Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge Hands-on

Ted Kritsonis

February 21, 2016 1:30pm

And then there were two.

Contrary to some rumours suggesting Samsung would be releasing a triad of new smartphones, the company has narrowed it down to a duo in the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge.

Video S7 and S7 edge hands-on by Patrick O’Rourke 

Coinciding with its now predictable launch schedule for new devices at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge will be the new flagships, borrowing heavily from their predecessors. Rethinking the design of the vaunted Galaxy S line culminated in a glass-and-metal combination that put the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge in premium territory. No longer would there be snarky put-downs about plastic and shoddy durability, which seemed to be the prevailing mantra.

With that, it is perhaps unsurprising that Samsung didn’t mess with what was a more palatable and luxurious look. It also clearly believes in the edged display. Having doubled down last year with two models (three, if you count the Galaxy Note Edge), the extra $100 it cost to swipe from those edges seemed a hefty price to pay, given the limited functionality provided.

These are, among others, reasons to conclude that Samsung took a highly incremental approach throughout with the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge — from the design language on the outside, the bits and pieces under the hood and the software layout users will look at. Nothing seems to have been left to chance. And yet, specific improvements in key areas may prove to reap significant rewards.

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Galaxy S7

Samsung smartly opted not to go all-in on edged displays by continuing the traditional mainstream design inherent in the Galaxy S7. The materials are unchanged, too. The metal frame still shimmers, maintaining the durable feel that was so welcome last year. The glass back is also, well, back again, and is an unapologetic fingerprint magnet, much like it was prior.

Colours have also become chromatic tones in every which way. Curiously, Samsung has abandoned both white and the iconic blue that have each anchored the Galaxy S line from the beginning. Instead, gold, silver and matte black are the new schemes the company is going with.

While an Exynos processor is slated for other markets, Samsung is going back to Qualcomm and its Snapdragon 820 chip for the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. Going fully in-house last year made headlines, with Samsung reportedly concerned over the Snapdragon 810’s penchant for overheating. Though only the U.S. was confirmed at the outset, it is all but assured that Canada will get the same treatment.

No benchmarks or clock speeds were provided, other than the company’s claims that the CPU is 30% faster and the GPU gets a 64% bump in performance as well. Indeed, gaming appears to be a thing for Samsung this time around. Developers will have access to the Vulkan API, while users will have a dedicated game launcher accessible from any game being played. Interestingly, framerate throttling, from 60fps to 30fps, will also be elective as a means to save some battery life. The company claims the difference will be negligible, but I suspect more serious gamers will tend to disagree. There will also be an option to record gameplay directly, including a “do not disturb” function so that incoming calls appear as overlay notifications instead of pausing and taking over from the game.

The Galaxy S7 uses the same exact Quad HD display as last year, including the 5.1-inch size, so nothing really changes there.

The company may fall back in favour with some users with the return of the microSD card slot that was so unceremoniously dumped last year. Officially, it can support up to 200GB cards, which are currently available in the market today, but the real number is much higher, going up to 1TB or 2TB.

The back of the device maintains the wireless charging support for both Qi and PMA standards, as their predecessors did last year. This includes faster wireless charging, too. Wired Fast Charging continues on as well, though the Galaxy S7’s battery cause is helped by having a larger 3,000mAh battery inside. The bottom sees a return of the microUSB charging port, rather than a move to USB-C, as some might have expected. The wait-and-see approach essentially boils down to Samsung wanting to see the new standard gain more traction before diving in.

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The protruding rear camera has been lowered significantly on both devices, as much as 0.46mm, enabling it to lay flatter. The fingerprint sensor on the home button was never mentioned, but it is basically the same.

The design UI on both devices shows virtually no sign of change, or at least the company held back from showing anything if it did nip and tuck anything. It felt very swift and responsive, which is a good sign. One addition of note is the Always-On Display that maintains a consistent widget while the screen is off to present the time or other contextual information.

With an IP-68 rating, both phones have water resistance, but not necessarily submersion — at least not for a long time. Samsung is cautious on this point, only noting they are dust and water resistance, up to five feet for 30 minutes.

And lastly, both phones are compatible with the Gear VR headset.

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Galaxy S7 edge

In taking the edge display to the next level, Samsung had to bring something new to the table that would complement, or better yet, enhance the pittance that was already there. To do this, the company has approached it from two distinct angles.

Trimming the body to make it 3mm slimmer than the Galaxy S6 edge+ may seem like a paltry number, but the difference is noticeable. Wielding it single-handed felt more natural, and the slight trim makes it a little bit easier to navigate the screen when only one hand is available. I would have to hold it over a testing period to see how much of a difference this really makes in the long run.

The edges on either side of the 5.5-inch qHD display are the same angle as before, and it’s unclear if there is any improvement in sensitivity. There were instances where I found it less responsive than I would have liked.

Edge UX gets a facelift with a bump up to 550 pixels from 260px last year. It’s fairly noticeable visually, but not necessarily a standout. Part of the reason for the additional pixels is how the menu layout protrudes further into the display.

The reason why is because there actually is a coherent menu system now. AppsEdge offers 10 shortcuts to any apps of your choice. PeopleEdge is essentially the same colour-coded contact shortlist that existed before. TasksEdge is the most interesting because it brings IF-style functionality to the edge screen. For example, with one tap, you can be taken to add a new contact instead of having to go through multiple steps to get there. Another is launching the camera and going straight to the front-facing camera for a selfie. For the moment, it seems that first-party apps will have this kind of access, but customizing tasks with third-party apps will be part of it, too.

News, sports scores and other panels also get extra real estate. Yahoo panels will be on by default, though others will be available and Samsung has indicated it will push for more from developers to make it more viable to consumers. The added space, particularly now that headlines are met with images, does make the edge display feel more inclusive, but it could all be moot if more sources aren’t added to widen the content pool.

Inside, the S7 edge has a 3,600mAh battery, a 20% increase in capacity. It’s not yet known how much of a difference that will make in real-world situations, but an improvement is all but assured if the Snapdragon 820 performs as advertised.

samsung galaxy s7 s7edge1

Camera

Since both phones have identical camera specs, they can be lumped together. Noting the demand for better low-light performance, Samsung will use a wider f/1.7 aperture lens that is helped by larger 1.4 micron pixels to bring in even more light for better shots in dim or night settings. Quantifying this, the company claims there is 25% more light coming through the lens, and that pixels are 56% larger than previously. It is, they say, the “first Dual Pixel Sensor 12MP in a smartphone camera.”

Going further on this point, the company noted that the Galaxy S5 was the first to use phase detection pixels, focusing technology derived from DSLR cameras, but every pixel ends up being a focus pixel on these two new Galaxys.

In a demo that pitted the Galaxy S7 edge against what was probably an iPhone 6s Plus, the S7 edge was able to illuminate a very dark scene and focus faster than Apple’s handset. An equally interesting comparison would have been to test it against the LG G4, which has a wide aperture and superb low-light credentials, but alas, this was the only comparison presented.

The same quick launch by double-tapping the home button continues on at the same 0.7-second speed.

samsung galaxy s7 s7edge7

Wrap Up

Samsung has played it safe with the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. Having already altered the design philosophy and perception last year, there really wasn’t any need to go through another reinvention a mere 12 months later. By whittling down its offerings to a pair instead of a trio, it also draws a distinctive line that consumers can consider.

There was no need to make an edge handset at the same screen size as the mainstream S7. In fact, Edge UX benefits from the added screen real estate anyway, and those who want to go bigger than a 5.1-inch display will have the next Galaxy Note to opt for when that eventually launches later in the year.

Pricing hasn’t been revealed yet for Canada, but we will update that information once the dollar figures have been confirmed.

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  • danakin

    Will Canadians be able to buy this, unlocked, from Samsung directly the way HTC does with the A9?
    Personally, I don’t ever want to buy a carrier-locked device again; even if it means getting an iPhone.

    • Granny is ALIVE!!!!

      I sure hope so, but doesn’t seem likely.

    • gommer strike

      Wait a minute. You outright *cannot* buy an unlocked Galaxy phone outright? Like, not even from the Samsung store? What?

      Samsung absolutely, will not sell you an unlocked Galaxy phone around here? Is this true?

    • Ryan Augerman

      That’s right. If you go to Samsung’s website they actually direct you straight to whichever carrier you’re with.

    • bel4_20

      Not true if you call the “Samsung Experience” store there’s one in toronto (sherway garden mall) and one in Edmonton. I call a couple days ago asking about the Note 5 they are sold with an unlock code directly from them.

    • HelloCDN

      That’s correct. Here, in Canada, Apple completely beats Samsung when it comes to retail experience. I can easily walk out with a new iPhone in 5 minutes, yet in 2 of the Samsung stores (Vancouver, BC) I had to give a long story of why I do not want any contracts with any of the providers, which seemed to shock them. Anyway, even after that, I had to either pay the unlock fee or do it myself – which isn’t that hard I guess, but I really do not have time to spend figuring it out.
      The only ones who could match Apple were Sony – that’s how I ended up with Xperia Z3. Very efficient and pleasant experience with pre-order and pick-up system and the phone is fully unlocked. Then again, Sony closed down all of their retail stores while Samsung prevails so as far as sales strategy goes, I guess Samsung is doing it right….

    • Longtin

      Samsung can’t sell them outright, the carriers can however if you call them or go online (not in store). I would than just go online to unlock it. It sucks that you have to spend extra money but it can be done.

    • manpreet singh

      I wish samsung did this but thats just a dream. They will never do that.

    • thereasoner

      Unlocking my GS6 was one of the first things I did so I can use other Sim cards when I travel.

    • manpreet singh

      Yeah but that doesnt change the fact that updates will be delayed cause of your carrier you got it from

    • thereasoner

      Yeah and I’m on a corporate Telus account for the first time and I’ve been told that they are the worst for Canadian carriers. Oh well, I didn’t buy Samsung for fast updates, that’s what Nexus devices are for.

    • Luke Perry Glover

      They (Telus) were the first to announce when marshmallow is coming to the s6. None of the other canadian carriers has said anything yet. That being said…it’s freaking APRIL.

    • thereasoner

      I’ve read March for the Note 5 and S6 edge but April for the regular S6 which is kind of ridiculous considering that the S6 edge and S6 are near identical. Then I’ve read elsewhere that it is indeed March for all newer devices but April for the Note 4, S5 etc so I’m not sure which is true.

    • Longtin

      I barely notice a difference with the update. Yawn, they are so overrated.

    • Luke Perry Glover

      Yup, you’re right. Telus announced that. :/
      Yeah, they are so similar, why not just push them out at the same time.

    • jay

      Just root the phone and load any software on it

    • gommer strike

      how long do you wait to root? Day 1 of usage? And does rooting not trigger KNOX and well, invalidate your warranty? What if something goes wrong and you need to take it back for repairs?

      Well then again, I guess that’s the point of rooting. Do so at your own risk.

    • Nadefrenzy

      Rooting voids warranty. You’d have to wait for an exploit or way around it as they have now for many phones. Not sure about S6.

    • Luke Perry Glover

      I don’t want to put a custom rom on it (ive done that in the past, and exynos is more…challenging lol Besides when i google my specific one with the specific OS I have I dont get many results (Canadian model)). I was planning to wait until right I got marshmallow to root it, to then un-install apps i dont want.

    • danakin

      Ding ding ding! Exactly what my concern is; plus I’d rather get it unlocked right out of the box without carrier bloatcrap.

    • HelloCDN

      I doubt it. It seems as if they’re locked into some deal with our telecom cartel which they aren’t willing to break.

    • mjolnirxz

      Have you considered Nexus 5X/6P? You can buy unlocked directly from Google.

    • danakin

      I currently have a Nexus 5. The 6P is bigger than I want and the 5X has too many compromises (audio output, RAM). I’ll wait for the 2016 Nexus if HTC or Sony make it or pick up the M10 or X Performance if they’re offered unlocked. Failing that I’ll have to suck it up and go iPhone 🙁

  • Sean-Paul

    And S7 Edge it is!!!! Phone for the next 3 years lol. Hopefully untl next upgrade cycle lol

  • AppleBerrySandwich

    C$ pricing will probably shock and awe! 🙁

    • manpreet singh

      I bet high 800 dollar price point for the edge plus…going break the bank lol

    • thepeddle

      Yup…..Bell released the pre-order pricing today. You get a “free” VR headset with both phones…..GS7 400 on two year contract??? and the GS7 Edge 499 on a 2 year??? That’s ABSOLUTELY outrageous! The GS7 Edge is 999 off contract??? WTF happened to the phones being priced lower this year?

    • thereasoner

      Canadian dollar. In the US T-Mobile actually is selling the GS7 $10 cheaper than they were the GS6 last year’s release.

  • Mo Dabbas

    The 3600 battery on the S7 edge sounds great to have.

    Honestly, I like that they didn’t completely change the formula and instead improved the previous gen. Ted is right, the new design language is still fresh so I too think it’s not a major thing if they kept the same design concept. I am only sad the north american market will get the SD820 (no exynos), although this time Qualcomm may have got it right with their own custom design.

    • willy

      From all that I’ve read is that we in Canada are getting the Exynos 8890 chip , but not the States….

    • Mo Dabbas

      Let’s hope so. I tried the S6 not long ago and man its fast (remember, it has TouchWiz to haul which isn’t an easy thing to make run smoothly).

    • Vito R.

      So when Samsung used the same design it’s fresh but when Apple does it it’s more of the same?

      Personally I like it, there was nothing wrong with the design of the S6 – my biggest complaint was the battery life.

      What I am very disappointed in is Samsung using Micro USB. This is the same company that uses the terrible USB 3 cable is the S5. If they are really doing it for Gear VR support I think it’s short sighted. Having used the reversible lightning cable for 4 years and USB Type C in my 5x, the thought of going back to Micro USB is very disappointing.

    • Mo Dabbas

      What brings apple to here? But since you brought it up we’ll roll with that. Apple 6 vs 6S brought which noticeable features? The performance upgrade is nice but I bet many won’t notice that (the iphone 6 still runs scored smoothly). Camera is a small upgrade and downgrade for low light shots. Battery life is the same. 3D touch is nice but seems to have attracted lawsuits more than customers (although I personally think it’s gonna be a nice feature once more use the technology). So tell me what major difference can motivate ppl to move from the 6 to 6S? At least with the Samsung you can say somebody wants a better battery or an SD slot. Also, the phone has the same design language as the S6 but that doesn’t mean it is exactly the same. The iphone 6 and 6S look exactly the same and that’s why apple labels the S with an “S” on the back. As a matter if fact the 6 vs 6S are the only two iphones that I wouldn’t be able to differentiate by looks alone if that “S” wasn’t on the back. But on top of that I never complained once about 6S design because we all know how apple does things. I don’t see an enticing reason to pick one up if someone already has the 6.

      I’m also surprised they didn’t go to type C. At this point it seems it’s the shift everybody did and doing. I also hated older cables after trying type C. Also I think type C is more durable. I’m starting to get issues with my Nexus 6 port (doesn’t connect well and cable wobbles in the port) but with type c it seems more robust and can take more

    • FlamesFan89

      I’m not going to touch the Apple part of your comment, as that is a fight waiting to happen for absolutely no good reason.

      On the point of USB type C, I fully agree with you, and I haven’t even had the benefit of using a USB type C yet. I understand Samsung wanting to hold off until there is more adoption of the standard, however, adoption of the standard would increase greatly had they included it. Chicken and the egg I suppose. I firmly believe the hype that type C really is the future, and I wish everyone would hurry up and start using it. There needs to be some sort of law passed requiring all new computer designs must include at least a single type C port. You can still have old ports too, but you have to have one type C.

      One can dream.

  • jay

    If the price is right maybe! Qualmcomm is a good chip. Hopefully getting some mod treatment.

    SD card and waterproof wow listen to the customers Samsung. The edge is the phone to buy but it depends on the price and what will be offered. Think that Samsung will add some hardware accessories for us Canadian to justify the higher price.

    But is that enough? When I see the LG G5 that’s a really cool device.

    • willy

      If you pre order you will have a free VR head set $ 100.00 worth

    • jay

      Oh see that’s a bonus but isn’t it everywhere?

    • KiwiBri

      in canada? doubt it

    • Ted K

      Yes, this offer does include Canada. That has been confirmed by Samsung Canada.

    • jay

      But every country getting the headset

    • KiwiBri

      That’s good to hear. Now if I can just buy it outright and unlocked…

    • thepeddle

      999 outright…… Ridiculous

    • Longtin

      Outright through your carrier, online to unlock it, it’s cheap.

    • thereasoner

      $139 Canadian, $99 American.

  • thereasoner

    I would love to get a silver S7, it’s a fantastic looking phone with all the right upgrades !

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  • Techguru86

    Think it’s safe to say that with LG, nexus and Samsung, Android has the better devices hardware wise, the cameras were blowing away the IPhone, it’s brought back sd and water resistance plus Samsung pay will work on everything unlike Apple pay

    • Vito R.

      You didn’t think that was the case last year?

    • HelloCDN

      I doubt either Apple or Samsung Pay will work in Canada… The banks here will continue pushing their proprietary systems down our throats.

    • ShaBi

      Last time I check, Android always had better hardware. Your point?

  • Arkham1

    Well, no removable battery but at least they upped it to 3600mah. Since I recently picked up a 128GB card I’m glad the brought microSD card support back. But USB2.0? Really? I do a lot of file transfers via cable between my laptop and my Note 3, so I appreciate the extra speed. Oh well. It’s otherwise a fantastic release and I’ll definitely be considering this over the next few weeks while I wait for more reviews, but I have a feeling I’m going to be waiting for the Note 6.

  • FlamesFan89

    “Interestingly, framerate throttling, from 60fps to 30fps, will also be elective as a means to save some battery life. The company claims the difference will be negligible, but I suspect more serious gamers will tend to disagree.”

    Now, I’m sure I will draw the ire of some people out there when I say this, but it makes me chuckle to think that there are people who are gaming on a phone, and consider it “serious gam[ing]”. You are playing games on a phone, how serious can it be? It’s like playing shinny with friends on a frozen lake, or backyard rink, and calling it professional hockey.

    • mobilesugar

      casual gaming is now an industry of billions money-wise. I do share the view with you, being a retro gamer. casual gaming has good and bad… I prefer real games myself but cell phones companies do know that casuals are now on the rise and they do have to appeal to them. I get what you say, you cant be a serious gamer on a phone or tablet. I think serious gamers here means people stuck in addictive pay2win games.

    • FlamesFan89

      But there is still a contradiction here, as the pay2win games, for the casual gamer, aren’t the types of games that would be affected by a frame rate drop. I mean, it’s candy crush, how big of a resource hog can it really be.

      I know that casual gaming is big big business. I don’t question that. I just think that “serious gaming” is a misnomer in that context.

    • Longtin

      Some people are making a living playing games like clash of clans for example. I know what you mean about “serious” gaming because it doesn’t compare to like league of legends or something. However that’s pretty cool how you can have a lifestyle business by playing a mobile game on your device.

    • FlamesFan89

      “Some people are making a living playing games like clash of clans for example.”

      That hurts my brain.

    • Longtin

      They stream on twitch , they get donations from viewers as well as ads. They usually have a YouTube channel earning them $100 a day from ads alone anyone with over 50K subs averages that. They make 6 figures for playing mobile games. That’s just the front end of their business.

    • FlamesFan89

      That didn’t help. It made it hurt more.

      Such a great contribution to society they will leave as a legacy.

    • Longtin

      Yeah I know what you mean , entertainment business is all a distraction in my opinion including sports. However at least they are doing what makes them happy and getting paid for it. Most of us don’t have the courage to do such thing.

    • FlamesFan89

      True enough.

  • Jeremy PHAN

    I suspect the unavailability of waterproof/IP-rated USB-C receptacles is more the reason the S7/Edge retains the micro-USB connector.

  • jay

    Boah do I hate locked phones. Well honestly if you go to a carrier and buy a brand new phone you can put any SIM card in and it’ll work. Because when you put the sim in it will lock. I tried it with a LG G3 and a note 2 and one was telus and worked on Rogers the other was Rogers and I put a Fido card in and worked but wasn’t able putting my Rogers back in.

  • mannequindisplay

    Not sure if this been asked but my phone contract is up in Aug 2016 which means I can go for a new phone which I have my eyes on the S7 Edge . But can anyone as I see this from year to year Samsung offers all these wonderful colors but no we Canadians only get Black .. does Samsung hate us? I went to T-Mobile and they had it in all the colors as the way Canadian dollar is it would cost a bit to much to order a unlocked phone from the USA had my eyes on silver

  • AmarCheema

    I am so disappointed with them. That they are not coming with more colors on s7 edge. Just black in canada . Anyone have any comments on it??

    • mannequindisplay

      I made a comment about this on Samsung Facebook pages and they told me if you ordered one from Samsung direct from their store I guess in Best Buy you can get another color. But I thinking if you ordered one direct from them you will pay full price for the phone and no two year deal from a service like Bell or Rogers. To me I think it’s foolish on Bell or Rogers not to pressure Samsung for other colors as to Bell and the rest of the carriers must be thinking people will want the S7 more over the Edge as they offer both silver and black in the S7 ..

    • AmarCheema

      i completely agree with you… it is really foolish of them not going for more colors on edge. we i did talk to them as well and they said if carriers gets more demand on silver colors only then they will think to bring in. but my question to them is what if a customer is in the store looking for another color and they dont have it so customers have no choice going with the black color. this is not making sense how will demand increase. at-least put it on pre-order and they can know how much demand is there for other colors. I am samsung guy but now when i look at iPhone make me change my mind. just because of colors. i dont know whats so special about “IPHONE” for carriers.

  • Too bad only available in Black in Canada. Please, any colour BUT black!!

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