Samsung threw every conceivable feature into the Galaxy S6, there couldn’t possibly be anything left to impress us with the Galaxy S7, right?
Fortunately for Samsung, that’s not the case. The Galaxy S7 isn’t particularly revolutionary, but it does improve upon what made the Galaxy S6 so great. You can expect features like a bigger battery, a faster processor, and better low-light performance from both rear- and front-facing cameras.
Samsung also appears to have finally resolved how big to make its Edge line of smartphones. The Galaxy S7 Edge is now a phablet device, and it’s especially geared towards those looking for a productivity device with a chassis design that stands out from all the other flat, black rectangles making the rounds.
More curves than you bargained for
They say if It ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Samsung reprised the Galaxy S6’s metal and glass design for the Galaxy S7, though it shaved a few millimeters off the edges and dramatically rounded the corners so that the phone is almost an oblong shape. The company also implemented the same curved back glass featured on the Note 5 and the end result is a phone that feels slightly thicker in the hand. And perhaps it is: there’s a bigger battery inside and less of a bulge around the camera, after all.
hat’s not to say it isn’t a beautiful device. I like holding the Galaxy S7, and its 5.1 inch screen size reminds me of why I like wielding smaller phones. They’re easier to use with one hand and fit into a variety of pockets and purses. However, unlike last year’s design, I don’t find the Galaxy S7’s curves and rounded edges to be particularly striking. If anything, it feels like Samsung is attempting to differentiate itself from Apple in the design department, especially since last year’s Galaxy S6 looked too much like the iPhone.
Qualcomm’s back in the fold
The Exynos was fun while it lasted, but Samsung’s back to using Qualcomm’s chipset in its devices. The Galaxy S7 runs on the Snapdragon 820, which I’m expecting will blow its predecessor out of the water in our benchmarks. The system-on-a-chip is built on a 14nm process and uses four custom Kryo CPU cores, along with a new GPU and image processor. Samsung says this year’s phones are 30 percent faster in CPU performance compared to the Galaxy S6, and 64 percent faster in GPU performance.
We can also expect better battery life. The Galaxy S7 sports a larger 3000 mAh battery pack, up from a 2550 mAh, while the Galaxy S7 Edge takes the biggest leap to 3600 mAh, up from 2600 mAh. Annoyingly, Samsung did not spring for a USB Type-C port on the Galaxy S7, though it does offer both Quick Charge 3.0 and fast wireless charging.
Bigger pixels and better low-light performance
I was thoroughly impressed with the Galaxy S6’s camera performance and didn’t think Samsung could outdo itself, but lo and behold: The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge both feature 12-megapixel camera sensors with Duo Pixel technology, which is similar to the dual-photodiode sensors that some DSLRs use. It’s said to great improve the speed and quality of phase-detect autofocus, so you can quickly shoot a photo in any kind of setting. Also, both the front-facing and rear-facing cameras feature a wide, f/1.7 aperture, which helps immensely in low-light environments. That’s the widest aperture we’ve seen on a smartphone.
Samsung even provided a demo comparing the low-light capability of the Galaxy S7 compared to the iPhone 6S. I took advantage of this setup and swapped out the iPhone for the Nexus 6P, which also boasts a 12-megapixel sensor with relatively capable camera in low light.. I took a test shot with the Nexus 6P for comparison purposes and, based on the results shown above, the Nexus 6P’s f/2.0 aperture simply isn’t enough.
The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge’s rear-facing camera is still deliriously fast. Both phones offer the ability to quickly launch the camera by double-pressing the Home button, and there’s even a few new camera modes to choose from. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to dive into the manual features on the Galaxy S7, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it shoots photos in the real world.
Software for the niche
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay, but at least the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge run on Android Marshmallow. You’ll have access to the granular application permissions featured on stock Android, as well as Doze mode, improved copy and paste, and Now on Tap.
At the very least, TouchWiz’s notifications shade has been renovated. It’s now a transparent white with blue accents, rather than a stark blue with yellow accents. Samsung’s applications haven’t changed since their revamp for Lollipop, however, and each phone still comes bundled with Microsoft’s mobile Office applications.
Android’s glance notifications are certainly helpful, but the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge’s always-on notifications are even better. You can customize what shows up when the screen is off, and you can even select a design to the background for a bit of added flair.
When can I buy it?
The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are both expected to go on sale March 11. When they do, we’ll have a full-blown review of each device, complete with benchmarks, beauty shots, and a lab test with the Galaxy S7’s newly refined 12-megapixel rear-facing camera, as well as more details on the software features of both devices.