It’s been just shy of two weeks since we received our Galaxy S7 from T-Mobile U.S. Over the last couple weeks, a couple of the “wait and see” features we talked about in our initial impressions article can now be turned into fully formed thoughts — things that you just can’t get a good grasp of only a few hours or days into a device.
The first and probably most important thing to talk about these days is battery life. Throughout the last 3-4 years, every Android device we’ve used has typically lasted between 2.5-4 hours of screen on time. No matter the phone, no matter the battery size. It’s about as good as it gets at 4 hours SoT. (Overall length through the day is 15-18 hours.) The Galaxy S6 was a great departure for Samsung in the build quality department but wrecked it’s image with the removal of water/dust resistance, removal of the microSD card, and a smaller battery which in turn produced some truly awful battery life. The S7 has rectified all of those issues, though.
Over the last two weeks we have come away greatly impressed and happy with the S7’s battery life. The 3,000 mAh cell inside the S7 has consistantly provided 20-28 hours of battery life if we averaged 3-4 hours of screen on time. For harder sessions of screen usage we’ve gotten north of 5 routinely, even coming lose to 6 hours one day. It’s truly a new device in terms of battery life alone.
The camera is another area that can always gain, shall we say, “new puppy” reactions. Initially we were really excited about it, impressed even. Low light shots were noticeably better than the old S6 we had, and even the iPhone 6s and Note 5 in-house. After a couple weeks the dust has settled and different shooting environments passed in front of us.
We still consider the S7’s camera one of the better cameras on the market but there are definitely times when Apple’s optics win out. In low light shots it’s the S7 almost always. As your environment starts to get brighter, however, Apple’s optics tend be truer to real life with white balance and exposure (especially exposure, which the S7 can get aggressive and blow out light areas). The focusing speed and distance (close ups) is better in our opinion than Apple’s latest, still.
General Use & Touch Wiz
Ironically, the screenshot you see is what I do with every Android device – replace the stock launcher with Nova Prime – still my go to favorite. That said, Touch Wiz has over the years turned from ugly bastard of a UI to a more approachable and in many areas, good looking UI. That’s not to say performance has increased drastically. While it has gotten better functionally speaking, it’s still a noticeable lag inducer for the most mundane of tasks. There were times when scrolling through a list (email, Twitter, Google Hangouts…. doesn’t matter really) the app in question would just lock up. Hit the app switcher button and then force quitting the app and relaunching is the only way to get normal operation back. It’s annoying. It’s stupid. It’s 2016 and Samsung still legitimately sucks as a software designer/developer. Sadly, no one at Samsung has been told this or is just in a deep state of denial. In the end, we’d love to see Samsung take the same approach Motorola did and build features and apps on top of stock Android with the stock Android UI.
It may sound pretty damming but understand it’s simply years of pent up, admittedly nerd, angst. Day in and day out, the S7 has proven to be a great phone with a reliable camera, great battery life, and outside of the random lock ups here and there, the smoothest scrolling and UI navigation of any skinned Android device we’ve used yet (compared to iOS scrolling and UI performance).
A 2016 top pick
If you’re looking to upgrade your phone this year, the S7 should definitely be on your list for consideration. That said, there are several other devices to keep track of, most notably the upcoming LG G5. It takes a very different approach than Samsung but overall presents a potentially great alternative. There are also the Huawei and Xiaomi brands out of China which are putting out some truly awesome hardware at mid to low-range prices. Later this year you’ve got HTC’s upcoming M10 (or whatever they call it) as well as the next Nexus (for the stock Android faithful) and another Galaxy Note (for the phablet lovers). But right now, if you didn’t wait for the G5 or any of the other phones we mentioned, we wouldn’t blame you. The S7 is nearly perfect refinement of the S6. And if the S6 was something you liked but always had a few “what ifs”, the S7 will be right up your alley.