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The two latest smartphones in Samsung’s Galaxy lineup, the S7s, have arrived. In an effort to become “the smartphone to buy” before Apple releases their next model, Samsung released these with a lot of fanfare. This included special promotions by various retailers and cellular service providers. Best Buy and others included a free Samsung Gear VR, Verizon online offered a free Gear VR or a free Samsung S3 watch. T-Mobile has a buy one, get one promotion.
You might think that with all of these promotions Samsung is trying to promote an inferior model, but, in fact, the opposite is true. Samsung listened to consumers and did their homework on this one and the result is pretty spectacular.
Two new versions: The S7 and the S7 Edge
There are two versions of this new phone: the S7 and the S7 Edge. At 5.85” x 2.85” x 0.30″, the Galaxy S7 Edge is the larger of the two with a 5.5” screen. At 5.61” x 2.74” x 0.31”, the regular S7 is slightly smaller and has a 5.1” display. Besides the larger screen, the S7 Edge has a larger battery at 3600 mAh, compared to the 3000 mAh battery in the S7. It also has a curved edge screen and special Edge software features. Other than that, the two phones are identical. This review will focus on the many features of the regular S7.
The S7 design is simplistic with the plain look of most any smartphone. However, if you look closely you will find the build-quality is the best of any phone that Samsung has created. The curved back and sides make it comfortable to hold and the slight rounding on the edges of the display give it a lux look and feel. This image which shows the S7 (right) next to the older S5 (left) shows the sleekness of the S7 compared to the slightly chunkiness of the S5. In this photo you can also see the new Always On Display feature of the S7.
You may also notice from the picture that the S7 is narrower and shorter than many smartphones. This makes it really easy to hold and use. The larger iPhones like the 6 Plus and the iPhone 6S Plus feel massive in comparison.
In the US, Samsung is using the Qualcomm’s most powerful chip, the Snapdragon 820 in the S7. It is blazingly fast. In fact, it is the fastest smartphone that I’ve had the pleasure of using. It comes with 4GB of RAM which makes multitasking a breeze. Programs load quickly. Games are snappy and switching between apps is quite speedy. The excellent graphics capabilities of this chip make working with images and photos an enjoyable task.
After using some of the best smartphones on the market, I was still blown away by the screen clarity and resolution of this phone. The S7 Quad HD Super AMOLED screen renders 534ppi and gives excellent color representation. The only minor downside is that the screen is a magnet for fingerprints.
The S7 has 32GB of memory. In addition, it has a microSD card slot that can handle cards up to 200 GB. Samsung had removed the card slot in the S6, but listened to customer demands and returned it to the S7. So rather than having to pay them more for additional internal storage, you can simply purchase an inexpensive SD card and never run out of space. You access the SD card slot by pressing the included tool (a small pin-hole poker) into a hole at the top of the phone. The SIM card is below the SD card.
Samsung offers even more ways to expand the on-board storage by including a USB On-The-Go adapter right in the box. This adapter lets you connect the S7 to another microUSB Android smartphone to transfer media, but it also allows you to connect a hard drive to the S7.
Battery Life and Charging
The battery is long-lasting giving a full day of average-to-heavy use. The S7 supports Qi wireless charging and comes with a fast charging cable. In my testing, the S7 consistently added about 50% charge in one hour.
While previous Galaxy phones sported cameras up to 16-megapixels, the rear camera on this new Galaxy is only 12-megapixels. If you truly understand megapixels, you will know that this is not a drawback. In fact, in this phone it is a plus. Samsung has given the new 12-megapixel camera low light superpowers by expanding the size of the CMOS, as well as the individual pixels. This results in better overall pictures and it allows the camera to perform better in low light situations. Samsung has also added a very good optical image stabilization and phase detection autofocus, both of which perform admirably.
The 5-megapixel front-facing camera now has several “beautification” filters. Both the front and rear cameras also have a wider aperture. Last year’s models were at f/1.9, the S7 has an aperture of f/1.7. Videos can be recorded in 4K Ultra HD. They are crisp and clear with the help of the optical image stabilization. As you can see in this flower picture, the aperture does make a difference.
Overall, this is the best camera I’ve seen in a smart phone. The fact that it takes good low-light photos makes it must more useful than most camera phones. Below is a picture of my window-less dining room taken at dusk with no flash.
Connectivity, Samsung Pay and Fingerprint Sensor
The S7 has LTE, Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.2. It also supports the new Samsung Payment system. The new fingerprint sensor takes a second or two longer than the iPhone, but the recognition is much improved over previous models.
The S7 has a certified IP68 water-resistant rating. It repels spills and splashes and can even survive unexpected dunks. This will come in handy for many since dropping the phone in the toilet is one of the most common smartphone accidents. To get this water resistance, Samsung had to ditch the removable battery, which is a loss that I, personally, lament. They did, however, make the phone water resistant without the annoying charging port flap that was on the Galaxy S5.
OS and TouchWiz Overlay
The Galaxy S7 comes with a new edition of TouchWiz on top of Android 6 Marshmallow. The TouchWiz has been pared down, so bloatware has been lessened, except, of course, for the extras that will be added by your carrier. Marshmallow is one of the best Android operating systems with many shining features. The notification screen can now be expanded and easily customized.
Little Things that Matter
This phone has many amazing features. Here are just a few of them.
- Always on Display — This is an extremely useful feature that lets you customize your lock screen and keep it always available, if you choose.
- Icon Backgrounds — You can change the color of folder icons and can also add a background to icons to make them easier to see.
- Review Pictures — You can set the camera to immediately see and share the photo after you take it.
- Motion Photo — When turned on this records a few seconds of video just before your shot.
- Game Launcher — This is a set of tools you can turn on to trigger some useful quick actions like recording the screen or minimizing your game.
- Move icons — There is a new “tray” to help you easily move app icons from one screen to another.
- Home Button — You can set the home button to answer calls and to bring up the camera with a double-tap.
- Customization — There are many customization options, the best may be the myriad of available themes. Each theme changes the colors and screens. You are allowed to preview them all before downloading.
- Night Clock — A specialized night clock lets you get only the calls you might want during a customized time span.
- Equalizer — You can now manipulate more sound settings.
- Quick Dial — Press and hold the home key and say the contact name.
- Shooting Methods — Set up your camera to shoot on voice command.
With a solid design, excellent display, good battery life, expandable storage, stellar performance, IP68 protection, and an impressive camera, the Samsung Galaxy S7 gets my first Golden Award of 2016!