OnePlus 3 vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

How close does OnePlus come to dethroning Android’s leader--at half the cost?

By Jason Cipriani

Over the last few years we’ve seen the wireless industry move away from subsidized smartphone pricing, passing on the full cost to you, the consumer. Instead of paying a couple hundred dollars for a smartphone in exchange for signing a two-year contract, you’re now asked to pay upwards of $800 for some phones.

During that same time we’ve also seen smartphone manufacturers cram as many features and capabilities into a device as they can while trying to hit a low price point.

For example, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge is an expensive and fully capable smartphone. OnePlus, however, seems to have hit its stride with the OnePlus 3 in terms of features, execution, and price.

Just how does the $400 OnePlus 3 compare to the $750 Galaxy S7 Edge? Read on to find out.

OnePlus 3

by OnePlus
List $399

Galaxy S7 Edge

by Samsung
List $795

The Scorecard

Samsung S7 Edge

OnePlus 3Galaxy S7 Edge
Design
Durability
Camera
Performance
Mobile Payments
Display
Battery Life
Price
Verdict35

Design

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Galaxy S7 Edge on top of the OnePlus 3.

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge features a unique design—its display is curved at either edge and the glass back is also curved. The end result is a phone that feels thinner when you’re holding it than it actually is. However, any phone that’s wrapped in glass is just begging for a case to protect against accidental drops, especially after you realize just how slippery the phone is.

While there’s no doubt the S7 Edge is one of the best designed smartphones this year, the overall design for Samsung hasn’t changed that much from last year’s S6 line.

The OnePlus 3 features an aluminum unibody design. It’s a design that’s reminiscent of HTC’s and Apple’s recent smartphone offerings. The metal housing adds a premium feel to the OnePlus 3, while staying away from the slippery feel of the S7 Edge.

OnePlus relied on a mixture of metal accents and plastic for last year’s OnePlus 2 but threw out that approach this year, essentially starting from scratch at the design whiteboard.

Both phones feel thinner and lighter than they are, and that’s a testament to how much attention was paid to the overall design. However, I have to give it to OnePlus for going outside the company’s past designs and coming out with a completely redesigned phone.

Winner: OnePlus 3

Durability

Everyone can relate to the rush of panic the moment you realize your smartphone is hurling toward the ground and there’s nothing you can do about it. After the phone lands, dread sets in as you reach down to turn the phone over and see if the screen shattered.

The OnePlus 3’s metal body will undoubtedly do a better job of surviving drops than the S7 Edge’s glass housing. However, Samsung’s waterproofing of the S7 Edge is a feature that you’ll grow to love despite—hopefully—never using it.

You can use your S7 near the pool to capture photos and videos of your kids without fear of dropping $800 into the water. Same goes for leaving your phone on a table at a restaurant, or knocking a glass over on your desk as you feverishly work.

Really, this category could go either way. The OnePlus 3 does a better job when dropped, whereas the S7 Edge survives in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. But the scales are tipped in Samsung’s favor when you consider that a case protects it from drops, while the OnePlus 3 requires a fairly large, rugged OtterBox-like case to gain waterproof capabilities.

Winner: Galaxy S7 Edge

Camera

Samsung:

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OnePlus 3:

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The Galaxy S7 Edge boasts a 12-megapixel camera and 4K video capabilities. The OnePlus 3 brings a 16-megapixel rear camera to the fight, along with 4K video capabilities.

Shooting random photos in both good and poor lighting conditions proves there’s more to taking a decent smartphone photo than packing megapixels into the device and calling it a day. How the device processes an image has a lot to do with the end result, and right now it seems as though Samsung’s experience is winning. Looking at the photos above, you can see the Galaxy S7 Edge images tend to be a bit brighter, maybe even borderline overexposed in some situations. The OnePlus 3 photos are on the darker side, with color reproduction slightly off. The photos are admittedly close.

In the photo of the circular saw, which was taken in very poor lighting, the photo from the OnePlus 3 doesn’t fair well at all.

Shutter speed and the camera’s time to lock on and acquire focus of a subject was close, with the Galaxy S7 Edge barely beating out the OnePlus 3 on both fronts.

That’s not to say the OnePlus 3’s camera isn’t impressive, because it is. It’s just not quite up to par with Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge.

Winner: Galaxy S7 Edge

Display

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Left: OnePlus 3. Right: Galaxy S7 Edge

Both devices are equipped with a 5.5-inch AMOLED display. OnePlus offers a resolution of 1080p with bright and vivid colors, though it can’t come close to competing with the quad-HD display Samsung uses in the Galaxy S7 Edge. There isn’t another phone on the market capable of competing with Samsung in terms of display quality.

Not only are the colors more accurate, but also the S7 Edge offers better visibility in direct sunlight than the OnePlus 3. Samsung leverages AMOLED screen technology to enable its Always-On Display feature. The screen never truly turns off, constantly displaying the date, time, and pending alerts without causing a significant strain on battery life.

The OnePlus 3 has an option for users to enable an adaptive display, where waving your hand above the phone causes it to dimly light up to reveal pending notifications, but it’s not the same.

Once again, that’s not to say the OnePlus 3’s display is bad. It’s actually really, really nice, and the majority of users won’t find any issues with it. It’s when you place these two devices right next to one another that it becomes apparent Samsung is the king of smartphone displays.

Winner: Galaxy S7 Edge

Performance

When a company decides to cut carriers out of the purchase equation, there are inherent risks associated with doing so. Reaching potential customers through in-store advertisements is impossible, for example.

Of course, there are upsides to foregoing carriers. One such benefit is the lack of demands from the carriers on a phone manufacturer when it comes to pre-installing software and apps. Or as most people call it, bloatware. Samsung, despite its position as the top smartphone manufacturer in the world, still lacks the power (or the will) to stand up to carriers and draw a proverbial line in the sand, refusing to install bloatware on its products. OnePlus 3 has no such demands made of it, with the phone it ships to each and every user containing the same software, regardless of carrier.

I bring this up because bloatware has a direct impact on a device’s performance. I’ve used a Verizon Wireless Galaxy S7 Edge and an AT&T Galaxy S7 Edge, and on paper they are identical. The apps and services each carrier requires Samsung to install on the device has lead to vastly different experiences, with the AT&T variant running slower and suffering from more performance issues than the Verizon version.

The Galaxy S7 Edge and the OnePlus 3 each come with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor. The OnePlus 3 has a staggering 6GB of memory, while the Galaxy S7 Edge holds its own with 4GB. OnePlus users need to figure out how to live with 64GB of storage, whereas Galaxy S7 Edge users start with a lower 32GB of storage but can supplement it with external storage via a micro SD card.

Partly due to a lack of unnecessary apps and bloatware, the OnePlus 3 offers more consistent performance than the Galaxy S7 Edge.

Winner: OnePlus 3

Mobile Payments

Last year’s OnePlus 2 shunned an NFC chip, with the company claiming mainstream users could care less about NFC capabilities. OnePlus now admits it was wrong and has brought NFC back to the OnePlus 3. NFC is essential if you want to take advantage of mobile payment services like Android Pay. Using Android Pay, you unlock your phone, tap on compatible payment terminals, and your phone takes care of the rest.

Samsung has long offered NFC functionality, but last year it added a new feature to its phones that extends mobile payment options beyond NFC kiosks. Using technology it acquired from LoopPay, the Galaxy S7 Edge can transmit payment information to traditional credit card readers in addition to NFC terminals.

Samsung Pay, as it’s called, works in 95 percent of businesses, and it feels a bit like magic every time you use it. Similar to using Android Pay, you unlock your phone, hold it up to the payment terminal, wait a second, and beep—your payment info is sent.

The ability to use Samsung Pay in more places makes the Galaxy S7 Edge the clear winner in this category. Alarmed gas station clerks who yell at you for holding a smartphone to the point-of-sale terminal be damned.

Winner: Galaxy S7 Edge

Battery Life

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Left: OnePlus 3. Right: Galaxy S7 Edge

Either device offers enough battery power to get most users through a typical day of usage—text messaging, occasional web browsing, tweets, YouTube videos, and Facebook. In fact, I’d tip the scales in favor of the OnePlus 3 by a couple of hours overall.

Both devices offer takes on fast-charging technology. For its part, Samsung uses Quick Charge 2.0 in the Galaxy S7 Edge. OnePlus has developed its own charging technology called Dash Charge.

By using fast-charging solutions, you can fill a dead battery as much as 60 percent in as few as 30 minutes. If OnePlus hadn’t produced its own proprietary Dash Charger for the OnePlus 3, requiring users to purchase a Dash Charge-compatible power and car adapter direct from OnePlus instead of the dozens of companies currently producing Quick Charge-compliant accessories at a low price, I would have likely declared it the winner in battery life.

As of right now, finding a QC 2.0 charger is far easier and cheaper than the Dash Charger. For that reason, the Galaxy S7 Edge wins out on battery life despite getting a little lower overall use out of a single charge.

Winner: Galaxy S7 Edge

Price

Declaring a winner in terms of price requires zero thought on my part, but it’s still worth mentioning. It’s beyond me how OnePlus figured out what corners to cut to lower cost without lessening the user experience.

The OnePlus 3 is $399 without a contract and unlocked. It works with GSM carriers (T-Mobile and AT&T here in the U.S.) without any special requirements. Put in your SIM card, and you’re set.

The Galaxy S7 Edge ranges in price from $650 to $800 depending on carriers and current promotions. Right now, the AT&T model is $794. Of course, each carrier wants to push you into one of its monthly payment plans to ease the pain of paying the full cost of a premium phone.

At $399, the OnePlus 3 is more affordable and gives customers more bang for their buck.

Winner: OnePlus 3

Verdict

It’s the Galaxy S7 Edge, but just barely.

The OnePlus 3 should make you and every smartphone manufacturer on the planet rethink just how much a flagship-caliber phone should cost. OnePlus had previously made a habit of making grandiose claims about its products, going so far to call the OnePlus 2 a "flagship killer." That claim never proved true, and ultimately the company looked silly.

With the OnePlus 3, the company let the product speak for itself, and it speaks rather well. Still, the premium look, feel, and price of the Galaxy S7 Edge have proven a winning recipe for Samsung this year.

Ultimately, the purchase decision is going to come down to personal taste and how much pain you want to inflict on your wallet. The Galaxy S7 Edge may have squeaked out a win here, but it could have easily gone either way. Most of the categories were incredibly close. The $400 OnePlus 3 nearly matches the $800 Galaxy S7 Edge capabilities across almost all meaningful features, save for waterproofing and Samsung Pay. Frankly, that should scare Samsung.

You won’t go wrong purchasing either of these phones.