Samsung Galaxy S8 vs Apple iPhone 7: Which is best?

Can the iPhone withstand Samsung's latest smartphone salvo?

Apple and Samsung have waged a battle across many years and many devices, but over the last couple years, the Galaxy flagships have emerged as true smartphone leaders – no longer pretenders to the crown.

And the Galaxy S8 takes that trend to the next level. It's a strong evolution of the Galaxy aesthetic, the kind that Apple has evaded the last couple of years, and is packed with cutting-edge tech and dazzling looks alike.

The iPhone 7 is undoubtedly Apple's best version to date, but can it hold off the threat of the Galaxy S8 until the iPhone 8 releases this autumn? Here's how Samsung's new flagship fares against Apple's latest.

Design: Fresh or familiar

The Galaxy S7 was essentially a revised version of the quite striking Galaxy S6, but Samsung's latest handset takes things up a notch. The Galaxy S8 is gorgeously curved – nope, there's no flat-screened version – with a taller 5.8in screen, very little bezel on the top and bottom (with none on the sides), and no physical buttons up front.

There's a pressure-sensitive home button behind the glass near the bottom (it's shown when on standby), but cutting the physical space needed for the real thing helps sell the stunning impression of this seamless front. On the back you'll find the fingerprint sensor next to the main camera, and otherwise that side looks a lot like that of the dearly departed Galaxy Note 7.

We're impressed. We thought the LG G6's screen-dominated design was a delight – and it still is, truly – but the curved approach here has it beat. It's the most beautiful phone we've ever put eyes on.

Contrast that to the iPhone 7's design, which is fine. We've seen three versions of this handset now, dating back to the iPhone 6, and the minimal, rounded shape is solid but uninspiring at this point. This edition's matte black and glossy Jet Black styles - along with the new Product (Red) special edition -  are great, as are the tweaked antenna lines on the back, but we're craving something fresh.

The Galaxy S8 is absolutely fresh and fabulous. Also, it has a headphone port. Win!

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Screen: No contest at all

As mentioned above, the Galaxy S8 follows the LG G6's lead with a taller display, eschewing the typical 16:9 widescreen dimensions when it's held sideways.

Here, the 5.8in display has an 18.5:9 aspect ratio, which means you get more screen real estate without the bulking up the phone's width. It's quite the opposite, actually, as the Galaxy S8 cuts 4.5mm off the width of the 5.5in-screened Galaxy S7 Edge. That's impressive.

And it's a Quad HD AMOLED display like the last two core Galaxy models, although the changed screen dimensions mean you're now getting a resolution of 2,960x1,440. It looks absolutely amazing, which again continues Samsung's trend of having the best phone displays on the market the last couple years – and now it has mobile HDR support as well for dazzling colours. Also, the rounded corners are a nice touch, just like on the LG G6.

What can we say about the standard iPhone 7 screen? It's behind the times. That doesn't mean it's a bad screen at all: at 4.7in, the LCD display provides a nicely crisp 326 ppi (pixels per inch), and it's plenty bright and colourful. However, it's a 750p panel in a time of 1080p or 2K screens on every other flagship. Apple doesn't always beat its chest about having the best specs, but even so, the Retina standard is aging.

The iPhone 7 does have the benefit of 3D Touch, however, as pressure sensitivity allows developers to enrich their games and add extra functionality. It's a "nice to have" perk rather than a device-seller, however, especially since it hasn't been a massive game-changer since being introduced with the iPhone 6s.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Camera: Ever better

Samsung and Apple's cameras have been pretty much neck and neck in recent years, with Samsung typically having a very small edge.

Last year, we asked readers to pick the best shots between several top smartphones, and the Galaxy S7 won out overall, offering the best HDR performance and Macro shots. Meanwhile, the iPhone 6s placed third (behind the OnePlus 3), and won out on colour and landscapes. Seeing as the iPhone 7 improved upon the 6s camera with speedier and more stable shots, we'd say it's pretty well on par with the Galaxy S7.

But what about the Galaxy S8? Well, Samsung has issued small but meaningful improvements here. It's still a 12-megapixel shooter with a f/1.7 aperture, which delivers super-colourful photos with plenty of detail, while enhanced image processing should bash away most blur.

It doesn't sound like a dramatic improvement in any way, but it's noticeable - and the Galaxy S7's camera was already pretty spectacular. While we'd put the Galaxy S8's camera pretty well even with the iPhone 7 Plus' dual array, the iPhone 7's single shooter isn't quite as capable. It's close, certainly, but the Galaxy S8 ranks as one of the absolute best in class.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Performance: Top of the line

Samsung is packing muscle for the Galaxy S8, again going for top-of-the-line tech to power the devices. Depending on region, you'll either find Samsung's Exynos chip or the Snapdragon 835, both of which are built with a 10-nanometer process to pack in as much power as possible into a tiny chip.

Bundled with 4GB RAM, it's incredibly swift. The Galaxy S8 is the fastest Android on the market today, based on Geekbench 4 multi-core testing. 

Meanwhile, Apple's A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7 has been a benchmark-slayer since its debut last fall, beating every Android on the market at the time and improving upon the iPhone 6s' CPU scores by 40%. And you see it in action while zipping through iOS 10, even with just 2GB RAM on the standard iPhone 7.

This isn't the easiest comparison to make, since Android and iOS are different beasts... and ultimately, both of these phones are super-fast, able to handle the multitasking load, and can power the best gaming graphics around. But when it comes to benchmarks, the Galaxy S8 came ahead on Geekbench in our testing, so we'll give it the slight nod here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Battery and perks: Galactic benefits

The Galaxy S8 packs the same 3,000mAh battery pack from last year's flat Galaxy S7, although it's notably smaller than the 3,600mAh cell from the Galaxy S7 Edge. As before, you also get wireless charging and fast charging capabilities, packing in all the perks.

As expected, the Galaxy S8 is a strong full-day performer with regular use, although asking for a second day is a stretch. That's usually the case with flagships, as it is with the iPhone 7, which has a paltry 1,960mAh battery but can typically (but not consistently) last a full day thanks to the smaller, lower-resolution screen and ultra-efficient iOS 10. No wireless or fast charging, however.

Elsewhere, the Galaxy S8's perks are so plentiful that we can't help but think we've forgotten some. It has a microSD slot for expandable memory beyond the 64GB base, while the iPhone 7 simply offers 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB local storage.

The Galaxy S8 also has great virtual reality experiences via the Gear VR, with the new model accommodating the S8's form and coming with the bundled touch remote. Samsung also has a really intriguing new DeX station, which lets you use your Galaxy S8 with an external monitor much like a proper PC. It's like Microsoft's Continuum feature from Windows 10 Mobile, and it's pretty impressive.

Even the iris scanning from the Galaxy Note 7 is here, packing improvements from the first time around. The iPhone 7 doesn't have any of those last few features, while Samsung keeps packing them on.

At least both of these devices have water and dust resistance… although the Galaxy S8 trumps the iPhone again with a stronger IP68 rating, as opposed to IP67 for Apple.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Verdict: S8 is great

We previously had the Galaxy S7 ahead of the iPhone 7 on our list of the best smartphones in the world right now, but the Galaxy S8 really puts an exclamation point on the wide differences between these handsets.

Samsung's latest is a gorgeous bit of portable tech, packed with cutting-edge performance and loads and loads of helpful, handy perks. The iPhone 7 is no slouch in terms of performance, app selection, and overall quality of use, but put these head to head and you get a lot more benefits with the Galaxy S8.

And maybe most pressingly, it feels new and exciting while the iPhone 7 sticks with the old and familiar, for the most part. The Galaxy S8 has top-of-the-line everything and turns heads in the process, while the iPhone 7 can't help but feel a little tired.

It's a fine phone, but Samsung has stolen a lot of its thunder with the Galaxy S8. Apple has a chance to shift momentum back in its favour with the expected iPhone 8 later this year, but for now, the Galaxy S8 is the clear winner in this battle.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Get the Samsung S8 (64GB) SIM free here for £689 or on contract here