If you’re looking for a new phone, you may have heard that Samsung announced their newest Android smartphones, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.
They’re the best devices in Samsung’s lineup right now, and they go on sale March 11.
I got to play with both the S7 and S7 Edge — and now I have some thoughts.
The Galaxy S6 is a fantastic phone, and the S7 is only a slight improvement on it. The Galaxy S5 had many much-loved features (namely water resistance and an SD card slot) that the S7 is bringing back.
If you already own an S5 or S6, stay tuned for in-depth reviews from publications (like us!) before the March 11 launch date. Then you’ll know for sure whether the incremental upgrades are worth it or just marketing gimmicks.
The phones cost ~$670 or ~$790 for the S7 and S7 Edge respectively. Know what you’re getting into before you make the investment!
Until then, here are my ~feels~ based on my time with the new Galaxies.
1. The autofocus is IMPRESSIVELY fast.
Samsung wouldn’t shut up about this feature — and rightly so. I snapped some pics of this very healthy (and dimly lit) fruit plate, challenging the autofocus to keep up with my fast fingers. It was very quick.
The camera has a new sensor that uses 100% of its pixels to focus (other smartphones only use a portion) and a wider aperture for better low-light photos.
2. The “always-on display” is pretty cool.
I love this feature in the Moto X and am so, so happy to see it in the Galaxy.
To prevent people from destroying their battery life, Samsung’s introduced a new feature that shows the time, calendar, and other notifications without having to wake up the screen.
It only lights up relevant pixels, while the rest are deactivated. When it’s tucked away in pockets or another dark space, the display turns off completely.
3. Even my tiny hands can hold the biggish S7 Edge comfortably.
The S7 Edge panel is cool but what really justifies the extra $$$ over the S7 is the larger display, and the most surprising thing about handling the device was that it was actually comfortable to hold.
It has the same screen size as the iPhone 6S Plus, but because of the rounded, curved sides, it’s easy to manage with hands – even abnormally small ones like mine.
4. Speaking of the display, it’s the same resolution as the previous model.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful – but Samsung hasn’t updated this aspect of the phone.
If you care about numbers, here goes: the S7 has a 2560 × 1440 display with 577 pixels per inch (ppi), just like the Galaxy S6. The S7 Edge has the same resolution, but its pixel density is a bit less because of the larger screen size (534 ppi).
5. Hooray! It’s toilet-proof again!
To the disappointment of pool-lounging enthusiasts everywhere, Samsung removed waterproofness in the S6.
Thankfully, this butterfinger-proof feature is returning in the new devices. Both the S7 and S7 Edge are water resistant for 30 minutes in up to 1.5 meters.
6. The devices are waterproofed from the inside, which means no port plugs.
They’re sealed from the inside (whatever that means). This is cool because you don’t to worry about any annoying, easily lost cover flaps (like the S5).
This is not cool, however, for people who liked being able to remove and swap batteries. One sacrifice that had to be made for the sake of water resistance is that the battery is now sealed into the hardware and not removable.
The touchscreen won’t work while submerged, so it’s not really an underwater device (but you can use the volume buttons to capture a photo).
7. The edge panel is kind of meh.
Yeahhhhhh, I’m not totally sold on the S7 Edge’s “edge panel.” It allows you to swipe from the side to view content like frequent contacts or the day’s headlines with one hand.
Sure, the wraparound screen design is striking, but there aren’t any exciting applications optimized for the panel (yet). One thing I could see being useful is a new feature called “Tasks Edge” that offers shortcuts (open camera in selfie mode or create new contact, for example). But I’m not so sure that it justifies the extra $100.
8. The microSD slot has also returned!!
The upside: You can now add up to 200 additional gigabytes of storage to your micro SD card (they cost about $12 to $20, depending on size on Amazon).
The downside: The Galaxy S7s will only come in a 32GB version, at least in the U.S.
Another downside: Android 6.0 Marshmallow introduced a feature that lets you format a microSD card as internal storage, so you don’t have to tell the phone which apps or photos you want to put on the card vs. just keep locally on your phone (it will just do it automatically).
The Galaxy S7 runs Android 6.0 — HOWEVER, Samsung is not going to support this feature because they’re worried customers will get confused and accidentally pull out the microSD card.
9. The design *does* feel nicer in very subtle ways.
At first glance, it’s easy to look at the S7 and say, “Wait, is that an S6?” The design upgrades only reveal themselves upon closer inspection. The camera looks more like it’s a part of the device and less like it’s a pimple just waiting to be popped.
These changes are extremely subtle and may only be of interest if you are a freak like me. Is it worth the upgrade for an unprotruding camera alone? Probablyyyyyyy not.
~ Final Thoughts ~
The new Galaxy phones are now available to pre-order from Samsung and major carriers, but you should absolutely wait. Until we unbox the phones ourselves, we won’t know if the small updates are major game-changers or just incremental improvements designed to take all of your money.
What I can say is that the new phones are undoubtedly faster (more RAM) and more waterproof than previous generations, which are two things worth considering before an upgrade.
If you’re happy with your S6, stick with it. If your S5 is in desperate need of an update or you’re thinking of switching from another Android phone (or an iPhone), wait for the in-depth reviews to make up your mind.