, we’ll post full-length reviews. In the meantime, brush up on what we learned from the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus launch event, along with what to expect from the new Apple Watch.