In the world of smartphones, it's impossible to ignore the influence of Samsung.
Since its explosion into Android with the launch of the Galaxy S2 globally, Samsung has firmly held on to the top spot in Android devices sold — and though the playing field has leveled off some in recent years the Korean manufacturer still has one of the most recognizable lines of phones out there today.
The "Galaxy" name gets spread around to its entire lineup of Android phones (and beyond), but when it really comes down to it there are just a handful of Samsung's high-end devices that you need to know about. Let us introduce you to the top phones from Samsung.
This article is updated periodically with the latest information. The latest update was made in June 2016.
1. Samsung Galaxy S7
Released March 2016 If you weren't yet convinced that Samsung makes some of the best phones money can buy, the Galaxy S7 should help that. Part of a one-two punch from Samsung for early 2016, the Galaxy S7 shares a lot with its larger, edgier sibling, but in a smaller form factor.
It's an iterative design for the new model, with much that was so good about the Galaxy S6 making a comeback. It's a harmony of glass and metal, with this year's phone getting a slight curve on its rear panel to make it just a little less slab-like.
Samsung also heard its customers. The microSD card slot is back for 2016 and the Galaxy S7 is a little thicker than last year's phone to accommodate a larger battery. There's also a lot of business as usual for Samsung: great screen, great camera, and while the software still may not suit all tastes, it's better than it's ever been.
2. Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Released March 2016 The second part of the two-pronged Galaxy assault on the early 2016 smartphone market is the Galaxy S7 edge. Once again, the edge moniker refers to Samsung's dual-curved display, rolling off on both sides of the front of the phone. They're now met with gentle curves on the rear glass, too, making for an all around much more pleasant experience in the hand.
Most of the hardware is the same as the smaller, "regular" Galaxy S7, with a larger battery inside and of course, the display. Sure the screen is technically 5.5-inches across, but Samsung did a phenomenal job with making it feel smaller than it actually is thanks to the curves and the tiny bezels all around. It costs more, too, which is to be expected.
What Samsung did with this year's edge phone that impresses the most is by actually adding more useful software features to those curved parts of the display. Now you can customize a whole bunch of things to display when you swipe in from the edge. You can see such treats as app shortcuts, news, sports scores, even a compass if you wish, and much more.
3. Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Released August 2015 Samsung's fall refresh typically follows the design language of the year's Galaxy S smartphone, and the same rings true with the Note 5 — a scaled-up and improved Galaxy S6. The specs are turned up a bit, the screen is bigger and just as beautiful, you get curved glass on the back for better feel and of course an improved S Pen. The camera again is excellent, and the software has been further updated for pen input.
Missing this time around, however, are the removable battery and expandable storage — again, just like the rest of Samsung's 2015 phones. That'll be a deal-breaker for some folks, for sure.
4. Samsung Galaxy S6
Released April 2015 The Galaxy S6 was Samsung's flagship device for 2015, following up in numeric succession to previous Galaxy S devices that are updated at a yearly pace. And it's fair to say that the GS6 has had a pretty major reboot. It's traded plastic for glass on both the front and the back. The software has been even more refined (and, yes, gained a few Microsoft apps along the way).
Instead of the standard removable battery and microSD card of previous Galaxy S devices, the GS6 has a slightly smaller non-removable battery (2550 mAh) and non-expandable storage. That's a big deal for a lot of folks, but wireless charging and quick charging help alleviate the battery woes and a standard 32GB — along with optional 64 and 128GB options — of internal storage could make you forget about SD cards.
5. Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
Released April 2015 Cousin to the Galaxy S6 is the "edge" model. This takes what started with the Galaxy Note Edge and and simultaneously goes a bit further while stepping back a bit. The display curves on both the left and right edges, making the sides of the phone extremely thin. And you know what? It works — the phone is narrower, and at this screen size it's not too tough to hold onto.
That also lets Samsung do some interesting visual things. You get a cool desk clock mode when the phone is just sitting around. And new notification alerts if you leave the phone face-down. Plus you can park your favorite contacts in an easy pull-out feature on the edge of the phone. The Marshmallow update made the edge screen even more useful, bringing back dedicated app experiences and more glanceable information.
Other than the edge screens and the physical differences they bring about, you're looking at the same phone as the GS6. You'll pay an extra $100 (retail pricing) over the standard GS6, so we'd always recommend checking them out side-by-side in person before you choose.
6. Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
Released August 2015 Love the Galaxy S6 edge but wish it were just ... bigger? Then this is the phone for you. It's the GS6 edge in every way, just bigger, with about 7 percent more battery capacity.
7. Samsung Galaxy A7 2016
Released February 2016 Think of the Galaxy A7 2016 as the Galaxy S6 Lite. Featuring a metal frame and a glass back, the Galaxy A7 is similar in design to Samsung's flagship offerings, with the key difference being toned-down specs, making the phone accessible to a wider audience. The Galaxy A7 offers a Full HD Super AMOLED display, and is paired with an Exynos 7580 SoC and 3GB of RAM, which ensure that things are running smoothly under load. Pair all that with a 3300 mAh battery and you have a phone that lasts a day and a half on a full charge.
You also get 32GB of internal storage, and unlike Samsung's recent flagships, the Galaxy A7 comes with a microSD slot. There's LTE connectivity as well, along with Dual-SIM functionality, a key feature considering the phone's target markets. The Galaxy A7 is not going to make its debut in Western countries anytime soon, but Samsung is aggressively marketing the device in Asia, where it's available for the equivalent of $450 unlocked.