Samsung Galaxy S7 vs. LG G5: Which flagship smartphone is more promising?

Patrick O'Rourke

February 23, 2016 2:40pm

With smartphone sales consistently waning over the last few years, LG and Samsung have adopted two decidedly different strategies when it comes to vying for consumer attention at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona.

One is safe, iterative, and will likely resonate with longtime fans of the company, while the other takes chances, and could make or break the company’s smartphone business.

While I haven’t gone hands-on with either the LG G5 or Galaxy S7/S7 Edge for an extended period of time, here’s a breakdown of my early hands-on impressions of both smartphones.

Samsung and LG: Two different narratives

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Each smartphone is impressive in its own right, with LG opting for a complete revamp of the G4, thanks to the introduction of accessories the company calls “Friends.” Samsung is taking a more iterative approach with the S7 and S7 edge, though the company has utilized feedback from the S6 and S6 edge to improve its latest smartphone in a variety of minor ways.

It’s hard not to be fascinated by LG’s marketing tactic, placing emphasis on the G5’s various accessories over the phone’s others features. This is one of the few times in recent memory that a smartphone manufacturer has managed to build excitement around the future of a device, displaying clear intentions for the G5 to live past its first few months on store shelves. If third-party manufacturers take advantage of the LG G5’s modular port, the smartphone’s lifespan could be extended considerably.

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My main issue with the G5’s wash of accessories is some seem considerably more useful than others. For example, the ability to slide the bottom panel of the phone off and replace the G5’s standard battery with a higher capacity power source is a welcome addition to the smartphone. Other accessories such as the LG Cam Plus are also great, while the LG HiFi Plus with Bang & Olufson Play, doesn’t appeal to my personal preferences. But beyond these devices, LG hasn’t shown off further upcoming modular accessories for the smartphone.

Other “Friends” accessories like the LG 360 VR, LG 360 Camera and the LG Rolling Boy (which will be great for annoying my cat with) are fascinating diversions, but don’t make use of the LG G5’s expansion module in a meaningful way.

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Still, with that said, LG is taking a chance with the G5’s expansion port and it could hold a tremendous amount of potential for the company. No other manufacturer has attempted this before to my knowledge, which could be a disaster for LG, or result in an industry changing shift.

LG needed to make noise with the LG G5’s reveal, and that’s exactly what the company did.

Winner: LG G5

The look: Overhaul vs. iteration

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The G5 is an undeniably beautiful and sleek looking smartphone, as well as a clear upgrade over the G4 in nearly every way. LG’s G4 suffered from a variety of issues, but rather than iterate, the G5 is a complete overhaul. The phone’s volume buttons have been shifted to the side of the device though the power button remains on its rear, which also doubles as a fingerprint scanner. This shift is a direct answer to fan complaints and is a refreshing change from the minor updates we typically see in the smartphone industry every year. LG clearly realized it made mistakes with the G4 and did its best to solve them.

Not to be outdone, Samsung also listened to criticism of S6 and learned from its past mistakes. Both the S7 edge and S7 feature the often-requested Micro-SD card slot fans have been clamouring for, as well as a return to a waterproof casing (the G5 also features an Micro-SD port just like its predecessor).

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But even with these shifts, at least at the outset, upgrades to the S7 and S7 Edge feel iterative when compared to their predecessors. But if there was nothing wrong with the S6’s aesthetic, Samsung likely feels little need to overhaul their flagship smartphone with the S7. While the G4 was a relatively well-received phone, it was far from perfect and was heavily criticized, whereas the S6 edge and S6 were almost universally praised. As a result, LG needed to shake things up with the G5, whereas Samsung can rest on its laurels to some extent.

Which phone appeals to you will come down to taste, and for me, there’s a clear aesthetic winner – the Galaxy s7, with the slightly larger 5.5-inch S7 edge trailing closely behind.

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With the S7, Samsung continues with the metal and glass unibody construction direction it started with the S6, but also borrows elements from the Galaxy Note 5, including curves along the device’s sides and back (with the S7). The fact S7’s camera module doesn’t stick out of the phone’s rear is also a welcome shift from what we usually see in smartphones.

Selecting between the S7 and the S7 edge continues to be just as difficult a decision as it was with the S6 and S6 edge, only now there’s another variable – size. If you prefer larger phones, and also opt into how Samsung utilizes the side of its flagship devices to give users additional information, the edge is likely still your best bet. Those who enjoy smaller, more compact devices will likely opt for the 5.1-inch S7.

Winner: Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

The display: LCD vs. AMOLED

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Samsung is widely regarded as the top display manufacturer in the market, whether it’s with its smartphone screens, computer monitors or even televisions. The company stays true to this reputation with the S7’s 5.1-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel (5.5 with the S7 edge) Super AMOLED Quad HD resolution display. The display featured in the company’s latest smartphone looks stunning and many will likely notice an increased colour contrast between the S6 and the S7.

On the other side, the G5’s 5.3-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel IPS LCD display is also great looking, but during my brief hands-on time with the device, seemed to lack the colour depth featured in the S7 and S7 Edge, though it’s possible some may prefer the G5 thanks to the company utilizing LCD over LED technology (this ultimately comes down to preference).

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Where the screens differentiate is their heavily touted “Always-On” feature, which, despite higher capacity batteries featured in both Samsung ‘s and LG’s devices – 2800 mAh in the G5, 3000 mAh in the s7, and 3600 mAh in the S7 edge – will likely suck the life out of both phone’s power sources (I need to spend more time with this feature to know for sure)

It’s worth noting, however, that the Galaxy S7’s Always On display seems more customizable than the G5’s, which will make it considerably more useful.

Winner: Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

The hardware: High-end performance war

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Under the hood, the S7 and S7 edge come equipped with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, or a Samsung Exynos 8 processor (it’s looks like we’re getting the Qualcomm version in Canada) and 4GB of RAM. During my brief hands-on time with the device, it worked incredibly well, but the same can also be said about the G5 and its Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, powered by an Adreno 530 GPU and 4GB of RAM.

When it comes to processor power, this is the type of decision that’s difficult to call given I haven’t had extensive hands-on time with either device, and the fact the demo units I tested for both phones seemed to feature heavily streamlined software and apps.

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On the battery side of things, the S7 comes with a 3,000 mAh (or 3600 mAh in the S7 edge) compared to the G5’s 2,800 mAh, giving Samsung’s device a distinct advantage in the power source category. All three smartphones are capable of fast-charging, but only Samsung’s devices feature wireless charging.

Both smartphone’s cameras are also equally impressive. The S7 comes equipped with a 12 megapixel rear shooter with a f/1.7 lens, as well as ultrapixel technology, which allows the phone to take better pictures by allowing more light into its sensor. This results in great images when photographs are shot under low light or darker conditions. On the other hand, the G5 features an 8 megapixel wide angle lens accompanying its 16 megapixel primary shooter, giving the smartphone a wider field of view when using its second lens. After snapping a few photographs with the G5 and S7, the battle of picture taking, again, is another one that’s just too early to call. However, the ability to shoot wide angle photographs with the G5 is impressive.

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Then there’s the G5’s modular design, a direction that is both exciting and risky for LG. When this feature is discussed years from now, it will become the deciding factor in the G5’s success or failure.

With the hardware competition so difficult to call given the minimal amount of time I’ve spent with both devices, I call this one a clear draw, at least for now.

Winner: LG G5 and S7 and S7 edge

Overall victor: Don’t fix what isn’t broken

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As stated before, it’s still too early to call this war, especially with the HTC One M10 still looming on the horizon. My early impressions, however, lean towards the S7 and S7 edge over the G5. While LG’s smartphone’s accessory gamble is admirable, the lack of third-party developers producing peripherals for the module is concerning. This could change in the very near future, but the company, at least so far, hasn’t indicated that it will, showing off no future plans for other accessories.

Samsung knows it was onto something with S6 and S6 Edge and has opted for an iPhone 6s/6s Plus style iterative update with the S7. For most people, subtle changes like an SD card slot, as well as the clear size difference between the S7 and S7 edge, adapting to the market’s divisive taste for both large and small smartphone, will be enough to perk interest in the device over the G5.

Winner: S7 and S7 edge

  • southerndinner

    Was considering G5 but the camera’s lack of noteworthy improvements and the absolutely hideous design turned me off.

    I don’t care about waterproofing on S7 but the battery and vastly superior camera swayed me… And the fact it works with my VR. Guess it’s Samsung again.

    I hope other manufacturers try with modular design though. I can’t see LG being able to convince any retailers to take their ‘friends’ but I hope it works for them.

    • robinottawa

      There are other choices. 😉

    • Zbiba

      let’s wait for reviews before we declare the S7’s camera as the clear superior choice. LG is good in the optics game too. As it stands, the S7 does seem to put more emphasis in its camera.

  • southerndinner

    Your articles continue to have real substance in them and don’t devolve into click bait like many other tecg blogs, Patrick. They’re well written and offer actual insight. Keep it up.

  • jellmoo

    I strongly dislike this type of article, simply because it’s really too early to offer this type of conclusion. I get the point of it, and I think that there is value in a pre-release comparison piece, but the idea of picking a “Winner” before we get to spend any time with them seems premature at best.

    • le10017

      Seems like an early editorial, which I don’t mind. Like you said, consumers will need to at least touch them in the store. Either way, I’m certain this topic will be revisited again, which I’ll look forward to seeing some constructive comments.

    • gommer strike

      That is definitely something which….not really *bothers* me, but rather it makes me feel how some elements of the article are catering to the “out of 10” type of audience.

      I once followed a friend’s advice on one of my video reviews to “rate it out of 10 at the end” railed against the idea at first, went ahead and did it, and regretted it from the moment onward. I am fully against that type of idea now. It dumbs everything down to just number. Similarly with this “winner or loser” thing.

      It’s up to the reader/audience to take in all the information, and make their own decisions on the product. But as this is only a very early pre-release article…yes it seems awfully premature to just brand one a “winner” over the other.

    • jellmoo

      I personally hate out of 10, or whatever numeric system, style of ratings. I was very pleased when MobileSyrup moved away from it to their more editorialized version of device reviews.

      In this case, I think the crux of the article is fine. First impressions are of the utmost importance, and telling us what they feel made the best first impression has definite value. But the word “winner” just doesn’t seem to really work here as it has a strong sense of finality that feels way premature.

    • I honestly feel you on that criticism of this story, but I think the commented below nailed it. This is meant to be a combination of my brief impressions of both devices. We’ll definitely have more in-depth features when we get our hands on both phones back in Canada.

    • jellmoo

      I think that the bulk of the article is solid, and I really believe that first impressions are incredibly important. The only item I object to is declaring an “overall winner” at this stage. I think if the article had stopped before that, or instead had spun into a personal opinion take it would have worked better.

    • Fair enough! We’ll keep that in mind in the future. Just a note though, hands-ons are always the writers personal opinion. I’m sure other people have significantly different thoughts about both of these devices.

  • Ryan

    LG really should have stuck to refining what they had with the G4

    • KiwiBri

      this seems like a total different device

    • Ryan

      it doesn’t seem bad, I just like the G4 better

    • jay

      They will bring another phone like they did with the V10 in fall

  • danbob333

    I think Samsung wins because of waterproof and larger battery.
    AMOLED display is also better.

  • Mo Dabbas

    I think LG modular concept is smart. But I’m wondering, if you can have a high capacity battery module (like you mentioned in the article), then why isn’t the phone shipped with it? is it a bulky module?
    Also, I personally don’t see any use of the camera module. We get a shutter button and a wheel for zooming, big deal. It’s not addition any optics.

    In general its hard to judge which is the better one. you gotta try them both. I’m curious if LG managed to fix those performance stutters and lag in their software. Also, I’m surprised samsung didn’t go with USB C.

    • Samsung said that they didn’t go with USB C so then the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge can be compatible with the existing Gear VR (it’s already compatible with the Galaxy S6; Galaxy S6 Edge; Galaxy S6 Edge+; Galaxy Note 5) and that they wouldn’t have to make a whole new one, and I’m pretty sure that the Galaxy S8 will have USB-C

    • Mo Dabbas

      It actually makes a lot of sense now (about the usb port decision)

    • Derek Brown

      Another idea I had read was that USB-C ports may not have been as easy to waterproof. I realize that waterproof-only consumers are a minority, but if you want high performance and durability, you’re not left with many options

    • The module is kind of bulky. They didn’t have one on hand at MWC but it was shown off during the company’s press conference (so I imagine that’s why it isn’t included in the standard phone).

  • Ro Tep

    No removable battery for the S7 = big turn off, period. Samsung is really comitted to sell their overpriced portable battery for more $$$$. Changing for a new battery will be once again a big pain in “the you know where” just to make sure we gonna pay big bucks for their “certified” repair service man….

    • jay

      They want to have it waterproof

    • Ro Tep

      The Galaxy S5 was waterproof and had the removable battery….

    • eric wolf

      I agree. The biggest thing with phones anymore is the battery. When I am out with my G4 and slip another battery out of my wallet into my phone, iphone and samsung users are so jelly. LG saw this and they are innovative period. Metal body and removable battery=game over. Love it.

    • lbwc

      A 3600 mAh battery on the S7 Edge pretty much ensures it will last a whole day…so no removable battery needed.

    • Crossed

      Yeah until a year of use when it starts showing signs of aging. Not to mention the chance of having the battery fail on your after a year.

    • lbwc

      You know…in my years owning iphones, xperias and even a Oneplus One…I have never had a battery fail on me. I’ve had screen burn in on one Xperia that I was able to get repaired under warranty…but never a battery issue.

      And by 1.5 to 2 years…I’m usually looking for a new phone so I can deal with a little battery degradation after a year.

    • I get you. The thing is, I’m pretty sure that over 90% of users don’t buy a separate battery and switch them on the fly. There no reason for them to make such design if most people don’t take advantage of it.

  • Danny Account

    FYI: Snapdragon 820 is quad core NOT octa-core.

    • Derek Brown

      I think he may have been getting mixed up with the exynos chip… Canada isn’t getting the 820 chip, unless the original release details changed

    • Danny Account

      ya thats a bummer seeing as i like to root and install custom roms. not much development for exynos chip. guess i will be getting the US variant.

    • TheShinraCorp .

      Correct, according to Qualcomm’s own spec sheet:

      Up to 2.2 GHz quad-core

      (Quad-core custom 64-bit Qualcomm® Kryo™)

      I’m guessing they’re too used to see the BIG.little configuration on different SoC so they thought it was Octa-core.

  • danakin

    The headline is missing the words “for you”.
    The G5 is more innovative and takes more of a chance with its hardware. It might not be revolutionary but it’s certainly pushing the accessory envelope.
    The S7 seems more refined and doesn’t stray too far from the accolades the S6’s design brought.
    My $0.02 is that the S7 would be more my cup ‘o tea.
    That being said, I’m not a fan of either manufacturer’s Android overlay and, if given free choice to own any of the devices released at MWC, I’d go with the Xperia X Performance.
    That’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla.

    • danbob333

      The problem of the accessories at this time is that they lack a killer accessory which would make people buy that phone.

    • downhilldude

      I think the Gear VR and the Gear 360 are killer accessories, along with the high speed wireless charging base.

  • Crossed

    LG G5 for me, but I’ll wait to see the HTC M10.

    • blueadept1

      My M7 is on its final deathbed, with the battery lasting all of 6 hours. They had better announce in March or I am going to have to abandon them. 🙁

  • Wizzy

    Samsung hit it out of the park this year. In fact, I don’t see how they can improve it much next year. They added everything that was lacking in the S6: bettery battery life, always on display, waterproofing, SD card, better handling, best display in the world. I can’t wait to trade in my G4 for a S7 edge.

    • Leda

      It’s such a beautiful phone! I have S6 and I have no complaints whatsoever, but looking at the S7, I almost wish it was time for an upgrade! S7 is S6 but better, hard to say no!

  • Andrew

    LG’s knock-on feature is enough for me to choose G5 over Samsung.

    • PeterC

      All OLED screens can have the knock on feature with a simple donwload of an app (KnockOn) in the play store. Works on my Note 3.

  • downhilldude

    I’ve heard that Canada is getting the Exynos processor. Go Canada!

  • systemupdate

    I want me some galaxy s7 edge. Looks sick.

  • jay

    Xiaomi mi 5 pro is mine. Everything is good and the price just makes me happy

  • GNS

    It’s an easy choice for me, LCD panels are superior for color accuracy, brightness and longevity. AMOLED will burn in at some point, no matter how you use the phone. I’ll be getting the G5 whenever possible

  • AmarCheema

    i am so disappointed with the Samsung in Canada that with the carriers they are only coming out with one color(black) i wish they could have more options in colors?? anyone knows that they will come with more colors with phone carriers on edge?????

    • norsem4n

      The black looks nice though…. what colour were you looking for?

    • AmarCheema

      silver or white i would prefer more. just because wont see the fingerprints

    • AmarCheema

      i am looking for white but they not going to have in Canada so i prefer silver instead. i hope they come up with something and get more colors on it.

  • Longtin

    I loved the G3, and the G4 is a beast. I can’t for this phone to come out and personally test it. I love what they did with the S7. I guess for me since their basically identical at the end of the day. I’ll most likely end up with the cheaper device at the time. I love how you can remove the battery; however in my current HTC M9 I never even had to remove the battery.