A day before MWC 2016, Samsung announced its flagships for the first half of 2016: the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge. The design of these handsets looks very similar to last year’s Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, yet there are many differences. Samsung has worked on improving the new devices on almost every front, and has brought back features like expandable storage and big batteries. Perfection is the word that is applicable here, as the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge come with a spec sheet that has every major feature on it.
SamMobile got the opportunity to review the Galaxy S7 edge; Samsung was unable to offer us a Galaxy S7 on time, and since the S7 is mostly an S7 edge with a smaller flat screen and smaller battery, we decided a review of the Galaxy S7 edge should be able to cover all your questions about these devices.
Before the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge went official, there were many leaks that confirmed Samsung wasn’t changing much in terms of design this year. It has opted for a two-year design cycle like its archenemy Apple. But while everything looks the same, things are quite different. For example, the edges on the devices are smoother, making them much nicer to hold in the hand than the Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 edge.
The S7 edge is a streamlined version of its predecessor. The screen size has gone up from 5.1 inches to 5.5 inches, but thanks to the curved back similar to the Note 5, the S7 edge is very comfortable to hold. Both the front and back panels use 2.5D glass. The phone gives off a 3D feeling thanks to the bends and edges, and it’s not surprising Samsung calls the forming process for this glass 3D thermoforming.
The sides have remained the same as the Galaxy S6 lineup. The button placement has remained the same across the board, though the home button is now more square. The SIM card slot is still at the top (on the S7 edge at least; the flat S6 had it on the side but even the regular S7 offers the SIM slot at the top of the device), and the SIM slot now comes with the beloved microSD slot that disappeared on last year’s devices.
MicroSD cards of up to 200 GB are supported; 32GB and 64GB are the internal storage options, though not all of them will be available in every market. A 128GB option doesn’t exist at all, just like it didn’t on the Note 5 and S6 edge+ (except in South Korea). There’s also a dual SIM variant of the S7 duo. It’s a hybrid SIM slot on these phones, meaning you can either use it as a dual SIM phone or expand the internal storage while using only a single SIM.
The back of the S7 edge remains the same as the S6 edge, but the camera hump has gotten smaller (0.46 mm vs 1.33 mm on the S6 edge, to be precise). The heart rate sensor continues to be placed next to the camera.
Overall, with the Galaxy S7 edge you will get the same wow feeling that the S6 edge had when it launched a year back, and we still think Samsung’s Edge smartphone is the most beautiful ever made. The screen size has increased, and Samsung has refined the design to a great extent. Remember the sharp edges on the Galaxy S6 edge? They are gone on the S7 edge, and everything is fluidly curved to make it extremely smooth. I can dare say the S7 edge is one of the best – if not the best – in terms of how a device feels when it’s lying in your hand. Well done Samsung, well done.
Finally, we should mention that the Galaxy S7 edge (and the regular S7) has an IP68 certificate. The device is dust and waterproof, with an ability to withstand submersion in up to 1.5 m of water for 30 minutes. Always handy when you drop your phone in the bathroom or when you have to use it when it’s raining.
Upon using the Galaxy S7 edge for the first time, regular consumers will notice something immediately: Samsung’s proprietary music and video players aren’t there on the device by default. In our opinion this is a bit weird as most consumers are used to these apps (and they are considerably more feature rich than Google’s music and video apps, which are what you get on the S7 and S7 edge out of the box). Thankfully, Samsung’s audio and video players can be downloaded from the Galaxy Apps store.
Samsung’s TouchWiz interface works the same on the S7 edge as it has done for the last year, though the company has adopted Google’s color palette. The colors are softer and easier on the eye; the entire interface is as we know it and works easy for everyone (TouchWiz is as easy as, say, Apple’s iOS). Speaking of iOS, Samsung has added an option to bring all the apps to the home screen and remove the app drawer. It’s how iOS has done things since its inception, and Samsung is readying things to make way for Android N, which rumors say will not have an app drawer. Whether this is good or bad is something users will have to decide, though we’re personally not very happy about it.
Samsung has introduced an app called Game Launcher on the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. Game Launcher lets you game without any disturbance by blocking notifications or turning off the touch buttons. Also on-board is an option to reduce the frame rate in games, allowing you to get some extra battery life when gaming. There’s a quick access menu that lets you minimize your games, take a screenshot, and record a game video.
Users of the Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ and the Note 5 will get the new TouchWiz interface as seen on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge with the Marshmallow update that is rolling out in various markets these days.
The Galaxy S7 edge has an updated Edge panel, which has more features and does considerably more than the Edge panel on the Galaxy S6 edge and S6 edge+. You get options like a compass and weather panel, in addition to a Tasks Edge panel that lets you access various shortcuts quickly (for example, you can start composing a text message by hitting its shortcut in the Tasks Edge screen). Yet we still lack basic things like the ability to scroll through your apps or people shortcuts. You are still limited to five options in any Edge panel, but what if we have more than five favorite contacts or more than five apps that we regularly use and would like to quickly access.
Here at SamMobile we miss the functionality that the Galaxy Note Edge offered, though Samsung has made progress when you look at the bigger picture. If you are currently using a Galaxy S6 edge handset, all the new functionality will arrive on your device through the Marshmallow update.
Like you can expect from Samsung, the display on the Galaxy S7 edge is excellent, with vivid colors and extremely wide viewing angles. It’s a 5.5-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 534 ppi, and you can adjust the screen modes as always (AMOLED Photo and Basic modes offer the most realistic colors). Samsung is using a new type of AMOLED panel this year, which can get really, really bright.
New on the Galaxy S7 edge (and the regular S7) is the Always On Display feature. Since it’s an AMOLED display, all the pixels are powered individually, which comes handy for such a feature and allows Samsung to turn on a few pixels to show consistent information like the time and calendar with minimal battery usage.
Unfortunately, not all functions are optimal. For example, if the Always On display showed notifications for more than just calls and messages (like WhatsApp or Facebook), the notification LED could be easily turned off and everything could shift to the display itself. Also, your agenda or appointments are not displayed on the Always On display, so the functionality could be a bit better in our opinion.
If you are concerned about display burn-in because of Always On functionality, don’t be, as the content on the screen jumps every few seconds. The Always On display can be themed through third-party themes, and in terms of battery usage, you can expect to lose an additional 1 percent every hour if you keep the feature on.
One of the most important aspects of a smartphone is its camera. Samsung has been rather busy the last year, with the S7 and S7 edge featuring a 12-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/1.7 with Smart OIS (optical image stabilization). The front camera is a 5-megapixel unit, with the same aperture as the rear camera. To sum it all up: the camera on the Galaxy S7 edge is insanely good. At first you might think it's strange Samsung has opted for a lower camera resolution, but practically nothing can be further from the truth. Samsung is using Dual Pixel technology that allows all the camera pixels to be used for autofocus, and the speed of autofocus on the Galaxy S7 edge is so fast that you won't even see the entire focusing process in action most of the time. Autofocus is faster than, say, the LG G5 or the iPhone 6s Plus, and even in terms of image quality the S7 edge is ahead of the competition.
The pictures you take come out outrageously sharp, and images captured in the dark are exceptionally good as well. The amount of color and sharpness in dim lighting situations is amazing, though a disadvantage is that the larger pixels on the camera can make it too sensitive. So you can expect to see light streaks in photos of scenes with a lot of bright lights, which is an issue that plagues most smartphone cameras with large pixels. The camera module can also get a bit dirty, so make sure you clean it up before taking images.
Samsung has implemented three new features on the camera. One is Motion Photo, which is called Zoe by HTC and Live Photos by Apple and takes a few additional images before the actual scene you're capturing. This allows you to view it as a short video, and it can also be found in Panorama mode where it comes handy if you're taking a panorama picture at a beach or other locations with a little movement. Samsung has also added Hyperlapse. This isn't exactly a new feature and was present on the Galaxy S6 lineup under the Fast Motion name. It allows you to speed up the video you've made – taking a video of busy streets is one usage example we can think of off the top of our head.
You will find some pictures we took with the Galaxy S7 edge below. What struck us was the fact that even last year's Galaxy S flagships can't capture the level of detail the S7 edge can, despite their 16-megapixel cameras. For hobbyist photographers that want to take professional photos, the Pro mode has also been slightly adjusted on the new devices. See the screenshots for comparison with the Galaxy S6 edge+.
As we mentioned above, Samsung makes use of a 5-megapixel front camera, which hasn't changed much. Samsung has added a flash feature that lights up the screen with a white image for a moment before taking a photo, allowing for better selfies in low light. It doesn't work in extremely dark situations, but it's still a nice addition. With enough natural light the front camera is pretty good, which we believe is more important. It's still not great though, as photos can come out with a lot of noise and washed out colors in less than ideal lighting conditions.
The sound from the Galaxy S7 edge’s loudspeaker is very good. The sound is clear, and there’s a bit of noticeable bass here. When you connect a headset, everything gets better. The sound has very good bass and the highs are nice and pitchy. Audio during calls is very clear, too, without any distortion. The person on the other side of the call could hear me just fine, though you should keep in mind that network conditions will affect how your calls sound.
One of the biggest desires of every smartphone user is better battery life. This year’s Galaxy S devices will make a lot of people happy as Samsung has made the phones thicker to fit in bigger batteries. The Galaxy S7 edge has a 3,600 mAh battery that’s 600 mAh more than the S6 edge+’ and a little over a thousand mAh more than the Galaxy S6 edge.
It’s good news for consumers, though ultimately you can expect a battery life of mostly one day even with the larger battery. Of course, you can be assured the phone consistently lasts you all day with regular usage. The always on screen takes its toll on battery life, and turning it off can add 10 to 15 percent additional usage time. There’s support for fast wired and wireless charging, and even with the larger battery capacities charging is very quick.
The Galaxy S7 edge uses Samsung’s Exynos 8890 chipset in most markets, and the Snapdragon 820 in the US and China, with differences between the two being mostly negligible (well, except for the fact that the Exynos has four more processing cores than the Snapdragon). In terms of performance, Samsung says the new CPUs offer 50 percent faster performance than the Galaxy S6, while the GPU is about 77 percent faster. Samsung also makes use of the new Vulkan gaming API that was introduced in Android Marshmallow, which should ensure better graphical fidelity in games. Of course, it will all depend on how much game developers take advantage of the Vulkan API, but theoretically, it should enable better use of the hardware power on offer.
The Galaxy S7 edge comes with 4GB of RAM, and the aggressive multitasking that plagued last year’s flagships has been toned down a little, so apps stay in memory longer and the device is overall quite fast. Speed is certainly not an issue, and everything is smooth and app opening times are very short.
With the Galaxy S7 edge, Samsung has a worthy successor to its most beautiful smartphone. The company heard what consumers liked about the Galaxy S6 edge and has improved on many fronts, and then some. Worth noting is the feel of the device in the hand, and we are pleased to see Samsung has brought back aspects like a microSD slot and a large battery. It is also very convenient that the S7 edge is IP68 certified for water resistance.
There will be some confusion over the lack of Samsung’s music and video apps for users, and aside from pressure from Google, we don’t see a reason why the company has made them optional on its new flagships. Samsung hasn’t been sitting idle on the software front, as everything runs a lot smoother. The Edge panels have been improved as well, though Note Edge users will still feel it is a downgrade in terms of what the Edge display can do.
But everything considered, the Galaxy S7 edge is an amazing smartphone. Its camera is the best in the industry at this point, with exceptionally good performance even in low-light conditions. We expect Samsung will sell a lot of Galaxy S7 edge’s (and even the regular Galaxy S7) in the coming months, and given the experience the device offers, those sales numbers will be well deserved.
|Edge functionality still lacking
|Samsung's music and video apps not available out of the box
|Impressive battery life
|Camera sensitive to smudges
|The microSD slot returns!
|Can take a dip in water
|Smooth, fast interface