The iPhone 7 Vs. The Androids: Which Smartphone Should You Buy?

The iPhone 7 is being announced next week, and will likely be on shelves before September wraps up. The question, of course, is whether you should buy one, or whether you should go with an Android instead. It’s a tougher question than you might think, not least because Apple’s feeling the pressure from a number of competitors. So here’s a comparison of the iPhone 7 vs. Android team.

Meet The Androids

For our purposes, we’ll be looking at the flagship phones from major manufacturers, what used to be called “iPhone killers” before people realized nothing could kill the iPhone. In this case, that’s the Samsung Galaxy 7 family, the LG G5, the Moto Z, and the OnePlus 3. In truth there’s not a lot of difference between these phones on a raw, technical level: They all use the same system on a chip, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820; they all run some version of Android Marshmallow, with a likely upgrade to Nougat in the near future; and are mostly different in the gimmicky details.

It’s those gimmicks, really, that make these phones stand out from each other. Samsung, for example, offers a phone with a curved screen that puts useful buttons on the side of your phone so you can tap them more easily. The Moto Z offers “Moto Mods,” accessories that magnetically connect to the back of your phone to turn it into a projector, although notably it lacks a headphone jack. The OnePlus 3 has a special quick-charging setup that gets the battery up to 60% or more within half an hour.

That’s really the key virtue here. On their own, all of these ideas have narrow appeal and really mostly exist to show off technical prowess and hopefully make these phones stand out from one another. But if you happen to fall into that narrow appeal, it can be what makes a phone for you.

That said, though, the biggest problem is that many of these phones are aging; several of them were released in February and are likely, by next February, to be replaced. So if you’ve got an Android and are debating making the switch to iPhone, it might behoove you to wait until the next round of updates drops early next year.

The iPhone 7

The iPhone has a few virtues in its corner, not least the fact that it will be debuting against phones that are pushing a year old at this point. Yes, we are aware that is a patently ridiculous sentence, but processing power and technology in general move quickly in the mobile world. Apple is almost certain to debut the A10 processor, for example, which will likely rival or exceed the Snapdragon 820, considering the A9 lags against Snapdragon at the moment. The iPhone 7 Plus also may be making a bid for your inner arty photographer with two camera lenses, one for snapshots and one for harder-to-get images.

Really, though, the iPhone 7’s key advantage is that it comes from Apple. When the iPhone 7 arrives on shelves, for example, it’ll come with iOS 10, unlike its Android competitors, which will be waiting for Nougat to hack through a giant web of red tape and will slowly pop up smartphone by smartphone, depending on the network and country. That may be a key virtue for consumers who aren’t fans of waiting for new software.

The biggest con is that this is a transitional model. If you own, say, an iPhone 6S, that’s still going to be on the market, likely as a “budget” iPhone and has been running iOS 10 well in early developer trials. It’s widely believed the iPhone 8, coming next year on the iPhone’s tenth anniversary, will be Apple’s bid to completely change the smartphone game yet again, with wild rumors like it being made entirely of glass. Oh, and we’re sure you haven’t heard about this at all, but it probably doesn’t have a headphone jack, either.

Which To Buy?

As we said, one of the tough calls here is that we’re entering into the update stretch. If you upgrade to the new iPhone every year, then the iPhone 7 will work well. Similarly, if you’ve gotten a new Android recently, there’s no compelling reason to jump ship for Apple, at least not this year. But if you’re in the market for a new phone right now, and you’re on the fence about what you’re going to buy, wait and see. The iPhone 7 is more of a modest upgrade than anything else, and the Android team may have something more your style in early 2017.