Mobile seduction: iPhone 7 Plus vs. Samsung Galaxy S8

Why did a Samsung device attract a business user away from Apple? Learn the details and what it means for you.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor
Samsung vs Apple

Image by Quinn Dombrowski (Creative Commons) https://secure.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/

This story is about seduction and explains how a sexy, new Galaxy S8 pulled me toward Android and away from my beloved iPhone 7 Plus.

Over the years, I have used both iOS and Android phones extensively. My work with CXOTALK involves lots of travel, so I'm always looking at the latest and greatest devices. Communication on the go -- emails, meeting planning, conference calls, reading attachments, video calls -- means less catch-up back in the office.

Like many executives, when it comes to mobile computing, I value ease-of-use, speed, and visual clarity on the screen. In other words, I need a quick learning curve and a great screen to read messages without glasses.

Also: iPhone 7 Plus review: With bigger battery and more RAM, it's a 6s Plus perfected for the enterprise | Samsung Galaxy S8 review: Near-perfect comeback leaves competitors in the dust | This is what the iPhone 8 will (probably) look like |Six features the iPhone 8 needs to stay ahead of Android

For the last several years, Apple has been my device supplier of choice, the latest being an iPhone 7 Plus. When traveling, I carry an iPad Mini 4, Apple wireless keyboard, and a MacBook Pro (late 2013) laptop; an Apple Watch Series 2 rounds out the package.

It's worth mentioning my desktop computer is Windows and I have no particular loyalty to Apple as a brand, even though I like their products.

A few weeks ago, Samsung sent me a Galaxy S8 phone to check out. (For free. So be aware that's a disclosure.) My first reaction was, "Meh. I already have a phone." Still, they did send the new device so it made sense to take a look.

Samsung vs. Apple: The epic battle

Studying the Samsung phone, the bright screen and small size were immediately attractive, and my mind opened to possibilities beyond Apple.

To put the Samsung / Apple battle into perspective, see this chart from IDC, showing relative market shares from the major phone manufacturers. It's a fight for dominance in a crucial market:

IDC mobile market share

Image from IDC

The battle for mobility is complicated, involving hardware, software, user experience, and the entire ecosystem of apps and connected devices. Choosing a phone, therefore, requires buyers to make a complex series of decisions and tradeoffs.

The three dominant mobile operating system players -- Apple, Google, and Microsoft -- feed this decision-making beast by creating their own ecosystems. Mail services, app stores, smart watches, user experience, and the like draw users in and create entanglements that make it hard to switch from one operating system to another. Handset manufacturers build on this lock-in by adding their own services and unique features.

Given these pieces, my decision to evaluate the new Galaxy S8 required real commitment. Here are the key dimensions I used to assess the Samsung phone. Bear in mind this is not a full review, but an explanation of attributes that seduced my attention:

Although it's hard to separate some of these items into discrete points, let's examine each in turn and compare the Apple iPhone 7 Plus against the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Phone size. The iPhone 7 Plus is a big deal... literally. It's tall and wide with large bezels at the top and bottom and smaller ones on each size. As you would expect, the standard Galaxy S8 (not the larger Plus model) is smaller than iPhone 7 Plus.

However, because the bezels are smaller on the Galaxy S8, the screen is virtually the same height as that on the iPhone 7 Plus, as you can see in the photo below.

The Samsung physical design is a brilliant example of form following function, based on technological advances. Apple is definitely behind the curve here.

iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8

Photo by Michael Krigsman

The Galaxy S8 screen is tall rather than wide, which also makes it easier to hold.

Apple is certainly aware of the screen size issue. As ZDNet has reported, one of the most persistent rumors for the iPhone 8 is a virtual home button, which presumably would function similar to that on the Samsung.

Hardware: speed, connectivity, and screen. Based on my use, both phones are fast enough for business users, although raw speed is hard to measure without specialized tests.

There was one significant difference I discovered, however. The Samsung seems to pick up weaker WiFi signals better than the Apple. For business people, this is important because it can make the difference between maintaining an active connection or not.

The Galaxy S8 screen also has higher resolution than even the larger iPhone 7 Plus. The screen looks brighter, sharper, and easier to read.

I should mention that Samsung pumps up the display colors so they pop more strongly. Beware when editing photos because other people won't see your pictures as you intended (unless they have your same phone and settings). Fortunately, you can turn off these unnatural acts of color with a setting.

Then there is Bixby, Samsung's new and immature competitor to Siri, with its own dedicated hardware button. Allocating a dedicated button to Bixby was a lame move. As business people on the go, we need simplicity and not gimmicks. This is one area where Apple's product designers show far greater polish and maturity than Samsung.

Operating system and options. Here's where we get into the religious wars, so I will say it plainly: both Android and iOS are excellent operating systems. Android is like a racy sports car while iOS is a comfortable sedan.

In general, Android offers greater flexibility and customization options while iOS limits choices. Although flexibility is great, it can create complexity and a steeper learning curve. The Samsung device has many little options, with names like "Direct call" or "Palm swipe to capture." I'm sure all of these choices and options are important, but with names like that, it's hard to say.

As with most people in business, I have little interest in spending the time needed to explore lots of configurations and jargon.

Apps and software. In general, major apps tend to be available for both Android and iOS with similar functionality. However, if you need specialized apps or features, they may not be available on both platforms.

Importantly, check with your IT department to see if they require one platform or the other. Some organizations standardize on a single platform and build dedicated apps for that operating system alone.

In summary, both platforms support general-purpose apps equally well but Apple has greater richness and depth than Android.

Five Apple products that are headed for the scrapheap

Security. Both Apple and Samsung use a fingerprint sensor to secure their phones. Samsung offers additional options, including facial recognition and an iris scanner, but does not have Apple's reputation for tight security. Samsung does not enable data encryption by default; it's a separate switch that you must manually configure.

Seduction and passion

Phone size, screen quality, and better connectivity became determining factors in my Samsung seduction, even though neither the iPhone nor the Galaxy S8 are perfect.

To summarize, the Galaxy S8 hardware is superior to the iPhone 7 Plus while its software is good enough. With this combination, the move to Samsung is consummated and complete.

Switching is a hassle, but I'm comfortable with my choice so far. Of course, we will see what happens in the fall when Apple releases its next iPhone. In the meantime, I'm selling my Apple Watch (which does not work with Android) and deciding which fitness tracker to buy next.

Which do YOU think is better - the iPhone or Galaxy S8? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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