We’ve only had the S7 in our hands for a short couple of hours, but already have some solid ideas. That said, we’ll hold off on a full review because let’s be honest, you can’t give a real review after spending an hour with the phone. Such an experience takes many days, if not a week or two for your eager nerd hands to relax and the constant poking and prodding to subside to more “normal” levels.
With that said…
The hardware of the S7 while similar to the S6, is different enough to be noticeable. The biggest change is of course the thickness. The bigger battery is a hugely welcome addition. Fitting it inside means the phone had to be made a tad thicker. This helped in several areas, though. For one, it’s more comfortable to hold now as it is a slightly scalloped back similar to the Note 5’s back and sides. Also, the camera hump that was so prominent on the S6 is now almost non-existent. The general in-hand feel is much more pleasant than the S6. The S6 was, to us, just too thin. It was slightly easier to hold than say an iPhone 6/6s because the glass is a bit grippier than the aluminum on the latter. Still, we were hoping Samsung would address ergonomics. And thankfully, they did. The slightly thicker body and more rounded sides make it a nicer phone to hold and use for extended periods of time.
From left to right: Note 5, iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7, and iPhone 6s
One other slightly noticeable and hugely welcome change – the actual “black” color option. For the last few years Samsung has gotten on this blue kick…like…navy blue. Such things are of course subjective but we think overall it has looked pretty terrible every year. This year, black is back!
Other than those few things, everything else is much the same as last year strictly speaking from the external looks of it. Internally, however, we’ve got a much bigger change. Instead of (only) Samsung’s in-house Exynos CPU this year we see a return to a dual-chip setup. Some markets, like the U.S., are getting the Snapdragon 820 powered unit with 4 GB of ram 32 GB and 32 GB of storage while other markets are getting an updated Exynos chip, the 8890, with the same RAM and storage options generally. We say generally because there are some elusive greater-than-32-GB S7’s out there. Why Samsung limited them so severely this year is beyond us. (And we’re honestly bummed.) Nonetheless, it’s at the top of the paper spec list in terms of raw power.
One other important (re)addition – water and dust resistance. Last year’s “pretti-fying” of the Galaxy S brand meant loosing a lot of functionality, with the two big ones being SD cards and dust/water resistance. This year both features have made a triumphant return. Peace of mind and expandable storage – it’s a beautiful thing.
Finally, one of the big things i noticed right off the bat is the fingerprint reader. It’s more accurate than before and noticeably quicker. The rate of failed readings is still higher than that of the iPhone 6s (maybe iPhone 6 level). But when it does read (which is most of the time) it’s much quicker than the S6 and decently quicker than the Note 5.
Camera & Software
Again, we’ve only had the S7 a couple hours so in-depth and varied environmental shooting hasn’t happened yet. That said, the handful of pictures we’ve snapped so far are looking nice. The focusing is noticeably quicker than the S6 and a couple of crude low light shots did turn out better than last years S6 thanks to that better f/1.7 aperture (vs. S6’s f/1.9).
The latest S7/Edge devices ship with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with a slightly tweaked TouchWiz on top of it. For all intents and purposes Marshmallow is mostly the same save for a few notable changes like Doze (a battery saving technique for putting the phone into a deeper sleep more often) as well as more prominent things like Now on Tap which is better at picking out contextual data on whatever is on the screen, whether it be a web page or an app. Being a Samsung device, TouchWiz is still present. It’s considerably whiter (especially in the notification shade) this time around whereas in Lollipop it was a shade of teal. Elsewhere it’s mostly the same hues. That said, if you’re like us you may find a 3rd party theme more to your liking. We generally install one of the stock material looking themes from the Samsung theme store which does a pretty good job of covering up most of TouchWiz’s embellishments.
One thing that everyone hates to accept: bloatware. While there is still bloatware here, it’t not quite as bad as in years past. Below are screenshots of the stock 3 homescreens right out of the box. At least time around it’s more Google stuff than just Samsung and T-Mobile. (Though other carriers are often a bit more gratuitous with their in-house bloat.)
Come back later…
Seriously, the first week of a new device is spent syncing and playing with the thing. You’re not going to get a good representation of battery life now.
Going from an S6 to a G4 to a Note 5 and now back to the S7 we have to say it’s a good progression. We tend to be fans of “smaller” phones that are easier to one hand type on. The Note 5 was anything but. Despite that, it’s a great phone in and of itself with a great display. But for us, the S7 is a perfect evolution of the S6 and a more polished piece than last year’s G4 (G5… we’ll see soon enough).