Year after year, it's always the same question: should you upgrade?
Now that it's out and available, there's plenty to be excited about with the Galaxy S7 edge. A larger screen and bigger battery are joined by the return of waterproofing and an SD card slot to the Galaxy S line, and those four points alone are making those who have spent a year with the Galaxy S6 edge look longingly at the successor to their current phone.
But for as nice as the Galaxy S7 edge looks, you already have a phone — and while we all would love to be able to upgrade every time the new hotness hits the shelves, these things cost a lot of money. So if you have a Galaxy S6 edge and are considering an upgrade to the latest edge from Samsung, is it worth the cash? We're here to answer that question.
1. Hardware and specs
Last year, the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge kicked off an entirely new design language for Samsung. The metal frame accented with two panes of glass — and in the case of the S6 edge, curved glass on front — was a gigantic step forward for the company. Things haven't really changed in 2016, and the Galaxy S7 edge is basically the same phone externally. The rear glass is now slightly curved to provide a bit better grip, and the camera "hump" on the back is greatly diminished — but despite those changes there isn't enough here in the hardware to make you lust after the new phone.
Internally, you start to notice a few differences. Being a year newer, you of course expect to have a faster processor and more RAM. You get a Snapdragon 820 processor here in the U.S. or Samsung's latest Exynos 8 octa-core processor most other places in the world, and both are a step up from last year's. You also have 4GB of RAM inside instead of 3GB, which doesn't mean a whole lot now but surely adds a bit of life in terms of futureproofing you for capabilities a year or two down the road. The only potential downside here is storage, where the Galaxy S6 edge actually offered 64 and 128GB internal storage options ... the Galaxy S7 edge has 32GB, and that's it.
The few hardware changes are big ones that make a difference in how you use the phone.
The big differentiators really come down to four main areas: screen size, battery size, waterproofing and an SD card slot. The first two really go hand-in-hand, with the Galaxy S7 edge bumping up its screen size to 5.5-inches from 5.1-inches in the GS6 edge. It keeps the same resolution and fantastic screen quality, but having a little extra real estate is a big feature for a lot of people. That larger screen gave Samsung more room to work with in terms of battery, and the GS7 edge makes a huge jump to 3600 mAh from just 2600 in the GS6 edge. Battery life is easily a full day on the newer model, which is something very few Galaxy S6 edge owners can claim to achieve on a regular basis and may be one of the biggest factors in considering an upgrade.
And on the other two features, it's pretty simple: the new Galaxy S7 edge can take in an SD card to expand your storage capabilities, and the phone can go for a swim for up to 30 minutes in water and be completely fine at the end. That SD card works for storing media, moving files to/from your computer and for storing some apps, but keep in mind that it doesn't work as proper "adoptable storage" as other Marshmallow phones offer. As for the waterproofing, it's a huge bonus — being able to spill a drink on the phone or drop it in the sink accidentally is great. Just don't expect the Galaxy S7 edge to be able to take the physical damage often associated with such accidents — it's still very fragile.
2. Software and performance
The Galaxy S7 edge ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and all of the associated changes from Samsung therein. There are big improvements in the base Marshmallow software, of course, and those who have latched onto using the edge screen software will be in for a treat with more edge panels and customization options. You get a nicer color palette, slicker animations and just a little less legacy cruft to deal with, but in terms of a wholistic experience it isn't far off from Samsung's take on Lollipop that shipped on the Galaxy S6 edge.
But this isn't too big of an argument to have at this point, as Samsung is deep into the rollout of Marshmallow to the last-generation phones at this point. The Galaxy S6 and S6 edge in regions around the world — yes, even via the carriers here in the U.S. — are starting to get Marshmallow updates with the same experience as you get out of the box on the Galaxy S7 edge.
Marshmallow is a nice improvement — but it's coming to your Galaxy S6 edge already.
Of course if you have one of the Galaxy S6 edge variants that hasn't been updated to Marshmallow yet, you'll have a little bit of envy seeing the latest software that's available on the Galaxy S7 edge. While we all know how difficult that can be, the update is coming to your current phone — and given the number of models that already have it, you're likely to see it sooner rather than later at this point. Don't go buying a new phone just to get Marshmallow when the update is on its way to your phone already.
When it comes to daily performance, things are pretty darn close between the two generations. As I touched on above, there are bumps in the processing speed and amount of RAM available in the Galaxy S7 edge, but that doesn't actually translate at this point into dramatically faster performance in any of your usual tasks. If you set the two phones side-by-side you'll notice fractionally-faster app opening times on the newer phone, but this isn't something you'd notice if you just used one or the other.
As I noted earlier, the better processor and increased RAM really only come into play later on down the road, after one or two years using the phone, where apps and software are even more demanding than today — at that point, you may be glad you had the extra horsepower to work with.
3. Camera quality
This is going to be a big point of contention for people on both sides. Samsung has changed the camera setup in the Galaxy S7 considerably, dropping to 12MP in order to get larger individual pixels; then putting that sensor behind a faster f/1.7 lens. Yes that's lower resolution than the 16MP you'll find in the Galaxy S6 edge, and yes the lens is faster than the f/1.9 of last year. It's a useless argument to talk about which one is "better" in terms of numbers here — it all comes down to the resulting photo quality.
Your Galaxy S6 edge's camera shouldn't feel inadequate in any way.
In daylight situations, it's actually debatable which phone takes better photos. Even set right next to the newer camera, the Galaxy S6 edge still takes beautiful, vibrant and crisp photos. If anything, the Galaxy S7 edge can come up short in some ways with poorly processed dark areas of light photos. In entirely dark scenes, the larger pixels and faster lens in the Galaxy S7 edge do make a difference in offering lots of clarity and low noise, but then again the Galaxy S6 edge is hardly a slouch in those shooting conditions.
To help illustrate the point, here are just a few snapshots to compare. (You'll notice the 16:9 image is from the Galaxy S6 edge, which I've chosen to not crop in in order to show the full native resolution of the sensor.)
Galaxy S7 edge (left) / Galaxy S6 edge (right) — click images to view larger
When viewed at these normal web sizes, and even in full-resolution on your computer, you really can't tell the difference for the most part. Both take absolutely great photos in a variety of situations, and will blow away anyone that looks at them online, at home on your TV or even printed out at a reasonable size.
If you've been using a Galaxy S6 edge and loving the camera, as is the case for most folks who have it, you shouldn't be dying to get your hands on the Galaxy S7 edge simply for its camera quality. That's a bit surprising as we always expect things to get notably better with each new phone version, but in this case you can be happy with what you have.
4. The bottom line
Going through things section by section, it's actually somewhat surprising how little has changed overall from the Galaxy S6 edge to the brand-new Galaxy S7 edge. Assuming your Galaxy S6 edge has the latest software update it's running identical software to the GS7 edge, and either way the day-to-day performance is basically the same between the two. The hardware looks and feels almost the same, and packs all of the main features — including the great fingerprint sensor and top-notch screen quality.
That being said, the handful of things that have changed may be the ones to pull Galaxy S6 edge owners into considering a sale of their current phone to pick up the newer version.
The new features will make a difference in your everyday life, but are they worth $300-400?
The biggest is the battery. It's no secret that the Galaxy S6 edge has horrid battery life, and the Galaxy S7 edge is a full-day phone no matter what way you slice it. Then you add in the other part of the larger phone: the bigger screen. For many people, it's a bonus to have a bit more room to work with. You also now have an SD card slot, giving you potential for expanding your storage later on after purchase if you wish. And although the hardware externally hasn't changed much, it's now entirely waterproof — an increasingly important feature to consider when you drop upwards of $800 on a new phone.
Then there's the camera — one area of the Galaxy S6 edge that you aren't likely looking for an upgrade from. The Galaxy S7 edge's reworked camera will once again be in the running for the best smartphone shooter of the year, but it actually isn't a wholesale upgrade over what last year's camera offers. The new camera does appreciably better in low light situations, but in complex daylight situations it may not come out ahead of what the Galaxy S6 edge can do.
So with at most a year of time with your Galaxy S6 edge, should you consider upgrading to the Galaxy S7 edge? It's basically going to come down to how much you want these few basic features that are likely to play into your everyday life. The larger screen, dramatically bigger battery, SD card slot and waterproofing are all welcomed upgrades, but they alone might not be enough when you're facing a $300 to $400 differential in price after you sell your phone. If you stay with your current phone, you can know you're getting a lot of the same experience you'd find in the newer Galaxy S7 — and maybe that's enough for you to keep your wallet securely in your pocket.
Do you have a Galaxy S6 edge and are considering the upgrade to a Galaxy S7 edge? We want to know what you're thinking — sound off in the comments!
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