What we love:
- Samsung’s screens are best in the business
- Premium quality construction that is comfortable to hold
- Camera makes it easy to take superb photos
- Fingerprint scanner works really well
What could be improved:
- Metal and glass design is slippery and smudges with fingerprints like crazy
- Heavy users should consider the Edge model for longer battery life
It’s pretty difficult to impress a keen-eyed tech lover in 2016. We demand the best of everything; the sharpest screens, heavy-duty processing, the fastest, sharpest camera: all in a handset no thicker than a small stack of credit cards. And yet, despite this laundry list of demands, Samsung has delivered yet again. In fact, the Galaxy S7 is definitely the best Samsung best phone yet.
The S7 strikes a surprising first impression. Like last year’s Galaxy S6, the new S7 is coated in glass on the front and back (3D glass no less), but unlike last year’s phones, the new handsets are curved across the back, giving the handset a more comfortable fit in the hand. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help keep it in the hand that much, and the glass covering is pretty slippery.
It is also a phone that you will find yourself constantly wiping down (especially if you have a touch of OCD when it comes to how your phones look, like I do). We’ve long complained about how fingerprints smudge glass touchscreen, but now we have the same problem on the back of the phone, too. Given this, and the slipperiness, the S7 is a phone you will want to slip a cover on soon after you take it out of the box.
In 2016, Samsung reverses the trend towards ever-larger phones and the standard S7 model is now slightly smaller than before, with a 5.1-inch touchscreen and slim bezels around it. And, for what’s it worth, we love these trimmed down dimensions. It is so much more comfortable to use and the smaller screen offers a higher pixel density, so things on screen appear a little sharper.
Under the hood, the Galaxy S7 feels like a Ferrari in the palm of your hand. We used Samsung Smart Switch software to transfer apps and content from an old phone to the S7, which means that it was jam-packed with resource hogging apps before we had even turned it on for the first time. And still, the S7 operates at full pace. The new Samsung octo-core processor and 4GB RAM seem more than enough for what we have thrown at it so far.
The real highlight in the Galaxy S7 is the camera. This really is a big year for photography buffs who’d prefer to leave their kit at home. There are a number of technical enhancements we could discuss, including larger pixels on the image sensor and an impressive F1.7 lens, but what you really need to know is that the photos we’ve taken are superb. Really, truly wonderful.
The larger pixels are an essential element in these outstanding results. Simply put, image sensors work by interpreting light as information, and the larger the pixels, the more accurately the sensor can work. One of the most obvious benefits from this new approach is how much better the S7 is at shooting in low-light. If you love snapping pics of friends on nights out, the S7 is the phone for you.
With all of this camera tech on offer, you’ll be happy to know that it is as easy as ever to take a great photo. There are stacks of settings and tweaks you can dive into, but the old point-and-shoot method yields great results more often than not. The auto-focus is super fast and optical image stabilisation means your shaky hands will have less impact on whether the focus is sharp or soft.
Beyond the basics
The Galaxy S7 absolutely nails the core elements of a smartphone with its great design, performance and camera, but being a Samsung phone you can also be sure there is a bevy of neat features beyond what you get with a more basic model.
Water resistance is one the these new headline features, with the S7 capable of surviving a substantial dunking in water. Better still, Samsung achieves this without needing any caps or flaps over the open ports on the phone. It is sealed from within, so you don’t have to worry.
The fingerprint scanner on the Home button returns in 2016, and thankfully this year it is a useable way to secure your phone. The same scanner on the S6 was a bit flakey to use all the time, but on the S7 it is fast and accurate enough to use everyday. You can set up to 4 fingerprints, which is enough for a few fingers and one for you significant other, if you like.
The S7 ships with Android Marshmallow preinstalled, and though it is mostly hidden under Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, there are still a few neat tricks to check out. Our favourite is the new ‘Google On Tap’ feature. You access it by holding the Home button on any screen and the software will read the screen and launch a Google search for what it finds. Incredibly, it works on any screen. So if a friend texts you the name of a restaurant you can use Google On Tap to bring up a map or make a reservation.
We’re just months into 2016 and already the Samsung Galaxy S7 is the phone to beat. There’s plenty more to come; the LG G5, the HTC One M10, and of course, whatever Apple has in store for the iPhone 7. And yet, it’s hard to imagine that any of these other models will do much to surpass what Samsung has on offer here.
For as much as the changes in the S7 feel like evolutionary refinement, this does feel like a new phone. We used the Galaxy S6 a lot last year, and while the similarities are there, this doesn’t feel like a minor upgrade; it seems more substantial than that.
The 12-megapixel camera is the standout here, and will be a major drawcard for anyone looking for a premium phone who isn’t married to the idea of buying an iPhone. This is the year many photogs will agree that smartphone cameras are good enough to leave the massive kit bags at home.