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