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Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

March 3, 2016 - Written By John Anon

The wait is over for those who typically pay closer attention to Samsung, as the tech giant did take to the stage during MWC and did unveil their highly anticipated next-generation Galaxy S device. In fact, in accordance with expectation they unveiled two, the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge. As is always the case with a Samsung launch, expectations of what would be on offer with the Galaxy S7 were extremely high. However, it seems as though this year the level of expectation was higher than usual. Part of the reason for this was the high praise last year’s model received and the notion that this year will see Samsung building on that concept and on initial impressions, it seems they did.

To recap and get the technical bit out of the way, the Galaxy S7 comes equipped with a 5.1-inch QHD Super AMOLED display. Inside, we are looking at 4GB RAM and 32GB (64GB also available in select regions) internal storage, while the processor is market-dependent and either comes in the form of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or an Exynos 8890 Octa-core processor. Cameras come in the form of a 12-megapixel rear option which is neatly coupled with a 5-megapixel front facing option. Additional features include microSD support, a 3,000 mAh battery, IP68 resistance rating and Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) albeit overlaid with Samsung’s infamous TouchWiz UI. As we are looking at both the Galaxy S7 and the S7 Edge, it is worth briefing pointing out that while most of the specs are common to both devices, the Galaxy S7 Edge does come boating a larger 5.5-inch display and a greater 3,600 mAh capacity battery.

The Good

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First up, we have the just mentioned specs. This is a flagship device and does come boasting just about every major flagship spec possible. While that might be an expected aspect of a new smartphone, it is still good to see and is still a positive. Not to mention, we are talking about some across the board flagship specs here. Regardless of which region you are in or which variant you get, you will be getting one of the two most powerful processors, along with 4GB RAM, a decent level of storage and battery life. This will be a well-performing smartphone. However, where the specs really stand out is in the reintroduction of a couple of fan favorites. The Galaxy S6 had been highly criticized last year for omitting expandable storage and lacking durable protection. Both of which have now made a comeback on this year’s model with a microSD card slot and an IP68 rating now included. In fact, Samsung cut down on the number of variants by disregarding an 128GB model this year, a move which not only paves the way for the inclusion of microSD support, but also brings us to the next main good point – the variance.

Last year things began to get a little confusing. Samsung released the Galaxy S6, the Edge and the Edge+ (ignoring for a moment additional variants like the Active) and this just all led to a rather bloated choice for the consumer. Where Samsung has really made a smart move this year is introducing just two models. Not only two models though, but two which differ in the most important choice-making decisions, size and battery life. While RAM, storage, processor and so on, all matter, the chances are good that any flagship device you pick up in the next few months will come with 4GB RAM and a Snapdragon 820. But what might influence a buyer’s decision is the screen size or the battery capacity. Last year, consumers did not have this choice until the second half of the year when the larger S7 Edge was released in + form. Although, the S7 Edge+ launched alongside an almost identically sized Galaxy Note 5 which further complicated the issue. This year and as it stands, things look much simpler. If you are not so keen on a larger handset then the Galaxy S7 will give you the performance that matters and in a smaller form factor. If you are now acclimatized to phablet sized phones, then just as simply, the Edge is for you.

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Speaking of which, the Edge itself is also going to be one of the good features. Of course, only for one of the models but the functionality of the edges on the Galaxy devices is continually evolving and proving itself to be a very useful addition. So much so that since the introduction of Samsung’s edges, we are starting to see more companies looking at other ways to offer similar features. Furthermore, with the two devices now coming with Always On functionality, this is another big positive for the two devices. While the likes of the G5 also come sporting Always On, there is one big difference here and that is the Galaxy S7’s AMOLED display. Compared to an LCD display, the AMOLED display will be able to make use of features like Always On without putting additional strain on other components, like the battery. Likewise, the AMOLED display on the Samsung Galaxy S7 is one which will play much nicer with those who wear polarized sunglasses. Another of the benefits of an AMOLED display over an LCD display is that the former does not omit polarizing light. In fact, when it comes to the display of the Galaxy S7 and Edge, it seems the good points keep coming. Samsung has long been known for producing excellent displays and the QHD display on the S7 and S7 Edge is no exception. In fact, DisplayMate quite recently declared the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge has having the best displays on the market. When you factor in the excellent display, the use of AMOLED and its ability to independently power sub-pixels and features like Always On, the display-experience is certainly one of the biggest good points.

The Bad

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Moving on to the bad and typically speaking this is usually quite easy to pick up on. Bad features normally stand out and are widely discussed at the point of launch. With the Samsung Galaxy S7 however, there seems to be far fewer criticisms to really touch on. Certainly not anything overwhelming, so we will be nitpicking a little here.

First up, the specs. Yes, these do feature in the good section and for good reason. But, that does not mean they are not also a negative as well. To sum this up, Samsung is a leader in the industry and as a company who fully seems to embrace that position, they should be leading the market. While they have shown leadership skills in certain aspects of innovation (like the Edge for instance), their spec count has been a continual issue of contention. The reality is that most of these specs are a given nowadays. Samsung announced the Galaxy S6 this time last year and the phone came boasting 3GB RAM and within weeks of the launch, the first 4GB RAM phones started to surface. This is exactly what is going to be the case this year as well. 4GB RAM is not only the flagship industry standard now, but to some, it is already dated. Smaller OEMs will be releasing 6GB RAM smartphones in the next few months and highlighting how slow out of the gate Samsung are in this respect. Same goes for the SD820, expandable storage, IP ratings and so on. These are industry standards now at this level and Samsung on paper, are simply chasing the crowd. While looking at the specs sheet does not immediately draw on any obvious negatives, none of the specs are surprising, ground-breaking or leading. It is all run of the mill stuff. This is why the specs are both a good and a bad point with the latest handset from Samsung. They are good enough to make this a good device, but they are certainly not a reason to buy the device, compared to what else is available.

Likewise, another staple of 2016 devices is USB Type-C technology. Whichever way you look at it, Type-C is the go-to USB port now for flagship devices and Samsung has intentionally opted to not include the latest USB tech on their 2016 flagship. While there is nothing majorly wrong with not embracing the technology at such an early stage, all other manufacturers are pushing through with USB Type-C, as are third-party chargers, battery packs and all the affiliated accessories. Samsung’s stance on this does again highlight the notion that they are chasing the pack in a number of ways and delaying the inevitable.

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Storage is another aspect which appears on both the good and bad lists this year. While it is certainly a good thing that expandable storage has made a comeback on both Galaxy S7 variants, the bad side of this is that Samsung’s version of expandable storage does not support adoptable storage. This is the process by where external storage elements can be used (or combined with the internal storage) to form a larger base storage. This is a feature which was introduced with Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) and it had been assumed Samsung’s latest and greater would come boasting the feature. However, the two smartphones do not support adoptable storage. Samsung has circumvented the issue slightly with the recent reports confirming that apps can be moved to the SD card to free up space, but this is not the same as offering adoptable storage, nor is it a suitable replacement. As such, storage is a negative in this respect.

The Ugly

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This section will be much shorter than the others as there is nothing obtusely ugly about the Galaxy S7 or the S7 Edge. Regardless of your stance on Samsung and their products, these do seem to be very well-built, designed, attractive and feature-rich devices, so ugly is not really fair to attribute to either of these devices. Unless of course, you’re talking about TouchWiz.

It absolutely will be no surprise to anyone that the twin Galaxy S7 devices run on Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and personally, I don’t have a deep aversion to TouchWiz. But some do and to those consumers, both of these devices will inherently be ugly due to the software on offer. Interestingly, Samsung has repeatedly over the last couple of generations been noted toning down the intensity of TouchWiz, which in itself is a proclamation of how the company understands their software is not to everyone’s taste. But nevertheless, toning down is not the same as removing and for those who cannot stomach TouchWiz, then the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are automatically going to be no-go devices. Whether there is anything else which is specifically ugly remains to be seen at this early time, although, as reviews and more hands-on time starts to come through, it will become clearer as to what Samsung did get right and what they got wrong.