The Indian handset segment saw a lot of changes over the last two years. One of the key trends was the influx of Chinese brands like Xiaomi, Huawei, and Lenovo, which siphoned off market share from local manufacturers. Chinese brands now account for 50% of all handset sales in the country, and that number is only set to increase as competition intensifies and new players make their entry.
In all this time, the one constant has been Samsung. The South Korean manufacturer not only managed to retain its position as the number one phone brand in the country, but it also successfully increased its market share. The reason it was able to do so was because of its competitiveness across key segments — the Galaxy S series and Galaxy A series targeted the high-end and mid-tier categories, whereas the Galaxy J and Galaxy On series catered to budget buyers.
While the Galaxy S series undoubtedly occupies a majority of the mindshare, it is the Galaxy J series that leads the way for Samsung in India — over the last two years, Samsung sold tens of millions of devices in this segment, allowing the brand to solidify its position as the leading smartphone vendor in the country.
That leaves us with the Galaxy C series. The lineup sits one tier below the Galaxy A series, and there are a few key differences — the Galaxy C7 Pro isn't water-resistant, and there's no Samsung Pay. The upside is that the C7 Pro is available for ₹25,990, or ₹7,500 less than the Galaxy A7 2017. Does the C7 Pro have what it takes to hold its own in a segment that's dominated by the OnePlus 3 and 3T?
Let's find out.
About this review
I (Harish Jonnalagadda) am writing this review after using the Galaxy C7 Pro for two weeks in Hyderabad, India, on Airtel's 4G network. The phone came with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box and picked up the May 1, 2017 security update midway through the review.
Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro Hardware
Samsung has been offering gorgeous metal-and-glass designs with the Galaxy S series for a few generations now, with the Galaxy S8+ showcasing the best that the manufacturer has to offer. The Galaxy A series offers a similar design ethos with a glass back, but with the Galaxy C series, the company went with an all-metallic chassis that looks great.
The front of the phone is dominated by a large 5.7-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display. It's not a QHD panel like the Galaxy S8, but it makes up for it with vibrant colors and excellent viewing angles. Having used the C7 Pro after the Galaxy S8, I didn't notice any major issues with the panel.
The earpiece sits above the display and is flanked by the front camera and the notification LED. There's a Samsung logo underneath the earpiece for good measure, and you get a physical home button with an embedded fingerprint sensor that lets you store three prints. As always, the multitasking key is to the left of the home button, with the back button located to the right.
The power button is located on the right, and the SIM card tray is located right underneath. The C7 Pro has a hybrid SIM card slot, which means you can use a single SIM card along with a microSD card, or two SIM cards. The volume buttons are to the left of the device, and they offer decent travel. The phone features a USB-C port at the bottom, flanked by a 3.5mm jack and a microphone to the left and a speaker to the right. There's a secondary microphone located at the top of the phone.
Round the back, the C7 Pro has antenna lines that run across the top and bottom of the device. The camera sits in the middle and protrudes slightly from the surface of the phone. While the C7 Pro may lack the design aesthetic of the Galaxy S8, it is built like a tank. It certainly feels much more durable than Samsung's current flagship, and the build quality is top-notch, as one would expect in this segment.
The phone is available in two color options — gold and navy blue, and the blue variant looks better thanks to the all-black front plate. The gold version has matching accents for the earpiece and the fingerprint sensor at the front, giving the phone an added visual flair.
The highlight of the C7 Pro is its svelte profile, with the phone coming in at a thickness of 7mm. The sleek chassis makes it comfortable to hold the phone, but its sheer size makes it difficult for one-handed use.
The Galaxy C7 Pro is powered by a Snapdragon 626 — the same chipset as the Moto Z2 Play. There's 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage, and Samsung's memory management is still way too aggressive, closing down apps in the background with wild abandon.
The Snapdragon 626 is more than adequate for everyday use, and while you'll notice the odd stutter in visually intensive games, there are no issues with day-to-day performance when using the device.
Continuing in the same vein, the 3,300mAh battery on the C7 Pro easily lasts a day on a full charge.
Burn it down
Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro Software
If you've used a Samsung phone in the last two years, the UI on offer with the C7 Pro will feel right at home regarding the sheer number of features available. The interface itself has picked up a fresh coat of paint, and it looks much more modern. The phone also offers an always-on display mode that shows the time, date, and unread notification icons.
The leftmost home screen is taken up by Flipboard, but it can be disabled if you're not a fan of the Briefing feature. There's a standard app drawer, and Samsung continues to offer horizontal scrolling for the launcher. You'll be able to sort apps alphabetically or in your own order. There's also a blue light filter, which is useful when viewing the screen at night, and you also get a theming engine that allows you to customize the look of the UI.
The main drawback with the Galaxy C7 Pro is that it's still running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. In mid-2017, there really isn't an excuse to not offer Nougat out of the box, particularly in this segment. Samsung has done a great job of rolling out the Nougat update to its high-end devices in the country — India is usually one of the first markets to pick up the update for the Galaxy S series — but the company continues to ignore its mid-range offerings.
In mid-June, there's no mention of when the Nougat update will be available for the device. That said, Samsung offers a ton of features out of the box, including a multi-window mode, one-handed mode, ability to lock apps with your fingerprint with S Folder, S Health, power-saving features, and much more. And unlike the Galaxy S8, you can quickly launch the camera by double pressing the home button.
Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro Camera
The Galaxy C7 Pro has a 16-megapixel camera at the back that features an f/1.9 lens and PDAF along with a dual-tone LED flash. Samsung offers multiple shooting modes, including a food mode that makes objects in the foreground stand out. There's also a panorama mode, a night mode, HDR, and a manual mode that lets you adjust the ISO, white balance, and exposure settings.
Images taken with the C7 Pro tend to look good for the most part — photos in daylight conditions offer a lot of detail and accurate colors. The camera struggles in low-light conditions, taking too long to dial in on a subject. The front 16MP camera is decent as long as you're sharing images on social media.
It is what it is
Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro Bottom line
The Galaxy C7 Pro has a lot of strong points — the build quality is great, the Full HD AMOLED display is excellent, the overall performance is adequate, and the battery life is amazing. The lack of Nougat is a major downside, and it doesn't look like an update is forthcoming for the device any time soon.
There's no Samsung Pay as well, a noticeable omission considering it is available on the Galaxy A5 and A7. The C7 Pro is tailored for multimedia, and in that role the phone excels. The large screen is great for viewing content, and the battery life ensures that the phone lasts a full day.
Should you buy it? Your call
It would've made a lot of sense for Samsung to release the Galaxy C7 Pro offline. After all, the manufacturer can leverage its distribution network to boost sales of the device at offline stores, making it a viable contender to what OPPO and Vivo have to offer in this segment.
However, that isn't the case. The C7 Pro is up for sale on Amazon India, where it is going up against the likes of the OnePlus 3T. The phone doesn't offer nearly as much value as the OnePlus 3T, but Samsung is targeting the likes of the Moto Z2 Play with the C7 Pro. Samsung's offering wins out in that context, offering much better display and class-leading battery life.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.