OnePlus 3 vs Samsung S7: Can the "flagship killer" hold its own against the king of smartphones?

The reigning champion against the new contender

For the third time in as many years, Chinese startup OnePlus has launched a flagship phone designed to offer top-of-the-line specs at a mid-range price - has it finally found the right mix in 2016? We decided to pitch it directly against the mighty Samsung Galaxy S7.

Of course we can't deliver a definitive verdict on the OnePlus 3 until we get our hands on it for a full review, but we can compare specs, design and features between the two phones. Read on to find out how the Galaxy S7 and OnePlus 3 score in all the areas that matter.

Phone design


In terms of looks there's not much to choose between these two or indeed any other smartphone of 2016 (which is a shame). Both stay very close to the now ubiquitous metal-and-glass slab template, and if you like the aesthetics of one then you're likely to like the aesthetics of the other as well.

The OnePlus 3 is bigger and thinner, however: 152.7mm x 74.7mm x 7.35mm, weighing 158g, with a 5.5-inch screen. The Samsung Galaxy S7, meanwhile, measures 142.4mm x 69.6mm x 7.9mm, weighs 152g, and has a substantially smaller 5.1-inch display, so there is a distinctive difference there.

Key specs


Both phones sport the Qualcomm 820 CPU though in some regions the S7 uses Samsung's own Exynos 8890 Octa processor. The OnePlus 3 wins for on-board RAM (6GB vs 4GB) but only has a 64GB model available whereas the Galaxy S7 is available with 32GB or 64GB - and has a microSD slot to extend that.

The 'snappiness' of a phone is down to internal engineering and software as well as hardware specs, but on paper there's very little to choose between these two phones: the Samsung phone has more options in terms of storage whereas the OnePlus handset offers more RAM, so it's pretty much neck-and-neck.

Camera and charging


The camera is one area where the Galaxy S7 really does shine, particularly in low light, and until we can put the OnePlus 3 through its paces it's difficult to say exactly how it measures up - it's certainly going to have to be very, very good to beat this year's Samsung flagship, which is pretty much the best there is.

The OnePlus 3 wins in raw megapixels (16MP vs. 12MP) but that's not always telling. As for charging, it has what OnePlus calls "Dash Charge" technology, which can provide a battery boost of 60 percent in 30 minutes; the S7, meanwhile, uses the older Quick Charge 2.0 technology from Qualcomm.

Other features


Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S7, the OnePlus 3 adopts the new USB-C standard for its connection port. Both phones have a fingerprint sensor for extra security and both run their own take on Android - OxygenOS in the case of OnePlus and Android with TouchWiz in the case of the Samsung phone.

The Galaxy S7 is waterproof, so it's going to stand up much better to a dunk in a pond than the OnePlus 3. It's one of the few areas where Samsung's device has a definite upper hand, and adds that extra safety net if you're going to be spending a lot of the time in the great outdoors with your smartphone.

Retail price


This is where the OnePlus 3 lines up to deliver the knock-out blow: it costs just £309 ($399 in the US) which is a little over half what you can expect to fork out for an unlocked, SIM-free (32GB) Samsung Galaxy S7. Considering the specs of both devices are so similar, that's a big difference in the retail cost.

What do you get for all the extra money that the S7 costs? A bigger brand name, a better camera (probably), a microSD slot for expanding the internal storage, waterproofing and a higher-resolution screen - those are pretty important features but they're not quite enough to close the big gap in price.

The final word


In terms of specs and indeed design it's hard to find differences between these two flagships. The OnePlus 3 will be more appealing to phablet fans, though photo enthusiasts are likely to opt for the Galaxy S7. Everywhere else you're looking at minor differences, until you get back to the retail cost.

While we can't fully pass judgement on the OnePlus 3 until we review it, that's a big gap in cost - you can almost buy two OnePlus phones for the price of a Galaxy S7. With its third attempt, OnePlus may have finally come up with the flagship killer it's been looking for, and you don't even need an invite to buy one.