After reading my Samsung Galaxy S8 review, one of my buddies texted me: “Does the new Samsung still suck with group chats?” The answer: probably, if everybody in the group has an iPhone. When you SMS the group, there’s a chance that you’ll divide it into numerous mini-chats, frustrating your friends (and yourself) like no other — or that the SMS might never be delivered. (It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.) There are a few Android messaging apps that work great, but the truth is nothing can truly replace iMessage, for now.
That said, Android smartphones have a number of key advantages over iPhones. They have more customizable software (widgets are amazing). There are more Android phones to choose from, as opposed to just choosing between older versions of the iPhone. And there are more smartwatches, fitness trackers and VR headsets to choose from as well. And many Androids also have expandable storage — no iPhone offers that.
If you’re thinking about buying an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus and weighing up some Android alternatives as well, there are a few options that stand out among the pack, which I’ve reviewed and gathered below.
Pros: The G6 has a thin aspect ratio like the Galaxy S8’s, so it’s more pleasant to hold. It’s water resistant, supports wireless charging and comes with a traditional headphone jack. Its 13MP dual rear-facing camera is very good, as is its QHD display.
Cons: Its Snapdragon 821 Quad-Core processor isn’t as advanced as the newer 835 found in the S8. It’s incompatible with VR headsets, and no “Plus” or “XL” models are currently available if you’re looking for a big display. The rear fingerprint scanner is pretty standard. With certain carriers, the LG G6 costs around $700 — which is pretty darn expensive for something less than bleeding-edge.
Pros: The Pixel runs stock Android OS with zero bloatware, which no other Android does. It’s ideal for people who rely on Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps and the G Suite. By far its best feature (for me) is the fingerprint scanner on the back; it’s big and it works like a miniature trackpad for when you want to navigate settings. I like that it comes with both a headphone jack and USB-C charging. If you’re into VR, the Pixel and the Google Daydream View headset work with YouTube VR, which is amazing. Plus, the rear-facing camera is great.
Cons: Admittedly, after holding the Samsung’s Galaxy S8, the Pixel feels boring; it’s wider, heavier and isn’t nearly as sleek-looking. It’s also not water resistant, unlike the iPhone 7 or Galaxy S8. As great as it feels to scroll through settings with the fingerprint scanner, that same trackpad functionality is unavailable on web browsers, email inboxes and social media feeds. Why?
Lastly, good luck finding one in the model and colorway you want.
Samsung Galaxy S8
Pros: Hands down, the Galaxy 8 is the most beautiful smartphone you can buy. I love its slender aspect ratio, making it easier to hold than the iPhone 7 or Pixel (matched only by the LG G6 — but expect more smartphones to adopt it). Like the iPhone 7, it’s water resitant. Both its front- and rear-facing cameras are solid, on par with Google’s and Apple’s offerings. It also comes with a USB-C charging port and a traditional headphone jack, which are both underrated features, in my book.
Cons: The fingerprinter scanner is annoyingly small, off-center and lacks touch gestures like the Pixel. At the time of writing, Bixby — Samsung’s virtual assistant — is pretty useless, though this will matter less to some since the S8 also comes with Google Assistant. And like all Samsung devices, the S8 doesn’t play well with other ecosystems; its VR software, for example, is only compatible with Samsung’s Gear VR headset.
Pros: The Mate 9 has a huge display, a great camera, a fast processor, USB-C charging and a headphone jack. It comes loaded with very little bloatware. The main selling point, however, is the price: for $600, you get something that feels very similar to a Pixel.
Cons: The display is nowhere near its competitors (1920 x 1080, as opposed to the Pixel XL’s and Galaxy S8’s 2560 x 1440). The rear fingerprint scanner is basic. No VR compatibility. And it doesn’t have the thin aspect ratio that I like.