OnePlus 3T vs Apple iPhone 7

Does the pricier OnePlus still outclass Apple's main offering?

OnePlus sets itself apart from the pack by delivering high-end phones at cut-rate prices – and of course, Apple's iPhone has been the high-end vanguard for years now at expectedly high-end prices.

The iPhone 7 is Apple's most impressive mainline phone to date, unsurprisingly, keeping the existing design while adding water resistance and myriad camera and performance improvements. We'd actually recommend the pricier Plus model over it, but if you don't want something so massive (or expensive), then the standard iPhone 7 is no slouch.

Meanwhile, the OnePlus 3T has just officially released in India, and while it's not quite as much of a bargain as past models, you still get a heck of a lot of phone for a heck of a lot less money than Apple is charging.

Still, it begs the question: which is actually the better buy when all things are considered? Let's run down the categories and settle it once and for all.

Design: Both strong picks

Apple's iPhone 6 design from 2014 gets repurposed once again with the iPhone 7, with the tweaks to the antenna lines being the most obvious difference this time around. Oh, also, the lack of a headphone port of course. Bit controversial, that.

However, the new colour options are sharp: the Jet Back is almost overwhelmingly glossy, admittedly, but it really pops, while the matte Black is our pick of the bunch. And there's a hidden benefit with newly-added water resistance. The iPhone could stand a larger refresh (which we expect in 2017), but the current, minimal design is still largely pleasing.

Meanwhile, the OnePlus 3T keeps the exact same design as the OnePlus 3 from a few months back, albeit with an eye-catching new Gunmetal colour choice. And while the latest OnePlus design isn't the most distinctive-looking around, the phone looks and feels fittingly premium – and better than you'd expect for the price.

Also, the OnePlus 3T has a headphone port. But on the downside, there's no water resistance, which is one of those little perks you lose with the trimmed price point. All told, we like both looks here and aren't strongly swayed towards either, so we're calling this one even.

Winner: Draw

Screen: Plus PPI

In the world of Android flagships, the cheaper OnePlus 3T comes with one notable step down: a 1080p display instead of the Quad HD stunners seen in some other top devices. But when compared to the much-pricier iPhone 7, it actually comes out on top.

Apple has stubbornly stuck with its familiar Retina resolution on the iPhone 7, which means it's a 750p display showing 326 ppi (pixels per inch) on the 4.7in LCD panel. This one's a little brighter than the last and still looks really nice for the size, but OnePlus has the edge here.

The OnePlus 3T has the same screen as the standard OnePlus 3, which is a larger 5.5in Super AMOLED panel delivering 401 ppi. It's not a dramatic difference, but the OnePlus screen is not only larger, but solidly clearer and crisper too. Plus you get the AMOLED benefits of deeper blacks and gorgeous contrast.

Winner: OnePlus 3T

Performance: Fusion fantastic

One of the more notable enhancements in the OnePlus 3T over the original 3 is the bump up to the Snapdragon 821 system-on-a-chip, which offers 10% faster performance over the 820 from earlier this year. Another 10% over an already-super-speedy chip is great, right?

It is, but it's not enough to compete with Apple's incredible A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7. Geekbench benchmark tests bear it out: in single-core performance, the A10 scored a 3297, while multi-core performance is listed at 5343.

When we tested the OnePlus 3T with Geekbench, our multi-core score was 4398. That's a pretty significant disparity. It doesn't hurt that Apple's pairing of iOS 10 and the A10 Fusion chip makes the overall iPhone experience feel delightfully swift and essentially lag-free.

The OnePlus 3T does have the big benefit of 6GB RAM over just 2GB in the iPhone 7, and to be quite honest, both phones are plenty fast and can handle all of the games and apps we've thrown at them. But if we're talking about raw power and the possible high-end ceiling on these devices, the iPhone 7 seems capable of more.

Winner: Apple iPhone 7

Camera: Sharp shooters

Both the OnePlus 3T and iPhone 7 are well equipped when it comes to back cameras. With the OnePlus 3T, you get a 16-megapixel shooter with f/2.0 aperture – and as our review attests, "the amount of detail you get from this ₹29,999 phone is fantastic."

Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 goes for a smaller megapixel count, at 12MP, albeit with a f/1.8 aperture to let in more light. It focuses super fast and delivers generally awesome everyday results, plus the wider colour gamut gives shots a bit more pop.

We haven't done a head-to-head camera comparison between these two models just yet, but this summer, readers voted the vanilla OnePlus 3 camera just ahead of the iPhone 6s camera, by one point overall.

The iPhone 7 camera brings more enhancements over the previous model than the OnePlus 3T does over the OnePlus 3, but we're inclined to call this comparison about even. In any case, you can't lose with either one of these cameras: they're both among the best available today.

Winner: Draw

Battery and storage: More for less

The OnePlus 3T has a heftier battery than the iPhone 7, for sure: we're talking about a 3,400mAh pack in the OnePlus versus 1,960mAh on the iPhone.

In our review testing for the OnePlus 3T, however, we noticed that the device's battery seemed to drain slightly faster than the original OnePlus 3 (with its 3,000mAh pack) when doing identical tasks.

That's an unexpected twist, plus there are other considerations: the iPhone has a smaller, lower-resolution screen, and iOS 10 and Apple's chips are typically very efficient… which is why Apple keeps tossing in such small battery packs. Given all of that, including the 3T's odd battery drain issues, we're not convinced that the OnePlus offers significantly more battery life per charge than the iPhone 7.

Where it does prevail is in fast charging, however, thanks to the Dash Charger. You can top off the OnePlus 3T with about 60% of a charge in just 30 minutes, or fill the whole thing up from nothing in 90 minutes flat. Meanwhile, Apple still hasn't embraced fast charging with any of its devices, which is… annoying, really.

The OnePlus 3T also has the more appealing storage-for-price ratio, as the base model offers 64GB internal storage while just ₹5,000 bumps you up to 128GB. Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 starts with 32GB and requires another 10,000 to raise that to 128GB. And we're not even discussing the much higher starting price on the iPhone, of course.

Apple does have one storage perk here: a 256GB storage option that the OnePlus 3T doesn't offer, but then you're paying another 20,000 over the base model to hit that point. It's a heap of money, but at least the choice is there. In any case, between fast charging and storage, we're calling this category for OnePlus.

Winner: OnePlus 3T

Verdict: The 3T reigns

The iPhone 7 is a premium phone at a very premium price, starting at a staggering ₹60,000 for the base model and ranging up to ₹80,000 for maximum storage. And the iPhone 7 Plus, which matches the OnePlus 3T on screen size and resolution, comes in between 72,000 and ₹92,000.

Meanwhile, the OnePlus 3T is a premium phone at a much more compelling entry cost, with the models selling for ₹29,999 or ₹34,999 depending on storage size. It's a dramatic difference, but truth be told, you don't feel it in terms of features, performance, and perks.

With the iPhone 7, you get the benefits of the ultra-fast A10 Fusion chip, that great camera, and a better selection of apps and games than on Android. But the OnePlus 3T has the better screen, a just-as-strong camera, a larger and faster-charging battery, and nearly comparable performance.

The iPhone 7 is an excellent handset, but it's not ₹30,000 better than the OnePlus 3T – and it doesn't look or feel like it either. The cheaper OnePlus 3 offered a more obvious contrast with its lower price, but even with this pricier revision, it's still our pick for the flagship that won't cost you typical flagship money. And it's a damn fine phone, to boot.

Winner: OnePlus 3T