The Samsung Galaxy S7 is the highest-scoring smartphone in Consumer Reports' Ratings, beating out the iPhone 6s. But will everyone really like the Galaxy S7 better than Apples’ flagship smartphone? That depends.

Our engineers employ sophisticated equipment and equally complex criteria to evaluate smartphone performance. Each phone is subjected to more than 100 tests involving both instrument-driven scores and expert assessments.

We test it all—battery life, camera performance, display quality, voice quality (for those rare occasions when people still place calls), and dozens of other factors. The test and scoring protocols are informed not only by our technical expertise but also by a steady stream of data from internal and credible external sources that monitor consumer behavior.

Performance vs. Preference

But there's one thing we can’t test: You. We measure how well each smartphone handles all of its important functions, but you are the ultimate judge of which smartphone attributes you really care about. And sometimes impressive scores on scientifically sound tests don't match your priorities.

For instance, there’s no denying that the Samsung Galaxy S7 has several hardware-based advantages over the iPhone 6s, from appreciably better battery life and a slightly better-performing video camera to the conveniences of rapid and wireless charging, the safety of water resistance, and the economy of inexpensive storage expansion via microSD memory cards. The S7, which is about the same size as the iPhone 6s, also packs in more screen (5.1 inches vs. 4.7 inches) with several times the resolution (1440x2560 vs. 750x1334).

But for many phone users, those factors might be overshadowed by the mind-numbing settings and interface and app inconsistencies in the Android OS that the Samsung uses. Samsung’s menus are laid out logically, but they’re packed with switches and other adjustments for the phone’s bazillion features that some smartphone owners love but others have little use for, such as gesture controls and facial recognition. As a recent Consumer Reports study found, while most people choose an Android for their first smartphone, many switch to an iPhone. One reason is that is they’re just a lot less work.

The iPhone 6s iOS interface is ultra easy to master, and you need to learn it only once because the layout’s pretty much the same across all of the company's phone (and tablet) models, regardless of which cell carrier you use. A lot of people have invested considerable time and money on Apple music, videos, games, and other parts of its vast ecosystem. And frankly, an iPhone is the best, if not the only, smartphone you can use to access it. It might not be fair, but hell could freeze over before Apple lets you play an iTunes movie or read an iBook on an Android phone.  

Check out the top smartphone cameras in our reviews and the smartphones with the best battery life. And check out our reviews of phone plans and carriers.

Hardware-wise, the iPhone 6s display earned an Excellent in our tests. We like the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch display, which allows you to perform an array of tasks without leaving the app you’re currently using. A soft press lets you preview emails and calendar appointments without opening them, and take actions such as Reply, Forward, Flag, and Mark as Read. And if you watch any Hollywood movies on the device, a soft press will show you the plot summary. (Ironically, this feature echoes the app previews you could perform on older versions of the Samsung Note smartphone by hovering its S-Pen stylus over an email, video, or calendar appointment.)

So, while objective test results catapult the Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone to the top or our Ratings, we recognize that for a good portion of the smartphone-buying public there’s not a better choice than an iPhone 6s. Or, perhaps an LG phone . . . but that's another story.