Three weeks ago I called out many reviewers of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge with the intention of making sure you readers didn’t buy into the hype of marketing and drop $800 without considering the long term.
I still believe that many reviewers are irresponsible and shortsighted with their reviews, particularly with the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. The Galaxy lineup is the best selling smartphone in the world. That means those reviews have more impact on how we spend our money and ultimately that sets the direction for other manufacturers to follow. Manufacturers go where the money is. So if “experts” are saying the S7 edge and S7 are just about “perfect” with one week of usage, they’re possibly missing out on a larger part of the review.
After using the $800 Galaxy S7 edge for almost a month now, I am ready to give my no holds barred in depth review.
- Superior design to anything available now
- Screen to body ratio is perfection for large phones
- Camera is top notch
- Display is second to none
- Expandable memory
- IP68 rating
- Battery life
Design, build, and display are without a doubt the best you can get on any mobile device right now. The sleek lines and high grade aluminum frame sandwiched in between two layers of curved Corning Gorilla glass is stunning. Beyond the good looks is an unmatched feel and comfort that other 5.5″ display phones only dare to dream about.
I have been a proponent of large 5.5″ display phones since the days of the Note, because the added size adds more functionality and makes viewing much easier. It’s quite similar in going from an 11″ laptop display to a 23″ desktop display – it’s easier to do more and you can make text larger which is great for aging eyes like mine.
The big downside to large display phones is the physical size becomes unwieldy at a certain point. The LG V10 comes to mind as a phone that has great specs, but is just too big and too heavy to want to use as a daily driver. The V10 is so massive it feels like I am carrying a shield in my pocket to protect against gunfire. Where the S7 edge excels is having almost no side bezels, due to the curved display, making it one easy smartphone to hold. The Nexus 6P and iPhone 6S Plus, which I have also used, while having great designs, don’t come anywhere near the S7 edge in terms of actual comfort in hand.
Samsung has been leading the way when it comes to displays for a couple of years with its famous Super AMOLED 2k panel. Some may argue that it is slightly over saturated, but the clarity, pixel density, brightness, and contrast ratio make this display one to drool over. Other flagships may use Samsung OLED displays too, but none match up to the greatness of the Galaxy displays. I don’t have a scientific explanation as to why Samsung makes their displays better – it could simply be calibration, or it could be something else. I don’t know the answer but I do know the display on the S7 edge is only matched by its older siblings, the Note5 and s6 edge+.
- Check out Josh Noriega’s S7 edge shootout with the Nexus 6P here
Yes the camera is fantastic. Three-four weeks into its release and I am almost certain you have seen camera comparisons on AndroidGuys amongst many other websites like Android Central and Android Authority. No matter which way you look at it, no smartphone camera is perfect. Sure the S7 edge is close to the best, but there are very few reviewers who are willing to call it the best. There’s no reason to do another sample shooting when you’ve seen many already.
Andrew Martonik from Android Central stated this comment in his review of the S7 edge camera, ” The Galaxy S7 edge still takes really wonderful pictures and can stick with the best of ’em in low light situations in particular, but to see a camera offering that isn’t a complete upgrade from last year is a tough pill to swallow.”
However, most of us do agree that it is a great camera and should make you extremely happy nonetheless.
Most of us also agree that starting up the camera and snapping pics are extremely fast with the S7 edge and those are great features to have. But calling the camera the best of the best is a stretch that almost no one is saying about this camera, and I fully agree. In some scenarios I would take the Nexus 6P or iPhone 6S Plus camera over the S7 edge, but overall it’s hard to be dissatisfied with any of these cameras. My personal favorite smartphone camera to date is the Note5 from last year.
One pain point to take note of is if you are using expandable memory with the camera, and save your photos to your microSD card, you will have to use the Gallery app in order to delete your files. This is a pain point for those of us who use Google Photos as our main photo and video manager, as you will have to use Samsung’s duplicate software just to delete a file. It’s one of the funky quirks in owning a Galaxy device.
IP68 water resistance and dustproof rating
Samsung proved with the S7 edge that all phones should have water resistance and dust proofing built into every smartphone. A few years ago, having an IP67 or IP68 rating may have meant added bulk and ugliness, but with the Galaxy S7 edge you can have the best of both worlds.
Not worrying about spilling water on your $800 device is comfort that we all deserve, and quite frankly, pay for. Stuff happens sometimes. You might drop your phone into a toilet, swimming pool, kitchen sink, and you might surround it with dust on your adventures outside of the home or offive. With the Galaxy S7 edge you’re protected from the elements and that is something all flagships need these days.
It’s especially nice to have when the S7 edge is a fingerprint magnet and you can rinse your phone off under the kitchen sink. Doing so makes your phone look new again and washes off any dirty microbes you may have accumulated throughout the day.
Technically speaking, IP68 means you can leave your S7 edge in 1.5M of water for up to 30 minutes, and it also means it is completely dustproof. You won’t get little specks of dust under your display like some other phones are notorious for getting.
In no way does this mean you should take this phone with you into the pool – it’s not designed for that purpose. The touch display gets confused when you try to use the phone when it is wet. The IP68 rating serves as another layer of protection against daily accidents and should be used with that in mind. Very few flagship smartphones have this added protection, but going forward they need to include it. Samsung proved you can mix beauty with function in terms of design with the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.
Expandable memory shouldn’t be listed as a benefit in 2016 considering it has been around for many years now. It’s now listed as a benefit because Samsung opted to leave it out of its flagships in 2015. 32GB of memory is great, but with ~20GB of usable space, many of us need more, especially if we are recording 4k video. Bringing back expandable memory is a win in my book and let’s hope Samsung never does away with it again unless they start giving us 128GB as a new standard.
Samsung opted for a much larger battery this year in the S7 edge increasing it from 3000mAh to 3600mAh. That’s physically more battery than the Nexus 6P, LG V10, iPhone 6S Plus, and even the Galaxy Note5.
While some users have anecdotally claimed 10-11 hours of Screen on Time, I haven’t seen anywhere near that level of performance. Although I do see four to six hours of SoT and that is perfectly fine for me to get through one whole day of standard usage. While I would like more, I have yet to see any other manufacturer give us two days of SoT and asking Samsung to do more is a bit much. With that being said, battery life of one day is standard across the board, and is something I get with the iPhone 6S Plus and Nexus 6P. The LG V10 on the other hand is one of the worst performing phones when it comes to battery life, and since that was my last flagship daily driver, I am happy to get back to a device with a full day of power.
Just don’t expect magic with a larger battery in the S7 edge, and know you will get through a full day of usage.
The Good summary
The S7 edge excels in many areas, and when it does, it is near the top or at the top of the pack in those categories. That’s a good thing, and is appreciated because it makes the competition do better. Just because it does some things really well though, doesn’t mean it does everything well.
- Carrier bloat
- Poor software performance
- Micro USB
- 32GB only option
- Extremely slow software updates
Software performance issues
The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is no different than one of the Miss Teen USA contestants who fumbled on what seems to be a most basic question.
To some the candidate’s answer might be cute, but for the vast majority of us, all we can say is “WUUUUTTTT?” and then give a good chuckle. (This one question shouldn’t be an indication of who this candidate is as a person – no one is perfect, and being on stage in front of the world is something most of us will never get an opportunity to do, and if we did, I am sure many of us would stumble too.)
While the beauty contestant looks incredibly good, just like the S7 edge, sometimes what’s on the inside is lacking. While the S7 edge does use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 in the US variant, and does manage to sit atop benchmark tests, real world performance doesn’t live up to what is on paper.
I am frequently running into errors, bugs, and glitches that are nowhere to be found on other Android devices. The S7 edge does run Google’s latest iteration of Android in Marshmallow, but it also runs another layer of customization called TouchWiz.
TouchWiz is specific to Samsung phones and is Samsung’s idea of what Android should be. While some things are good from TouchWiz, the bad things outweigh any benefits TouchWiz offers. For example, Samsung’s new Game control center suddenly showed two versions of itself on my S7 edge. Why? I don’t know and when I turned it off, I was still left with one of the Game control centers open on my phone. Ironically I captured the moment in the image below.
That’s just one example of a TouchWiz error you won’t find on other Android devices. And the edge display functions are pretty useless and are duplicates of what exist. I turned my edge features off and simply used the edge display for what it is primarily designed for – it’s good looks. Other bugs I encountered were the slow or no response when trying to auto rotate my device into landscape mode, Google Photos and Maps erroring and closing in the background, and slow button responses. There were even times when I thought the touch display wasn’t working, because the lag was so extreme, and it still happens on a regular basis.
Some may argue that a few of the software errors are pervasive throughout Android, but in my experiences with the LG V10, Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, I simply do not find that to be true. The errors and software bugs I experience on the S7 edge are limited to it only.
Many reviewers are claiming that TouchWiz is more dialed back than ever, but I don’t find that to be the case. Sure it looks better, but it’s still bad.
Just because TouchWiz was extremely bad three years ago, was just kind of bad last year, doesn’t mean a cleaned up version of it is acceptable this year. It is still buggy and is a reason people might hate this phone a year from now after being stuck with these bugs.
If you have read any of my criticisms of Samsung from 2015 and on you would know I can’t stand that carrier bloat they allow on its devices. I know Verizon and AT&T are particularly bad, but Samsung has the ability to tell them no bloat. Samsung just chooses not to as part of whatever agreement they have, and at the end of the day, customers like you and I suffer because of it.
While we do have the option to turn bloat off, we don’t have the outright option to delete it. It’s almost as if AT&T and Verizon would prefer to have its presence known in a negative light rather than none at all. The saying “bad press is still good press” lives on in the bloat that they install, and outside of rooting our devices, we don’t have a choice otherwise. Samsung doesn’t sell the S7 edge unlocked and free of carriers in the US, and subjects us to wasted storage on our premium, $800 smartphones. Bloatware takes up roughly 2-3GB of memory on my smartphone which works out to three full length movies.
I blame Samsung for letting this happen. They’re big enough to tell carriers to not install bloat, like Apple does with the iPhone, and in this case Apple wins handily over Samsung. iPhones don’t come with crapware installed, and even if they did, Apple still gives its customers the option to buy unlocked.
32GB only option for internal memory
Even though Samsung did us a favor by returning with expandable memory, it didn’t make it adoptable storage like Android M now allows for.
Here’s what adoptable storage is according to Google:
“When external storage media is adopted, it’s formatted and encrypted to only work with a single Android device at a time. Because the media is strongly tied to the Android device that adopted it, it can safely store both apps and private data for all users.
When users insert new storage media (such as an SD card) in an adoptable location, Android asks them how they want to use the media. They can choose to adopt the media, which formats and encrypts it, or they can continue using it as-is for simple file storage. If they choose to adopt, the platform offers to migrate the primary shared storage contents (typically mounted at
/sdcard) to the newly adopted media, freeing up valuable space on internal storage.
When a user adopts a new storage device, the platform runs a benchmark and compares its performance against internal storage. If the adopted device is significantly slower than internal storage, the platform warns the user about a possibly degraded experience. This benchmark was derived from the actual I/O behavior of popular Android apps. Currently, the AOSP implementation will only warn users beyond a single threshold, but device manufacturers may adapt this further, such as rejecting adoption completely if the card is extremely slow.”
There’s virtually no reason for Samsung to no opt into making external memory internally adoptable. If the microSD card you choose to use isn’t fast enough to keep up with your daily tasks, Android M will warn you and recommend you don’t do it. Instead Samsung opted to leave external memory as its name describes, which means only certain types of files can be backed up to it. That leaves you with a limited amount of internal storage space and with no other options besides the 32GB Samsung gives you. For some users 64GB or 128GB of internal storage is what they want, but Samsung doesn’t offer those options.
Extremely slow Android updates
I recently wrote about how Samsung Galaxy devices are extremely fragmented and get major updates very slowly. Pure Android Nexus devices, as well as iOS devices destroy Samsung Galaxy phones in the area of software updates.
Samsung is so slow when it comes to updates they won’t even give a schedule of which of its premium flagships will get the next iteration of Android. Instead they pay programmers to give you bloat like S-Voice, a duplicate phone dialer, internet and text messaging app, when they should be giving you software updates.
That leaves your phone vulnerable to security issues and it also shortens the life of the phone as those bugs will slow your phone to a crawl over time.
Read more in depth about Galaxy software updates here.
The price of the S7 edge is outrageous at $800. Three years ago this price was acceptable given that the competition was weak. Sure Apple charges the same price for its phones, but just because someone else is doing it doesn’t make it right.
One phone in particular, the Nexus 6P costs $300 less with an MSRP of $500. Sure it doesn’t have a curved display, but it still has a great build, quality camera, gorgeous 2k AMOLED display, and top notch battery life. It also doesn’t have carrier bloat, and will be the first device to get Android updates, keeping your phone running smooth and up to date with security issues.
Samsung may still have the crown when it comes to the number of devices sold, but the biggest thing holding it back right now is the price it charges for its premium devices. Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi will be the new global leaders soon if Samsung doesn’t read the writing on the wall.
The good, the bad – at the end of the day the decision is yours
Looks only go so far with me. I’m not looking to wear my S7 edge as arm candy, take it to a movie, or make it my travelling companion on vacation to the Bahamas. Instead, I need my cellphone to help me in my daily routine. It needs to email, text, browse the web, get me places with GPS, take pictures and help me stay productive with work. While I love the looks of the S7 edge, more than any other phone on the planet right now, the looks only get it so far with me. Software bugs these days are not acceptable like they were five years ago. We’ve moved beyond most of them.
The S7 edge is without question a gorgeous device. But the software and price ruin the whole experience for me, and make me frustrated with Samsung because I know they have the ability to do better. Samsung is so close to getting it right, yet it is so far with the things it does wrong. For that reason I cannot recommend the S7 edge until it comes down a few hundred dollars in six months, or until Samsung gives a clear vision on how and when it will provide software updates to all of its premium devices.
At the end of the day, if looks and build are more important to you than anything else, then go ahead and get the S7 edge. You won’t find anything better. Otherwise, stay away if you need your phone to do more than just look good.