Springtime is here, and that not only means the Canadian winter is saying goodbye (good riddance!), but Samsung has just released their brand new 2016 flagships: the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a brand new Galaxy S7 Edge, which I’ve been using for the past two weeks. If you’ve read my reviews of the Galaxy S5, or Galaxy S6, you’ll know I’ve had my frustrations with Samsung. With the Galaxy S7, however, I’m officially a fan. These devices not only feature top-tier hardware, but their software is a winner as well. Keep reading for our full review, and your chance to win a brand new Galaxy S7!
When you buy a Galaxy S-line phone, you know you’re getting the top of line hardware on the market. With the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, that’s no exception. Both the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge boast a gorgeous 1440×2560 AMOLED display, a 12MP rear camera, 5MP wide-angle front camera, 4GB of RAM (wow!), and a Snapdragon 820 processor. Last year, the S6 and S6 Edge were essentially the same phone despite a curved screen on one, which caused a lot of confusion among buyers as to which phone was better. To me, there’s no real purpose of a curved screen, despite it looking cool. This year, however, my recommendation is different, and that’s because the S7 Edge offers more than its non-curved counterpart.
This year, the Galaxy S7 Edge features a larger 5.5″ curved screen (vs. the S7’s 5.1″), and a larger 3,600mAh battery (20% larger than the S7’s battery). For these two reasons alone, I’d recommend the S7 Edge to everyone over the S7. That extra battery life is precious, and can really make the difference between being left with an empty battery at the end of the day or not. Should you require a top up of power during the day, both phones feature Qualcomm’s incredible QuickCharge technology, letting users quickly fill up in no time, as well as fast wireless charging support (with a $80 wireless charging accessory). If you’re buying extra chargers, it’s essential that you make sure they’re QuickCharge compatible for the best experience.
My two favourite parts about the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are the added option of expandable storage and their water resistance. Expandable storage allows anyone to add up to 200GB of storage to the phone with a microSD card, which is much less costly than purchasing a larger phone model – a common issue that iPhone users know all too well. More and more Android devices are adding this feature, and I welcome it with open arms. While Android 6.0 Marshmallow adds the ability to merge the SD card as internal storage for app storage, I highly recommend against this feature as it causes a lot of things to not work. Rather, expandable storage should be used for music, photos, and documents.
The other feature I absolutely love about the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge is the addition of water resistance. This was present in the Galaxy S5, but required a small door to be opened and closed every time you wanted to charge the phone, which ended up breaking for many people, including me. With the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, the entire inside of the phones have been coated to be water resistant, so there’s no need for an additional part. Water resistance is an incredibly useful feature and it really removes a level of worry that many people have about using their phones in the rain, or spilling on them. With the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, your phone can endure through the elements.
Of course no review would be complete without a look at the cameras, both of which are once again the best cameras I’ve ever used on an Android phone. Samsung has lowered the number of megapixels from 16 to 12 in this generation of the Galaxy, which allows for larger pixels and better low-light performance. The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are the first smartphones to feature dual-pixel technology, so they capture better photos in low-light environments and focus incredibly fast. I was blown away by the professional-looking blurred backgrounds (or depth of field) I was getting from these cameras, as well as the Galaxy’s ability to focus on subjects up close.
The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge include a home button that doubles as a fingerprint reader. Samsung has improved the technology from previous generations, making the reader faster than ever, and therefore more likely to be used by the masses. I found it worked well, though was sometimes hard to use when sitting on a table. This is a useful feature considering most Android phones lack a fingerprint reader.
With the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, you’ll also be getting support for Samsung Pay, coming to Canada in late 2016. Samsung Pay is one of the most exciting mobile payment technologies on the market, as it is the only mobile payments technology that works with both NFC tap-to-pay readers as well as traditional swipe machines. To use it, you simply hold the phone next to the swipe area of a reader, and voila! While I haven’t tried this yet myself, I’ve heard nothing but good things.
If I had to critique the hardware in any way, it would be for the amount of fingerprints the glass rear of the device collects. This isn’t an issue on the plastic and metal backs of other devices made by HTC or Apple, which is why I wish Samsung would follow suit. The other let down for me was the speaker quality, which I felt had limited volume and was tinny. The speaker grille is located on the bottom of the phone – a poor location considering I often found myself adjusting my grip as to not cover the speaker. This may be a tradeoff necessary for the water resistance, but I’d like Samsung to focus on sound quality more in the future, especially when other flagships such as the Moto X Pure offer incredible front-facing stereo speakers.
The software on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge is far better than anything I’ve found on Samsung devices of the past. I don’t say this lightly, as I’ve often vowed to not purchase Samsung phones because I felt the software experience was too far removed from how Google intended Android to function. With the S7 and S7 Edge, I can honestly say that Samsung has fixed most of the quips I’ve had with their software, to the point that I’m considering purchasing the phone myself. I often complained about how Samsung’s TouchWiz interface looked childish and different than Google’s beautiful Material Design interface. TouchWiz on the S7 and S7 Edge is much cleaner, so much so that I had no desire to change the icon pack or homescreen to something different. Samsung’s new icons and colour palette are much easier on the eyes, more modern, and bring out the crispness of the AMOLED display. A fantastic improvement.
My other issue with Samsung’s previous phones has been the amount of software pre-loaded on the device that duplicated Google’s own apps. With the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, Samsung took this issue very seriously, almost eliminating their own bloatware entirely. This is a win for all users, advanced or not, as they will not have to decide which calendar, SMS, or Translation app to use, as an example. If a power user wanted to replace the Samsung SMS app, for example, with Google’s official Messenger app, they could do that. While duplicate apps remain, they are limited to the browser and calendar apps, which is very acceptable. It is also great to see that Samsung’s newsreader called Flipboard Briefing can be turned off very easily to remove it from the homescreen. Progress!
On top of these major improvements, Samsung has expanded the functionality of the Apps Edge on the Galaxy S7 Edge. This lets users easily swipe in from the curved glass of their device to see a variety of information including favourite contacts, apps, a ruler, recent messages, or the news. If a user wants more capability, they can download additional panels in the Galaxy app store. I found this to be a really nice feature that came in handy while using the device.
With the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, Samsung has introduced an always-on display feature that shows the time or weather when the screen is off. This is made possible because with AMOLED displays, Samsung can show true black-levels on the screen without using any power. Basically, if a pixel is showing black, it’s actually off. While smart in concept, the feature is very limited, especially in terms of showing notifications. Hopefully this is improved in a software update, as competitive always-on displays, like the Moto X Active Display, are much more robust and show all types of notifications.