T3 Smackdown: iPhone 7 vs Galaxy S7 vs LG G5 vs HTC 10

Four smartphone flagships go to war, only one will come out victorious

It's 2016, and all the brands that matter have released their newest flagship smartphones (though we're still waiting on a new Nexus/Pixel). We've reviewed them all, but the question remains... which is best?

It's a tough question, because all of the phones released so far have been really good - all solid four-star-ers (and even a few rare 5-stars).

Samsung released a blinder at MWC this year, the Galaxy S7 is a powerful and elegant smartphone, so it looks like the one to beat. It's still early days for the iPhone 7, but Apple's design and camera improvements look impressive.

There is also, of course, the exciting and innovative LG G5 and the solid all-rounder HTC 10.

They're all true flagship smartphones, each with their own strengths and weaknesses - choosing between them is tough, as you'll see in our T3 Smackdown...

To make deciding which is best more simple, I've assigned each phone a highly scientific and completely arbitrary score from 1 (the worst) to 100 (the best).

Let's start with a useful spec comparison chart:

Table

Design

First up, the most difficult category to judge, design. Why is it difficult? Because it's my opinion, and you may or may not agree, but please... don't let us know in the comments, 'k?

No headset has really pushed design forward this year, the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 are largely identical to their predecessors. That's not a bad thing however, as both of their predecessors were very beautiful phones.

The S7 Edge is Samsung's real looker, with the attractive sloped screen edges. And there's a new shiny "jet black" iPhone, but Apple has hardly rewritten the rulebook as far as design goes.

iPhone

Both the iPhone 7 and Samsung S7 are dust and water resistant too.

The HTC 10 is an evolution of previous HTC flagships. It's the most attractive phone HTC has released to date, with the aluminium unibody which plays with the light. It's chunky at 9mm, but the curved back does make it the most comfortable handset to hold.

The real innovation in 2016 phone design is the LG G5. Completely different from last year's G4, the LG G5 features an innovative modular system. The G5 'Friends' you can plug in accessories to the bottom of the phone, such as a camera grip or high-res audio module.

It's an interesting idea, making this the most exciting smartphone of 2016, but ultimately, the G5 is the least premium feeling smartphone in this list.

So who wins in the design section? The iPhone 7 is my favourite, the thin, sleek aluminium casing just feels better than the other smartphones here. Followed very closely by the Samsung Galaxy S7.

You may feel differently.

iPhone 7: 93/100
Samsung Galaxy S7: 88/100
LG G5: 58/100
HTC 10: 72/100

Features

One major feature of the newer iPhones continues to be 3D Touch, which responds differently depending on whether you give it a hard or light press, granting you a new way to interact with the phone. It's useful, but not a game changer.

The iPhone also TouchID fingerprint sensor, and of course, it's the only phone on this list to run iOS, which a lot of people prefer over Android. The 3.5mm headphone jack has been ditched, a move which you may or may not agree with.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 benefits from a Touch ID-rivalling fingerprint scanner, water and dust proof casing, expandable memory, and, strangely, a flash-come-heart-rate-come-blood-oxygen-come-stress-sensor. Useful? Probably not so much.

As previously mentioned in the previous section, the LG G5's main feature is the modular design. There is also a rear-located fingerprint scanner, expandable storage, and a swappable battery.

There is also the HTC, with a new, and rather speedy fingerprint sensor, Boomsound audio, and the best version of Android we've ever seen. It's close to stock, with HTC working with Google to remove bloatware and include improvements to the stock experience.

The LG certainly has the most features, so it scores the most points in this round, it's questionable whether theses features are useful, but you can't mess with the completely arbitrary numbers!

iPhone 7: 62/100
Samsung Galaxy S7: 68/100
LG G5: 89/100
HTC 10: 70/100

Performance

Apple has equipped the iPhone 7 with a new A10 processor that's apparently 120 times faster than the first iPhone (if you've still got one). Performance should be slicker than ever and that's saying something since iPhones aren't known for being laggy.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a hugely powerful phone too though, with 4GB of RAM and a Samsung-made Exynos 8890 octa-core processor.

That matches the LG G5 and the HTC 10, both of which also have 4GB RAM and Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 octa-core processors.

The HTC does have Boost+ and is apparently optimised for speed and responsiveness, but as far as I can tell, in everyday use, performance is pretty equal across all phones.

iPhone 7: 92/100
Samsung Galaxy S7: 90/100
LG G5: 90/100
HTC 10: 91/100

Usability

The iPhone 7 runs iOS 10, which is just like iOS 9, but with improvements to photos, maps, Siri, Apple Music and the notifications. Like a lot of recent iOS updates, it improves on the software while remaining familiar to Apple fans.

The Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5 and HTC 10 all run Android Marshmallow right now, which is a pretty slick and polished OS itself, but they all have their own looks and themes, making them feel a little different.

Android Nougat is waiting in the wings... but it could be waiting a long time.

Thankfully whichever handset you've opted for, the experience isn't too far removed from good old regular Android.

The clear Android winner here is HTC, which runs the best version of Google's OS we've ever seen. The UI is close to stock Android, and HTC has worked with Google to remove bloatware (there are no duplicate apps) and only keep in Sense UI features that actually improve stock Android (such as being able to arrange apps in the app drawer). If you feel stock Android is too restrictive, you can also use HTC's Freestyle Layout, which does away with the home screen grid completely.

Arguably iOS is a little more intuitive, but power users may prefer the wealth of widgets, tools and customisation options found on the more open Android system.

iPhone 7: 92/100
Samsung Galaxy S7: 80/100
LG G5: 75/100
HTC 10: 92/100

Camera

Smartphone photography is important, and in 2016, all of these flagships can take great images, and we mean all of them.

At the iPhone 7 launch event, Apple made much of the new 12MP rear camera with optical image stabilisation for the smaller model and six separate lens elements. The Plus model comes with two lenses - a wide angle 28mm one and a telephoto 56mm one - enabling 2x optical zoom and some other fancy tricks.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 has an all-new 12MP camera, which is actually a downgrade (in pixel-terms) from the 16MP camera in last year's S6. The good news is that the lower megapixel hasn't hampered image quality, in fact, it has improved it. The S7 can take stunning images in most conditions, it's nothing short of spectacular.

iPhone 2

The HTC also has a brilliant 12MP camera, in fact, DxO tested the lens and sensor scientifically in the lab and gave it an identical rating to the Samsung Galaxy S7. Lab results don't always tell the whole story though, and we found the HTC image processing software tends to be a little less intelligent than Samsung's. The HTC 10 certainly is capable of capturing amazing pictures, but the software makes it a bit harder.

Carrying on in the tradition of innovating, the LG has quite a snazzy camera. The smartphone features a dual lens setup which allows you to switch between a normal angle view, and wide angle view. It's a really great feature to use, and can take some impressive GoPro-esque images. Quality isn't quite up there with the S7, but it's still very good.

If you want the best camera phone, go with the Samsung Galaxy S7 - at least until we've had chance to test out the iPhone 7 one properly.

iPhone 7: 88/100
Samsung Galaxy S7: 92/100
LG G5: 87/100
HTC 10: 87/100

Display

Screens are nice and easy to judge. The iPhone 7, with its Retina Display, has the smallest screen at 4.7-inches and the lowest resolution here at 326 PPI. Despite that, the display is perfectly acceptable, with lovely colour and contrast.

The Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5 and HTC 10 all have QHD screens (1440x2560): they have a PPI of around 550, but they all use different screen technology. The Samsung uses Super AMOLED, LG has an ISP LCD and HTC makes use of a new Super LCD5.

It's a tough call, but HTC and Samsung have the edge here, even if they all look great. We still need to take a closer look at the iPhone 7 but the display doesn't seem to have changed too much from last year's model.

iPhone 7: 72/100
Samsung Galaxy S7: 88/100
LG G5: 76/100
HTC 10: 88/100

Battery

And finally we come to battery life, the category where heroes are born.

It's also perhaps the toughest category to judge (even more so than design), because whereas I might get amazing battery life from one phone, you may find it's awful, because we use the phone in different ways.

You also can't rate it based on numbers, because a phone could have a huge battery and a power-sucking high-res display.

HTC promised the 10 would have a two-day battery life, but this turned out to be a slight overestimation.

We're still waiting for confirmation on the size of the battery in the iPhone 7, but the iPhone 6S packed a relatively small 1715 mAh model. Apple says the new model should be good for another two hours' use per day.

In reality, all of these phones are going to be charged nightly, soz, but the Samsung, LG and HTC include Quick Charging (2.0 for the Samsung, 3.0 for LG and HTC).

The S7 is also the only smartphone here to include wireless charging.

iPhone 7: 63/100
Samsung Galaxy S7: 77/100
LG G5: 72/100
HTC 10: 80/100

Verdict

These are the final scores:

iPhone 7: 562/700
Samsung Galaxy S7: 583/700
LG G5: 547/700
HTC 10: 580/700

What can we draw from this very accurate and methodical test?

It's quite interesting actually, and the scores certainly surprised me once I had added them all up.

Clearly the Samsung Galaxy S7 is the best smartphone you can buy right now, it's the best all-rounder here, and that didn't shock me at all.

The iPhone scored lower, but that doesn't mean it's a bad phone - the 6S is still one of our favourites, and we'll be taking a proper look at the iPhone 7 in the near future.

And while HTC won't be the best selling phone in 2016, the 10 has done very well, which is a real testament to what a solid smartphone the underdogs at HTC have made.

The key lesson we should all take away from this, however, is that in 2016 if you get a flagship smartphone, you won't be disappointed whichever one you choose. It's all down to personal preference.