What we think
After thorough testing, we think the Samsung Galaxy S7 phone is pretty much perfect. It’s full of great features, and has a great design, but sadly this greatness does come at a high cost. We’re glad to see expandable memory return, and the phone being waterproof is also excellent, but it is rather similar to the Galaxy S6. Is it better than the Apple iPhone 6s?
- Expandable memory returns
- Brilliant design and screen
- Functions perfectly
- Only two colour options
- Only 32Gb version available
- Similar to S6
The Galaxy S7 looks very similar to its popular predecessor, the Galaxy S6. It features the same materials – glass with an aluminium chassis, as opposed to plastic – as well as having the same screen size. Neither the shape nor the overall design has really changed much, but as Samsung were onto a winner with the S6, this isn’t a bad thing. They got it right, so why change? I’m a big fan of how it looks and feels.
The phone measures 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9mm (5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches), which is a fairly comfortable size to hold, and it also weighs just 152g. These figures are slightly larger than the S6, but the difference is negligible when holding it.
It is more comfortable to hold thanks to the slightly thicker, curved glass back, and the rear camera doesn’t protrude anywhere near as much as the lens on the S6, making this phone more streamlined.
The metallic rim of Samsung’s past home buttons is no more, which actually makes it look better in my opinion. The S7 on the whole is very sleek, smooth and stylish, in a way that can compete with Apple’s iconically sleek iPhones, which have always been popular in design.
It would have been nice to see dual front-facing speakers added, which have started becoming more popular lately on smartphones, especially since the release of phones such as the Nexus 6, but it isn’t a major complaint of mine as I tend to use headphones or Bluetooth speakers anyway.
With a 5.1 inch Super AMOLED screen, featuring a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels (577ppi), the display is exceptional. Bright, vivid, sharp colours show up perfectly, and the screen has a better brightness and contrast than the S6 did.
At the time of its release, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is available in black or gold. These colours both look great, but it is a shame there is not as much selection as there is with its main competitor, the iPhone 6s. Of course, you can always personalise your phone with a colourful case, if you so wish.
Also crowding the high-end market is the S7’s fancier (and more expensive) brother, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which has been released in tandem with the S7. The Edge is named for its curving screen at its left and right edges. It has very similar specs to the S7, but the fancier screen allows for more features and a sleeker look.
One of the major talking points with the S7 is the fact that it is waterproof and dustproof. You can submerge it as deep as 1.5m, for 30 minutes, and it still functions perfectly.
I was anxious to say the least when it came to submerging such an expensive phone, and I was incredibly relieved to find that Samsung had indeed implemented this feature successfully. Of course, I have no intention to take my phone swimming, but it makes me less afraid to leave it lying around when my clumsy colleagues are nearby with drinks, or when I’m out in the rain.
However, as brilliant as it is to have a phone with IP68 water and dust resistance, I did find that I needed to make sure the charging port was dry before charging. If the S7 was able to detect water in the hole, it wouldn’t charge. An understandable safety feature, but something to bear in mind if you quickly put the phone on charge, when, say, you go to bed; you don’t want to wake up with a phone that didn’t charge all night because of a bit of water.
Thankfully, support for expandable storage returns to the S7, having been dropped for the S6. You can now insert a MicroSD card to expand your storage by as much as 200Gb. This is a necessary addition in my opinion, as you are limited to just 32Gb of internal phone memory; there are no 64Gb or 128Gb alternatives offered by Samsung.
Another new introduction to the S7 is the ‘always-on’ feature. This means that the screen will always display certain information, such as the time, battery level, and the date. You can customise the display to show information you want to see, but it can’t display notifications from WhatsApp or Facebook (yet).
To begin with, I was dubious that I would want this ‘gimmick’, but after some time I did realise it can be convenient to always see the time and battery level when glancing at your phone. If it’s out of reach, you don’t need to go over to it anymore to turn it on and view those details, which is useful, especially when you’re warm in bed and don’t want to move.
You can disable the always-on feature by changing your phone’s settings, if you do not want it showing. It inevitably drains the battery more by having it on, but only very slightly – about 1 per cent per hour – so you shouldn’t worry about having the feature enabled.
For those who love to play games on their phone, a brand new feature, Game Launcher, is right up your street. Games are automatically added into the Game Launcher folder when you download them – don’t fret, you can customise it – and it works to help you quickly jump from app to app, but still lets you get straight back into the games.
It also allows you to disable notifications, which can be annoying when playing games, as well as preventing you from accidentally returning to the home screen, by locking the buttons. A very smart addition from Samsung.
One minor but persistent issue I’ve had with Samsung phones is that I have never liked the default keyboards, and after a couple of weeks reviewing this latest phone, with that default keyboard, I’ve decided to look into downloading a replacement.
In the phone, there is a new Exynos 8890 octa-core processor, produced by Samsung. This processor is in most S7s around the world, while for those in North America there is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core chip instead.
Backed up by 4Gb of RAM, as well as running the latest version of Android’s Operating System, the S7 is incredibly responsive as a result. All apps and programs load very quickly, and we have yet to encounter any problems with speed. Samsung’s TouchWiz UI feels improved, and all-round navigation is better on the whole.
According to reports, the S7 has scored highest in the smartphone market for speed, well ahead of its current rivals, although how it will stack up against the upcoming LG G5 and the new iPhone, when the phones are released, remains to be seen of course.
Gaming, multitasking, watching films and listening to music are all tasks which are easily completed by the phone. Games loaded rapidly and ran well, with the Game Launcher improving the all-round experience.
As well as being more powerful than before, this new flagship smartphone from Samsung doesn’t heat up as much with strong use, thanks to a very clever cooling system.
The brand new camera is another of the hot topics with the S7. The 12MP main camera on the rear of the S7 has fewer megapixels than the S6, which had 16MP. This may sound concerning, but the camera is now able to take better photos in low light as a result. There being less pixels crammed in means each pixel is larger, allowing more light in.
The S7 and S7 Edge have a dual-pixel sensor, the first phones to include such a feature (which was originally built into DSLR cameras), and it helps the camera to autofocus much quicker. The camera itself also loads very quickly when launched, and you can record 4K video, which looks superb when played back.
The f/1.7 aperture lens, with LED flash and optical image stabilisation, is brighter and wider than the S6, helping you capture more in each photo, which is great for landscape pictures. Of course, you can still shoot panorama photos to get those wide shots, but they are a hassle and often don’t work very well for me, so I like the wider lens.
The front-facing camera is a pretty standard affair at 5MP, but video calling is adequate through it, and it will suffice for all your selfie needs. For the shots that matter though, when you really want to capture the best pictures, stick to the rear camera.
Another addition to the camera is “Motion”, the Samsung equivalent to Apple’s Live Photos, which debuted on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Essentially it means that before you take a photo, you can record a very short video clip. I wasn’t a fan of Live Photos, and I’m not a fan of Motion. It all feels rather gimmicky, and I won’t bother using this feature.
The S7 has a non-removable Li-ion 3,000mAh battery, while the S7 Edge has a 3,600mAH battery, both of which support fast charging and fast wireless charging.
According to Samsung’s website, it takes 90 minutes to go from 0 per cent charge to 100 per cent. I found it to be slightly quicker than this, but as a guideline, expect the phone to take an hour and a half to fully charge. After just 15 minutes of charging, I found the battery level rose by about 25 per cent, which is incredibly useful if you are about to go out and need to quickly boost it before leaving.
There is also the possibility to charge the phone wirelessly, although the charging pad comes as a costly separate. This is a useful feature but I personally wouldn’t bother to pay out more money to get one, I can get by with the standard plug and wire.
The increase in battery size means the phone can go a whole day of moderate use before it needs recharging, which is highly convenient. If you use your phone a great deal throughout the day, you may be best with the S7 Plus as it has a greater battery life. The iPhone 6s has faced a lot of criticism with its 1,715mAh battery, so it appears that Samsung has come up trumps here, although the iPhone 6s Plus isn’t far off with 2,750mAh in its battery.
When I left the phone idle overnight, the battery level decreased no more than 10 per cent, which is impressive compared to most phones out there. If you desperately need to save your low battery at any point, you can also enable the ultra mode power-saving option, which grinds your phone’s performance down to a very basic level in order to preserve the final bits of juice in the tank.
The main drawback with regards to the battery is that you cannot remove it from the phone. I’ve always preferred phones which offer this option, although in defence of the S7, it helps to make the phone waterproof, a crucial feature.
One of the biggest rumours circulating in the build-up to the S7’s unveiling was that it would feature USB-C charging, but alas, it uses the standard micro USB again. I would have liked to have seen USB-C introduced to keep pace with the other new smartphones, such as the Nexus 5x, and to help make the new port more universally standard.
The S7 is only available with an internal memory size of 32Gb as of yet, but I would rather have the option of more. The memory taken up by essential apps and software, before I downloaded any of my own programs, took up 7.51Gb alone from the very start, meaning in real terms that you have 27.5Gb of memory space.
This was a downside. I would rather have more control over the preloaded apps, especially as on my previous Samsung I ended up not using most of them, so they just took up valuable memory space.
I have made use of the expandable memory by inserting a MicroSD card into the slot at the top left, which should mean I won’t run out of storage space now. The S7 does not have adoptable memory, and although it would be nice to see adoptable memory become more common across the smartphone market, it isn’t really a big loss for the S7.
Upon release, a SIM-free Galaxy S7 costs £569 outright. A SIM-free Galaxy S7 Edge costs £639, and both of these are 32Gb versions.
The 16Gb iPhone 6s cost £539 upon release, and £619 for the 64Gb version. The 16Gb iPhone 6s Plus cost £619 upon release, and £699 for the 64Gb version. Again these prices are for SIM-free versions of the phones, but note that there is no option for expandable memory on the iPhone 6s or 6s Plus.
Of course, these prices are all very high indeed, and unfortunately aren’t suitable for anyone on a budget. However, these are two of the leading high-end phone manufacturers, so the price is as expected really.
If you own the S6, I would not recommend upgrading so soon to the S7, as there isn’t enough difference to warrant a change, and you clearly paid a lot of money quite recently. Of course there are a number of great features, such as the return of expandable memory, and the fact the phone is waterproof, but it doesn’t justify paying out for a brand new Samsung so soon.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is brilliant overall, a real contender for the top spot in the current market.
I really love the fact that it is waterproof, the battery life is greater than before, and that expandable memory has returned. Quite simply, I think this phone is pretty much perfect. The design, functioning, and clever features make it an absolute joy to use, and I will definitely be upgrading to it.
The S7 is like a more refined S6, rather than being a serious change, featuring little improvements here and there to turn a great phone into possibly the best phone available right now.
If you have the S6, I strongly recommend waiting for the next flagship Samsung (whenever that will be), unless you have a lot of money to burn.
Unfortunately the high price will undoubtedly put a number of people off, but if you have any phone other than the S6 or iPhone 6s, you should seriously consider the S7 or S7 Edge as your next purchase. The Edge is probably the best, but the S7 is still exceptional. I think it has surpassed the iPhone 6s, and it is now up to Apple to do better with its next flagship smartphone.
If you are looking to splash out on a brand new phone, you will definitely be happy with the S7, it is worth the money.