As Samsung readies to unleash their new pair of Galaxy S7 smartphones on the world on March 11th, we got ours a little early to put it through the paces ahead of launch. After seven iterations of Samsung’s cornerstone hardware, we’re happy to report that this is, hands down, the best Galaxy smartphone we’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement.
First, the good...and there’s lots of it. While we handled both the regular S7 too, it was the S7 Edge that we’ve carried with us on a daily basis for the past week. Almost magically, the Edge crams a 5.5" screen into a form factor that feels legitimately smaller than its competition. We credit the curved edge for that feat and have been pleasantly surprised to see that curved edge go from a gimmick to the means of providing function we can’t live without. That function takes the shape of the contextual Edge menu, one that gets more dedicated space and pixels this time out, and has quickly become a highlight feature that we can’t live without.
The S7 Edge, admittedly, shares a huge amount of heritage with its predecessors, but the aspects where the S7 pushes the envelope are where we give the most credit to Samsung. We simply didn’t think there could be this much improvement and innovation in a single step forward of hardware, but they’ve packed the S7 to the gills. We’re talking about drop-in-the-toilet waterproofing, high-speed wireless charging, 24+ hours of battery life on a single charge, super-fast camera implementation and deep customizations while shooting.
It’s not just about what Samsung has added, but what they’ve taken away. One of our biggest problems with the Android environment is a ton of redundancies in the apps that come pre-installed. Samsung’s overlay on the Android 6.0 system is clean, useful and makes sense across the board. With features like game minimization and streaming at the ready, as well as our beloved Edge context menu, we’re happy to see the OS at its most svelte.
With so many good aspects, it’s hard to ding the S7, but two major gripes loom large in the background of a week’s worth of use. One of those is the non-replaceable battery. Samsung is hardly the only offender in the field and, at this point, the battery life in the S7 Edge especially, is better than almost every other smartphone we’ve tested. The real problem here, and we’ve gotten this feedback from everyone who’s held the S7 Edge, is that we’d give up the shiny, lux-looking back plate for one that’s less slippery. The Edge form factor is already one that diminishes stability in the hand by tapering both edges. We would have preferred to at least have the option of a rubberized or leather back plate instead of the glassy, fingerprint magnet currently in use. There’s always the option to put it in a case but who wants to ruin the awesome lines of the S7 by putting it in some clunky case?
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is the most powerful, good-looking, thoughtful and innovative Galaxy phone we’ve seen to date. It has very few drawbacks and actually provides the horsepower for a huge amount of Samsung’s upcoming accessories like wireless upright charging docks, the Gear VR virtual reality headset, the Gear 360 virtual reality capture camera and plenty of other third-party solutions. If you feel at home with the Android operating system and want to see 2016’s best foot forward on both the hardware and software fronts, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge do not disappoint.