Apple iPhone 7 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Troubled smartphone shootout

Which smartphone gaffe is worse: no headphone jack or spontaneous explosions? No, seriously, which is worse?

Apple iPhone 7 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Credit: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

As you no doubt have already heard, two recent high-profile smartphone introductions have been plagued by controversy. Apple’s iPhone 7 has famously inspired rage and disbelief among observers by omitting a headphone jack. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7, meanwhile, infamously has a problem with its battery spontaneously exploding—or at least catching on fire.

Two awesome new smartphones, two very different issues garnering piles of press for the wrong reasons. So, which issue is worse? Let’s take a systematic look and see if we can come to a decision. (Have your own “favorite?” Feel free to share it in the comments.) 


Every iPhone 7 in the entire world ships without a headphone jack. There is simply no way to get an iPhone 7 with a headphone jack. Unlike many of its customers, Apple seems to think this is a feature, not a bug, so no “fix”—apart from an easily misplaced dongle—will be forthcoming.

Only a small—albeit undetermined—percentage of Galaxy Note 7s have been known to explode. So far. 

Winner: iPhone 7. All is more than some. 


The iPhone 7’s lack of a headphone jack has inspired snarky comments across the interwebs, and some folks may not be able to use their fancy after-market headphones quite as conveniently. Plus, people—including me—seem concerned that Apple’s Airbuds could easily be lost.

The Galaxy Note 7 has allegedly set a Jeep on fire, and various agencies are worried that the batteries could catch fire on airplanes, wreaking untold havoc.

Winner: Galaxy Note 7—by a nose. 


Apple seems to think this is a feature, not a bug, so no “fix”—apart from an easily misplaced dongle—will be forthcoming.

Samsung is clearly aware of the battery-fire issue—the company has told buyers to stop using the devices—and is presumably working to fix it with newly manufactured devices, marked “safe.”

Winner: iPhone 7—assuming there are no problems with the “safe” Galaxy Note 7s.


Apple removed the headphone jack on purpose. When asked why, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said, “courage.” Condescending some?

I’m guessing that spontaneous smartphone combustion was not on Samsung’s list of features for its new phone. Still, problems with lithium-ion batteries are not new, and you’d think this would have been tested before the devices were released into the wild. 

Winner: Tie.


If Apple’s right that the world is moving to wireless connectivity for headphones, this may turn out to be a short-lived backlash—sort of like the company’s previous moves away from optical drives in Macs, its old 40-pin iPhone connector, and just about every port on the Mac.

If Samsung can successfully recall all of the at-risk Galaxy Note 7s and replace them with new versions that, you know, don’t explode, they may find that people have moved on after a while. 

Winner: Snark aside, this isn’t even close. While Apple’s wounds were deliberately self-inflicted, they’re just not that deep. And at least Tim Cook’s troops packaged a free headphone jack adapter in the box.

On the other hand, exploding smartphones are dangerous! Not only do I not want to buy one, but it would make me nervous to see the person next to me using one—especially on an airplane. The Galaxy Note 7’s problems are much, much worse than the iPhone 7’s troubles.

Disagree? Have ideas for points I didn’t consider? Please feel free to share in the comments.

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