Google Pixel vs Samsung Galaxy S7
Interface and features
The Galaxy S7 features the finest TouchWiz with a ton of features, but we prefer native Android features and the fast updates that you get with the Pixel.
Waiting to get the newest version of Android on a phone not made by Google is a bit like waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series: you wait way too long for this to happen, and when it finally and suddenly does happen, it’s almost too surreal to believe.
It’s been a few months now since the latest Android 7 Nougat launched for Google’s Nexus and Pixel devices, and it’s only now starting to roll out for Samsung Galaxy S7 phones (just don’t ask whether your old Galaxy S6 is ever getting updated).
This is part of what makes the Google Pixel special: it’s getting a fast lane with updates, receiving them by Google on day one.
The Pixel has got all the cool native features of Android 7: the split-screen multitasking, double tap the task switcher for an alt-tab-like shortcut, the cool bundled notifications, the improved Doze that results in better battery life. It’s also got a few tricks up its sleeve like a stunning selection of wallpapers that uses a 3D effect that is way flashier than the subtle parallax effect you’ve probably seen on iPhones and Galaxies.
But then, a lot of the signature Nougat features are already available on the S7: the split-screen multitasking (but it does not work with all apps and feels less fluid), as well as Samsung’s own battery optimizations.
It’s also interesting that there seems to be a new vibration motor on the Pixel with a particular pattern that you ought to feel yourself to fully understand. Is it an improvement? It’s a subjective thing: some people in our office like it, yours truly considers it to be rather vague and not very helpful in typing. The Galaxy S7, on its part, defaults to a very strong, loud vibration, but you can adjust it by going into Settings > Sound and vibration > Vibration intensity.
Performance, Processor and Memory
The Galaxy S7 is fast, but feels a bit jittery, whereas the Pixel is buttery smooth. Not quite iPhone-like, but close.
The Galaxy S7 comes in two versions: a US one running the Snapdragon 820 system chip, and an international one with a Samsung Exynos chipset. The Pixel, on the other hand, has the newer Snapdragon 821 SoC, which is a bit faster and more power efficient. Both phones feature 4GB of RAM.
Specs never told the full picture about performance, so we need to look at the actual experience of using the phones. Here is where the Google Pixel shines: there must be some clever Google optimizations taking place to make this a very smooth experience. The Galaxy S7 in comparison feels fast, but in a jittery, stuttery manner, while animations run smoother on the Pixel. You definitely notice this in daily use.
The rest is benchmarks: these are flagship phones that can easily handle the most demanding games and tasks.
Samsung embraced expandable storage with the Galaxy S7: the phone has 32GB of on-board storage and it supports microSD card expansion. Google, on the other hand, sticks to its guns and offers the Pixel in a 32GB and a 128GB version, but neither supports expandable storage. To alleviate the pains of no expandable storage, though, Google gives Pixel customers unlimited storage of photos and videos via the Google Photos cloud storage. It’s not clear whether this deal extends for the full period of Pixel ownership, or for some limited period, though.