This year has been about refinement for LG and Samsung's top phones.
These crazy little pocket computers on which we rely every day seem to grow more capable each time we blink, and there aren't many examples of this more profound than the latest flagships from LG and Samsung. These aren't phones: they're entertainment powerhouses with incredibly capable cameras, and each one can be connected to a unique headset for even more incredible experiences. How cool is that?
As is often the case with two phones of such high quality, lots of folks want to know which is more deserving of their money. To help answer that question, we're going to compare the LG G5 and the Samsung Galaxy S7.
1. A quick look at hardware
Over the last two years, Samsung has been pulling away from plastic, focusing instead on incorporating metal and glass into the exterior of their phones. The first generation was a welcomed change of pace, but it wasn't until the Galaxy S7 that this shift in design language finally felt polished. The S7 is iconic: beautifully designed, and nice and solid when held in the hand. LG's been making some significant changes as well, ditching their plastic bodies first for massive metal rails on the LG V10, and eventually moving to the all-metal body of the LG G5. Perhaps most impressive, LG figured out how to make an all-metal chassis while retaining a removable battery and modularity.
Samsung's displays are once again without compare this year, especially in daylight. While both phones pack Quad HD (2560x1440) resolution displays, which look incredible indoors, the second you step into the sun it's clear which one is superior. Using the camera in direct sunlight at full brightness on the G5 is nearly impossible due to glare and reflectiveness, where the S7 generally handles the same conditions without issue.
You can't get much more different than these two phones. The G5's bottom comes off to reveal a battery, while the Galaxy S7 is so well sealed it is waterproof up to three feet. The S7's glass back doesn't offer a whole lot of grip, but the phone's more slender body a little easier to grasp than the larger G5. LG's metal body is also coated in a thicker layer of primer than you'd expect from a metal smartphone — especially if you're used to phones like the HTC One line or Huawei Nexus 6P — but that added texture offers a little more grip than you'd normally get on a metal phone.
While both of these phones are equipped with a lot of similar hardware, the differences couldn't be clearer. LG has a fingerprint sensor on the back, sharing space with the power button, but it's not quite as capable as Samsung's front-facing fingerprint-enabled home button. But LG put extra camera in the back of the G5, a 130-degree wide-angle camera that shoots at 8MP and captures an impressive amount of the world. LG plans to offer accessories that can replace the bottom part of the phone with additional hardware features, called "Friends", but so far the usefulness of those accessories is a little suspect.
|Category||Galaxy S7||LG G5|
|Processor||Quad-core Snapdragon 820 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8||Snapdragon 820|
|Main display||5.1-inch QHD||5.3-inch QHD|
|Storage||32GB + microSD||32GB + microSD|
|Rear camera||12MP||16MP main, 8MP wide-angle|
|Operating system||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow|
|Size||142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm||149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7mm|
|Weight||152 grams||159 grams|
Samsung's priority for the S7 was ensuring its flagship was compact and refined, where LG focused on standing out in the crowd while giving early adopters plenty to love. A big part of that was making sure the phone had a removable battery, reversible USB-C port for power, and on-screen buttons for navigating Android. The S7 lacks these things, but their fans don't seem to mind.
It's difficult to call one design "better" than the other, but it's clear just by looking at the two phones that Samsung's design language has the benefit of an extra year to polish the ideas that help make the phone stand out.
2. Strangely similar software
LG and Samsung both release phones with versions of Android that have been heavily customized from the product Google ships on Nexus phones, and for the most part that's positive. Both LG and Samsung have a history of software ideas that users love, and can only find on these phones. These experiences aren't perfect, and as a result both companies perform significant overhauls of their software experiences each year with refinements that make sure not to fundamentally break the way Google intends Android to operate.
For the most part, everything you expect to find in an Android phone is in roughly the same place. The Settings menu is organized a little differently, with LG opting to start users off with big categories to choose from instead of a long list, but all of the options you want are there. Samsung and LG both make allow for custom quick settings tiles in the notification drawer, but LG's implementation takes up a little more space on the display. This means less space is available to show notifications, which can be frustrating if you're constantly getting notifications throughout the day.
When it comes to performance, there's no appreciable difference between the two. Samsung and LG have worked hard to make their phones feel fast, and both the G5 and the S7 deliver on that this year. Security, as is often the case, is not quite as happy a story. Samsung has been working hard to be transparent about when phones are getting the latest security patches from Google, but the delivery is frequently more than a month behind. LG isn't doing any better, frequently going months without updating phones with a security patch. Between the two companies, Samsung appears to be doing a better job delivering the latest software to the S7 than LG is to the G5.
A big part of this security delay is frequently put on carriers, and that is another software issue both LG and Samsung have yet to rectify. AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint all not only get in the way of installing the latest update, but bog down the S7 and G5 with pre-loaded software that frequently can't be uninstalled. In this case, both of these phones are significantly better when purchased unlocked. Unfortunately, in the US, Samsung doesn't make that easy.
3. Truly impressive cameras
Superior imaging capabilities have been a hot topic over the last two years, and when it comes to LG and Samsung cameras the conversation stays largely unchanged. Last year, LG blew us away with how surprisingly capable the G4 was with its manual camera mode, giving photographers the ability to take the exact photo they wanted and enhance it in a photo-editing app. Samsung's ability to deliver a noticeably better point-and-shoot experience won out in the end, but both cameras were exceptional.
This year, LG has improved the ability to capture a quick photo, and Samsung has responded with improved manual controls and an impressive new sensor for capturing more light with every pixel. The results make these two phones more comparable than even when it comes to taking a photo.
As you can see, LG's sensor this year tends to capture a little warmer than Samsung. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S7 manages to capture more detail and more depth of color in just about every shot. Neither photo in the set we have here are bad, and in some cases the G5 is the more color accurate of the two cameras, but the Galaxy S7 photos offer a little bit more overall.
4. Getting through a day on battery
Generally speaking, if a phone can deliver 16 hours of battery life it's considered a "full day" of use. That varies for a lot of people, especially when it comes to how long the display is on throughout the day, but that 16-hour mark is a reasonable target for getting you through an average day.
Both Samsung's 3,000 mAh battery and LG's 2,800 mAh battery deliver an average of 16 hours use on a daily basis for our usage. That's not going to be the same for everyone. It's not even the same for the editors using the phone at Android Central, but if there's one key takeaway from comparing the battery between these two phones it's that the 200mAh difference between them doesn't mean much.
Additionally, both phones use a form of Quick Charge to ensure you can go from a nearly empty battery to 50% charged in minutes. Samsung has one-upped LG by also offering fast wireless charging, which is great news for folks who are fans of the tech. You can set the phone down on a wireless charging pad and have it be 50% charged in about 35 minutes.
Meeting that 16 hour mark is almost a standard right now. Fall short, and the phone isn't likely to get through a whole day. Go over that mark, and there's a good chance your phone is noticeably larger than the G5 or S7. These two phones walk that line, so you're experiences will likely end in this phone being more than enough or not quite enough batter for you.
5. The bottom line
At the end of the day, choosing between the LG G5 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 is going to come down to personal preference. If you like the way the S7 feels in your hand, or you absolutely must have the best possible quick-shoot camera, the S7 is going to be the way to go. If you're interested in exploring LG's accessories and you'd rather have a metal phone than one surrounded by breakable glass, the G5 is a great option.
If you're having trouble choosing between the two, the better overall option is going to be the Galaxy S7. Simply put, Samsung is offering a polished, complete thought while LG is trying some new things that might be interesting if they stick around for more than just this phone.
- Galaxy S7 review
- Galaxy S7 edge review
- U.S. unlocked Galaxy S7
- Should you upgrade to the Galaxy S7?
- Best SD cards for Galaxy S7
- Join our Galaxy S7 forums
- LG G5 review
- LG 360 CAM review
- LG G5 complete specs
- LG's G5 Friends modules are a neat idea, but they won't matter
- LG G5 Hi-Fi Plus w/ B&O
- Join the LG G5 discussion