There are a whole lot of people on this little planet who eagerly wait to see what new products big tech companies like Samsung introduce every year. If you're reading this — either as a regular Android Central reader or someone who found us for the first time, you're probably one of them. And this year, when we first got to see the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, we saw the very best that Samsung — and possibly anyone else — could produce today.
We knew how special the S7 (in my case, the edge model in particular) was when we first got our hands on it. As part of our job we get early access to a lot of the latest tech, and we talk amongst ourselves before we're allowed to talk in public. All of us knew that we had something different here, and things can and will never never be the same.
I have the T-Mobile variant of the Galaxy S7 edge now, and have been using it for a while. See what I think of one of the best phones you can buy.
I love the way it's built
I appreciate things that look good. Whether we're talking about the iconic design of a classic Chevrolet El Camino, or a stately yet beautiful oak table, I enjoy things that show me that a bit of thought and engineering went into the way a thing looks. And not everything that looks good needs to look the same. We're a blog about Android phones. We touch and use and write about a lot of Android phones. The HTC One M7 and the Nexus 4 have a very thoughtful design that most of us can appreciate even if we don't particularly like it. The Galaxy S7 edge gives me the same appreciation when I see it that the Nexus 4 or One M7 do.
Metal and glass look good. You don't have to think they are the best materials to use for building a phone to say that. Curves "feel" organic and futuristic, especially when done with glass. And Samsung has refined and perfected what they started with the Note edge and continued with last year's edge phones with the Galaxy S7 edge. When you pick it up, you no longer feel the angular lip where the metal meets the glass and instead you have the same construction with a seamless feel on all sides of the phone, front and back. Is that a huge change from the S6 edge? No, not really. But it's an important one, and allows the S7 edge to feel as good as it looks.
The screen amazes me. I can't sit here and tell you that anything looks better on the LG V10 or the Nexus 6P or the Galaxy S7 edge unless I'm reading tiny print (the V10 and its LCD wins that one). But I can't get over the viewing angle on the S7 edge. No matter how far I tilt it away from my face, I can still tell exactly what I'm looking at until I basically reach the point when I'm looking at the side or the bottom of the phone. I don't know how they do it. I don't even care other than the nerd part of me who wants to read white papers. I just think it's cool. Be suspicious if anyone tells you the screen isn't incredible.
That makes sense — Samsung is one of those companies that makes the screens all the other companies want to use. Is AMOLED super saturated? Yup. Does using blue pixels to make the color white cause a tint on certain images in certain conditions? Yup. I just don't care. I have an AH-IPS 100 percent sRGB factory calibrated monitor on my desk if I need to inspect something for color accuracy. On my phone — the computer in my pocket — I love the vivid and bright screen. Look around, most everyone else does, too.
I used to have a big problem with giant phones. Not so much using them, but carrying them around. Because they kept getting bigger and nobody was making smaller models with top-end parts inside but Sony, I gave up. I embraced my Nexus 6 and learned to accept a phone that I couldn't carry in my shirt pocket like your weird IT guy at work does. Since then, people making phones have started making them more narrow. I'm good with it. The size of the GS7 edge is no issue, and I like the extra battery. You'll now find me with my Nexus 6P in one pocket, and the GS7 edge in the other.
I understand the argument about fragility with this design when used on something that lives a large part of its life in a pocket or bag. And I can't argue that the materials and the finish — I'm using the silver titanium model — are always in need of a cleaning and covered with fingerprints and smudges. I just don't care. I'll take the trade off because I love the design and the materials used. Because of them, my $700 phone almost looks and feels like it's worth $700.
And I don't give a damn that the holes don't line up.
Cameras and features
While I appreciate an elegant and premium look, I value the way a product works even more. Samsung has three standout features that help make the S7 edge very compelling on the function side — the edge screen, the camera and the multifunctional home button and fingerprint reader.
A lot of words have been said about the camera on the Galaxy S7 edge. Aside from a few controversial ones from a fellow I trust here, they've all been positive. I told myself from the beginning that I didn't care what anyone else thought and would form my own opinion after using it. I came to what I think is a pretty reasonable conclusion — the camera on the GS7 edge is good enough that all the fuss made no longer matters. Sorry, Dan. I just don't see what you're seeing.
We're at the point where the cameras on our phones are mostly good enough that none are really better than the others. The camera on the Galaxy S7 edge is great. Add it to the list of phone cameras that are so good that you need a real camera to get anything "better." You will never need another camera unless you're one of those prosumers or need to produce photos that you're paid for.
Enjoy your Lumia, or your G5 or Nexus 6P or iPhone camera. They all take pictures that are better than we should expect from a cell phone. Sometimes a certain picture from a certain phone will look better than other pictures from other phones. Let people who have to hash out things like which is "best" worry about it. Take your pictures (or video) and enjoy how nice they look, then share them with the world so we all can enjoy them as much as you do. The Galaxy S7 edge lets you do just that, and you won't find anything to complain about.
Fun fact — I don't think a fingerprint is a good security method. My fingerprints are my identity, not my password — they never change. But I also agree that using a fingerprint sensor makes security easy, and that means more people will use it. That's nothing but win in my opinion.
The key is building hardware that is accurate and convenient. That's where previous phones, like the aged Motorola Atrix, the iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S6 failed me. Don't get me started on the LG V10. If I'm going to use fingerprint authentication, it needs to work all the time, every time. The Galaxy S7 edge nails it.
If I'm going to use fingerprint authentication, it needs to work every time. The GS7 edge nails it.
I don't know if the technology of the past is to blame, but fingerprint scanning never worked well for me. I have some pretty ugly fingerprints. There are burns. There are scars. There are callouses. Partially because of disregard for safety when handling hot equipment, and partially because of my amazing guitar-shredding skills. Mostly the disregard for safety part. OK, only the disregard for safety part then.
Until we saw the Nexus 6P, fingerprint scanning was always hit or miss with me. You've probably seen others talk about how good the Nexus 6P and 5X were at fingerprint scanning. The Galaxy S7 edge is every bit as good. Other than the placement — I like it in the back where my finger rests when I'm holding a phone — I think it's perfect. People who want to unlock a phone while laying flat on a table will enjoy it in the front. This is a small quibble that's easy to get used to — the Galaxy S7 edge has an amazingly accurate and fast fingerprint scanner. You now have no excuse to not lock your phone.
The most intriguing feature to me is the edge screen. It's been revamped with Samsung's version of Marshmallow, and it's now bigger and arguably better than before. You can do various things from having contacts live there, or having a compass, but I use it for my calendar. I have instant access to things I need to see with a quick swipe of my thumb. More importantly, I don't have a calendar widget looking at me every time I unlock my phone. I want my home screen — yes, I only ever use one — to be clutter free. Something in my life has to be simple and easy.
I want to see amazing people do amazing things here. We all can make fun of having a ruler on the edge screen, but that's handy for a lot of people. Little things that some of us might need have a cool sliding shelf to live on, quietly tucked away when we don't need them. Samsung's annual developer conference is coming up. I hope the seats are filled with people smarter than me who have ideas how to put something as simple and fantastic as a ruler on my edge screen. There's a lot of potential here, and something many regard as a gimmick can be made absolutely cool with the right ideas. If nothing else, how about a scrolling daily classic Doonesbury comic to go along with the stock tickers and sports scores?
The new TouchWiz
I'm not buying the line about how Google convinced Samsung to change TouchWiz or how they rode into South Korea on a shining white stallion to "fix" it. It was never broken, and millions and millions of sales tell you you're wrong when you say it was. But it is better, and not all of it is because of the hardware.
Samsung's take on Android still looks colorful and messy to me. Not because it is too colorful or messy, but because it's not what I like. You can never account for taste. The "clown puke" colors of the past — which did a great job of showing off an AMOLED display and were totally not an accident — are replaced with an equally vivid (and for many, equally as horrible) new design palette that looks more like Google's Material Design. You can love it, or you can hate it. Or you can theme it through Samsung's Galaxy App store.
Samsung doesn't stop there. The base software on the S7 edge is filled with apps and programs that Samsung is proud of. They've also changed just about every part of the vanilla Android source code — both visually and functionally — that they can. Some of it's better, and some of it is worse. Again, that's purely a matter of what you like. There are really only two things I can say about it.
- I want Samsung to never stop messing around with Android and making it their own. The open source part of Android is made better by companies doing stuff to it and changing it. That's how open source software works. I wish more of what they do was available to everyone at the code level, but the ideas and the critical changes that improve Android make their way back to Google. They then make their way to everyone. Every good thing Samsung does makes Android better. Every stupid thing Samsung does makes Android better.
- I can take 20 minutes and strip away the stuff I don't want. I can disable or uninstall some of it. I can hide most of the remainder. Buh-bye Milk Music. Adios Gear Manager. Go away forever Flipboard Briefing. You can do the same things to the stuff you don't want.
Ideally, all the things we don't want could live in Google Play or Samsung's Galaxy App store. That isn't going to happen. If it did, nobody would know about them. We all give a strong opinion about what Samsung should do with all the things we don't want — and those things are different for each and every one of us. But until someone has a solution that lets people discover the things Samsung has to offer, they belong right where they are.
Carrier apps are a similar but different story. I'm with the rest of the happy bandwagoners when we say they need to die. But carriers want people to see these apps, use these apps and make money from these apps. Luckily, I have the T-Mobile S7 edge and it's not been ravaged the same way some others have. After seeing what AT&T in particular has done, I would have a different opinion about it all. That's not fair to Samsung, nor is it fair to anyone seeking the input of industry experts about a phone purchase. If things ever reach a point where sales are affected — and we're not even close to that — something will change.
I wish carriers didn't mess with things. But the GS7 edge can handle it either way.
The most important thing about all of it is that with the GS7, it doesn't matter. Hardware plays a part, as does Samsung's skilled engineering team. The S7 edge does not suffer from having things you don't use running in the background. Those days ended with the Note 5. Even with a mountain of services and software features I'll never need and didn't want, my S7 edge is enjoyable to use. Forget benchmarks and timed tests about opening apps or side-by-side scrolling death match showdowns. I feel no difference in how fluid the things I want my smartphone to do happen between my Nexus 6P and my S7 edge. That's a game changer for Android enthusiasts, and it's not just hype. Samsung has an extremely complex (on the user-facing side) computer operating system running amazingly well on mobile hardware. The new bar has been set.
Getting the latest security update the same day it became available, as an OTA right to the phone, seals the deal.
Should you buy a Galaxy S7 edge?
This is the best smartphone you can buy today. The cons I find in the way the software looks and is presented are more than outweighed but a long list of pros. The features like the camera or screen are as good or better than advertised, and it's going to be very difficult for anyone to make a better phone on any platform.
That's the best part. As great as my Galaxy S7 edge is, I know it's going to force someone to build something even better. Fans of every platform benefit because this thing is so damn good.
The Galaxy S7 edge isn't the first phone from Samsung I think is good and I could recommend, but it is the first one I want to use myself. I'm picky when it comes to spending lots of money, and have pretty simple wants and needs. If HTC or Motorola show me something amazing later this year that I just have to use, I'll have a tough decision to make between my S7 edge and my gold Nexus 6P.
Yeah. I never thought I'd say that either.
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