Real Phones have Curves
Last year’s Galaxy S6 was a fingerprint magnet; wait until you get your own Galaxy S7. This year’s model has all the same glass and metal trimmings as last year’s marquee device. So it is an absolute magnet for finger grease. Regardless, it is a desirable phone, albeit one you will have to wipe down with an antibacterial solution from time to time.
The Galaxy S7 looks and feels like an evolved, refined version of the Galaxy S6. Samsung shaved a few millimeters off the edges, precisely a millimeter off each of the edges. And implemented the same curved back as found on Note 5. You will also notice a subtle bubble effect made by the glass placed on top of the display. It sinks into the edges of the chassis. It shows incredible attention to detail on Samsung’s end.
The Galaxy S7 has all the same Button Sensors as its Predecessor:
- a power button on the right side
- volume rockers on the left
- a heart-rate monitor built-in to the LED flash on the back
- a slightly raised Home button with a built-in fingerprint scanner
However, Samsung’s implementation hardly compares to using the rear-facing fingerprint scanner on the Nexus 6. For the Galaxy S7, you will have to press the Home button and scan with your thumb. Which is too much. I do not like any scanner that does not immediately launch to the Home screen. It is also time for Samsung to consider dropping physical navigation buttons altogether.
Samsung heard your gripes. It brought back the expansion slot, which rests comfortably next to the Nano SIM tray. It made the Galaxy S7 both water and dust-resistant. The only caveat is that after you rescue your device from a pool of water. You will have to give it some time before plugging it into the charger. It is a safety precaution. It brings home the idea that Samsung paid great attention to detail when designing the device. This does not look like a phone that could stand a dip in the water, but it is. I am also glad that Samsung did not just go the Sony route but put flaps over every port.
A Brighter Display
Samsung improved the Galaxy S7’s 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display by making it brighter. It’s more pronounced side-by-side with the Galaxy S6. Although I first noticed the extra brightness as I was using the phone before bed. A personalized auto-brightness feature also remembers setting you like the screen for different lighting environments. This only works if you have auto brightness selected.
The Galaxy S7 also comes with the ability to enable an always-on display mode. So you do not have to fumble with the buttons on your phone to check the time or notifications. It is similar to the feature already offered on the Moto X and Nexus 6. Those phones will only light up the display when you pick it up or wave your hand over it. Enabled, the Galaxy S7 shows its always-on display all the time. There are a few customization options for the always-on display, but you are limited to what Samsung provides. You cannot import your images for the background, for instance. Nor will you see a preview of your notifications like on the Nexus 6. I like the implementation on the Nexus devices better.
A Phone made for Gamers
This past year, I had fun uttering Exynos whenever I mentioned the Galaxy S6. It is a fun word! Still, Samsung is back to using Qualcomm’s chipset in its smartphones. The 2.2Ghz Snapdragon 820 is quite a performer. It offers faster Kryo C cores and better image graphics processing. Together, it is an enticing package for anyone. Who needs a phone fit for multitasking on a long train ride or for marathon mobile gaming sessions.
The Galaxy S7 was whizzed by the Nexus 6s Snapdragon 810 and the Galaxy S6’s Exynos 7 Octa 7420. It is fast and responsive, loading heavy applications, including big games. Apps loaded, and visuals were smooth. Perhaps too smooth for gory games like Mortal Kombat X. I had a physical reaction to Takeda slicing the face off of an opponent. Precisely because it was too realistic. It is undoubtedly a testament to how far mobile gaming has come.
The Snapdragon 820 features a sealed copper cooling system. A miniature, scaled-down version of a heat-pipe system you would find in many notebooks. This is how the Galaxy S7’s metal chassis stays comfortably tepid as you play games or video. However, I will check to see if the Galaxy S7 keeps cool when the weather gets warmer.
The Game Launcher is my new favorite thing about the Galaxy S7. This comes from someone who tends to roll her eyes at this stuff. This little folder houses shortcuts to all the downloaded games, excluding any games you may have side-loaded. I tried getting a space for my Humble Bundle picks in there. From here, you can choose whether to enable Game Tools. Which will pin a small red icon in the far corner of any game. You launch from inside the Game Launcher. There is also an option to tweak the graphics performance, dialing it back to save on battery power. I am curious about the battery life saved with this mode turned on. But I will have to test this later.
The Game Tools overlay offers options for shutting off alerts during a game and locking the Recents and Back keys. So you avoid accidentally bumping one of their exit in the middle of it all, minimizing a game. So that it does not crash your system, and snapping a screenshot. There is even an option to record your gameplay. Which you can upload to YouTube or whatever video-sharing service you prefer.
The Game Tools Game Launcher features remind me of the add-on applets. My gaming pals would download to enhance their gaming experiences. It is evident that with these included software features, Samsung is making a ploy for the Twitch generation. It is a smart move.
Made for People Who Stay Out All Day
The Galaxy S6’s 2550 mAh battery pack seemed promising after our initial battery tests, but things quickly degraded. For instance, I still need an external battery pack to leave the house with the Galaxy S6 edge.
I had hoped for better results with the Galaxy S7’s more extensive 3000 mAh battery pack. Like its predecessor, the initial results seem promising. The GS7 lasted seven hours 15 minutes in our battery rundown test and six hours 56 minutes in Geekbench. About 50 minutes more than the Galaxy S6. I had about enough battery life at the end of the work day to commute home. Like I do with my Nexus 6, about 40 percent, which sports a bigger battery.
On the weekend. I got to 40 percent after about four hours of use just by using. My Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram on Wi-Fi, the social networking trifecta, if you will. The Galaxy S7 barely used juice through the night, thanks to Doze mode. It used up two percent of its battery while remaining dormant underneath my bed with the always-on display enabled.
One annoyance, the Galaxy S7 does not support Quick Charge 3.0. Samsung nixed this because its Exynos chip overseas does not yet offer support. It still supports Quick Charge 2.0 and charges up quite fast. But it is a shame that the Snapdragon 820’s charging performance might be held back for such a lame reason. Wireless charging returns from last year. With the right charging pad, you can now get fast wireless charging.
Samsung claims the Galaxy S7 can manage up to 10 hours of video playback before petering out. That is enough for you to binge-watch an entire Game of Thrones season. I will be testing this week with ten of my favorite episodes of Beverly Hills. 90210 and will update you with the results. Stay tuned.
Improving an Already Fantastic Camera
I thought that Samsung could only improve upon the 16-megapixel camera it packed into the Galaxy S6. Still, it outdid itself with the Galaxy S7. Samsung’s latest phone features one of the best cameras on any phone. However, it is only marginally better than its predecessor.
The Galaxy S7 employs a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera sensor with Dual Pixel technology. Which is fancy terminology for the technology used inside most Canon DSLRs. Samsung’s sensor has two photodiodes in every camera sensor pixel, allowing every pixel to be a phase-detection autofocus point. That means faster, more accurate focus in all conditions.
I walked around my hometown with both Galaxy devices in tow. I was impressed by how much more well-contrasted the Galaxy S7’s photos were. Samsung also fixed the light leak issue prevalent in its last few phones. Although it still needlessly bumps up the sharpness. This can be annoying if you are attempting to master some professional-level photography with your smartphone.
Our lab tests also showed that while the Galaxy S7’s 12-megapixel sensor has an aperture of f/1.7. It is only marginally better in low-light situations than the Galaxy S6’s f/1.9 aperture. Indeed, after shooting my photos of my cat in my dark bedroom. I did not notice a very significant difference in low light performance.
The Galaxy S7 can shoot videos in UltraHD 4K. I did not try this because I do not have the hardware to display it. However, I did shoot a video in Full HD 1080p at a concert. I recently attended at The Fillmore in San Francisco. I realized that tapping the screen to focus on it shut off the autofocus feature. As a result, my video of the lead singer of St. Claire wading through the crowd is blurry. And the mic seemed to focus specifically on my singing along. This is where I wish the Galaxy S7 had manual video controls the way the LG V10 does. Next time.
Samsung kept the 5-megapixel sensor for the front-facing camera. But added a few software features for those who are mainly concerned with how their selfies look. The Galaxy S6’s beautify mode has expanded to include a face-slimming feature, eye enlarger, skin tone enhancer, and faux spotlight. It’s similar to the effect you would get if you used a Lumee light case. There is also a shape correction feature for taking a selfie with multiple people. The subtle elements might seem pointless. But I know a few people in my personal life who use these filters on their photos.
Lastly, if you were hoping for a front-facing flash for your friends to take photos in darker environments. You’re out of luck. The Galaxy S7 uses a screen burst to light up your face as the front-facing camera snaps a picture. It could be better. I am permanently blinded by it. It’s too bad Samsung did not spring for the front-facing LED like the Moto X.
Carrier Bloat is Still a Thing
Say what you will about Touchwiz; I certainly have. But the truth is that people like my mother say. It has yet to have the power users find in Samsung’s version of Android more intuitive than stock.
For instance, Samsung added a blatant Notifications Settings option right below the notifications shade. Which makes this new Android Marshmallow more evident to novices. Some users have no idea that you can control the individual notification settings for each application. So it’s nice to see that Samsung made some of Android’s essential new features more easily discoverable. You can also long-press on a quick setting button. To go to the relevant settings screen rather than navigating there yourself.
Samsung also dialed down all the blue hues throughout the interface. However, it held onto the past’s messy, discombobulated application drawer. I like the vertical, horizontal scrolling application drawer better, with the search bar affixed at the top.
So, be forewarned that if you’re buying your Galaxy S7 through a carrier. You’ll get stuck with all the bloatware that comes as penance for not buying your phone unlocked. Not all of us have the luxury of paying the total price for a smartphone. You cannot delete these apps, but Samsung lets you drag the icon to turn it off, essentially disabling it. In any case, you will still have that application taking up precious storage space. When will the carrier bloat stop?
Samsung’s bloat is still around. The company has been slowly whittling down how much it crams in there. The Galaxy S7 comes preloaded with Samsung’s email client, file browser, Samsung Voice, Samsung Health, and Samsung Milk Music. The Verizon variant I reviewed also came with apps like Go90, and the Gear app, which you cannot remove.
Is a Flagship Phone Still Worth the Money?
What do you think? Does the Galaxy S7 match flannel?
Samsung still holds its spot as the top manufacturer in the Android world, but this is the year. I’ll be watching to see what high-end, expensive flagship devices are like. The Galaxy S7 can make headway with the onslaught of perfect, unlocked, less-expensive smartphones.
Here is the deal: if you have got a Galaxy S6 in your hands already, keep it. You are good for another year. Some of the software features that come with the new GS7 will eventually make their way to your phone. However, you still wield a Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5, or some other Android phone that’s let you down too often. In that case, this is the best it will get at this point. As long as you are still convinced it is worth spending gobs of money on a flagship device. If not, there is always the Moto X or Nexus 6. Two perfectly-alright smartphones free from bloatware cost far less than what your carrier will sell you, the Galaxy S7.