On the surface, every Samsung Galaxy S7 edge seems the same. They all have the same glass front and back, the same buttons and holes in the same places and the same curved screen edges that give the phone its name. In the U.S., they all have the same specs and hardware configuration, though other parts of the world use Samsung's own in-house processor. Aside from the camera sensor — some use a Sony sensor while some use Samsung's sensor — the hardware is the same. You get one storage option (32GB) and a choice of colors.
On the software side, things can be a little different. You have Samsung's standard Galaxy S7 edge software, used in unlocked phones on the other side of the Atlantic, and various versions built to the specifications of a particular mobile operator. One isn't necessarily better than any of the others, but the experience can change a little — especially when you're using a U.S. version. And any time you let a carrier get involved, there's always a chance they will go too far.
I've been using the T-Mobile branded Galaxy S7 edge — the Silver Titanium model — for a bit. It's time to talk about how T-Mobile does one of the best Android phones ever.
There's not much difference on the surface between the T-Mobile version and every other Galaxy S7 edge out there. U.S. versions are missing the Galaxy Labs app which is a home for Samsung's experimental features like a voice activated quick dialer or removing the app drawer, but besides that the real difference is what "value-added" crapware gets thrown at you.
Thankfully, on the T-Mobile version it's not that much.
Everything except a T-Mobile branded SlingTV app (which can be completely uninstalled) lives in it's own little folder. Inside that folder you'll find seven apps you may or may not want, but Mr. Legere and company think you need to see anyway. Some may be genuinely useful for a T-Mobile customer — like the T-Mobile account app — while others, like T-Mobile Name ID, are just ways to get you to pay T-Mobile for a service you can also buy elsewhere. We understand why this sort of thing is done — business is business. Here's what you'll find in there.
- Mobile Hotspot is a shortcut to the same WiFi tethering options and setup you'll find in the device settings. Just with a fancy pink icon.
- Lookout is a popular malware scanning app. This version is heavily T-Mobile branded, but offers the same options you'll find in the Google Play version.
- Device Unlock is an app that can network unlock your Galaxy S7 as long as you meet T-Mobile's criteria for eligibility.
- T-Mobile is an account management app, with a few silly extras like telling you to shut off Bluetooth to save battery or how you can order a Personal Cellspot if you have crappy coverage.
- T-Mobile Name ID is a subscription caller ID service. You get a 10 day trial, then for $3.99 a month you get caller lookup and call blocking features. The subscription is added to your account.
- T-Mobile TV lets you watch live and recorded videos. The free version has a very limited amount of content, and the Prime version is free for 30 days. After that it's $12.99 plus tax each month. There are also subscriptions for Spanish language programming ($9.99 per month) and Children's programming ($5.99 per month). The premium selections aren't horrible and the service usually works as advertised.
- Visual Voicemail is a front end for T-Mobile's voicemail service. Think of it as a graphical menu driven way to listen to your voicemails instead of dialing 123 to do it through your phone's virtual keypad.
The list here is relatively small. Most of it (the T-Mobile account app being the exception) can be disabled or uninstalled. All of them can be hidden in the Samsung home launcher. My issue is not the amount of carrier junk — it's not that much — but the fact that Google Play exists. That's where these apps need to live, not on my new expensive phone. When I'm finished with any reviews and comparisons, I'll get rid of them as best as I can and stop worrying about it. You can certainly do the same.
The amount of carrierware is relatively small, and most of it can be disabled or uninstalled.
Of course, Samsung has apps o' plenty in your drawer as well, but nothing you shouldn't expect. Besides the Galaxy Apps storefront, the usual suspects like S Health or S Voice are there for the people who want them. While some aren't useful to me — I'll never need S Voice or Milk Music or S Memo — they are part of the feature set that Samsung provides. Plenty of folks find them useful and use them every day. As with the T-Mobile apps, some can be put to bed in the Application manager and all of them can be hidden from view if you have no interest. On the plus side Samsung's browser — a fan favorite — is there, ready to become your default if you prefer it over Chrome. Many do.
The same goes for Google's apps. Things like Maps or Play Music are there for those that need and want them, and the people who don't can easily disable or hide them.
There's not much more to be said about a drawer full of apps you don't want. We would like to see Samsung sell this very phone without any carrier ties, but it hasn't happened. The saving grace is that it really doesn't matter too much. Once you rid yourself of the icons, you won't care because the Galaxy S7 edge doesn't suffer with all of it running in the background like past Samsung phones have. I've found the S7 edge to be responsive and fluid, and last year's nags about things like sluggish keyboards and stuttering scrolling are mostly gone. You'll have the performance of something like the Nexus 6P, even while doing more things than the 6P is capable of.
All things considered, this is one of the finest phones you can buy when it comes time to power it on and do the things you want to do — even with all the extras running.
Cell quality and features
Before we get started, we have to remember that we don't all live in the same place or use our phones the same way. This is my experience, using the phone the same way I use any phone in the same places. Yours might be different.
Network connectivity on T-Mobile has been fine. I live in an area with good T-Mobile service, and I haven't seen any dead spots where there shouldn't be any. When that does happen, the S7 edge is quick to find a signal when one becomes available. While some phones tell me they have a "better" connection based on the raw numbers, I've no complaints. The days of Samsung phones having weak radios seem to have passed, at least in my area.
If you live in a place with good T-Mobile service the Galaxy S7 edge is a reliable way to stay connected.
T-Mobile service features — HD Voice and WiFi calling — work very well. When I call my wife on her T-Mobile phone, calls are high quality with no pops or cracks or muffling on both ends. WiFi calling switches on reliably when it should, and I haven't experienced the REG01 or REG99 certificate errors some other phones are prone to throw out.
The only issue I've noticed is relatively minor — it takes a bit longer to pinpoint my location than I'm used to from other phones. Once it finds where we are, things seem fine. It might be an odd localized glitch, but waiting 30 to 45 seconds to get my pin on the right spot in Maps is something I've not seen before. Changing location services options seems to make no difference. I'll keep an eye on it in case it's a matter of bad hardware, or maybe it's sunspots or an alien invasion being planned. In the meantime, it's slightly annoying but something I don't need very often. As long as it never gets worse, I can live with it.
To sum things up here, if you live in a place with good T-Mobile service the Galaxy S7 edge is a reliable way to stay connected. The battery life has been really good, even with all the Samsung and T-Mobile "stuff" firing in the background.
Pricing and financing
Buying a phone from a carrier can get confusing. T-Mobile, for example, has two different retail prices depending on how you buy the Galaxy S7, different financing options based on your credit, and Jump and Jump on Demand options that let you trade in a phone for another.
- If you want to buy the Galaxy S7 from T-Mobile without any type of customer history or service, the retail price is $819 with a pre-paid starter kit. You can also buy the phone with one month of T-Mobile's Simple Choice service the price is $779 plus $20 for the SIM Starter Kit.
- If you have good credit, you pay $60 up front and $30 monthly (for 24 months) to finance the remainder of a $779 retail price.
- If your credit isn't what T-Mobile considers good, you pay $455 up front and $13.50 for 24 months to pay off the $779 balance.
- The Galaxy S7 edge is available for Jump and Jump on Demand customers, and customer representatives have confirmed that it will consume roughly $630 of any EIP limit on an account.
- If you're looking for the standard Galaxy S7 instead, pricing comes out to $669 up-front plus a $20 SIM Starter Kit, or if you choose to finance it can be had for $0 down and $27.94 per month for 24 months — that down payment may change based on credit availability.
These prices can and will change over time, but these are the numbers and buying options as of April 1, 2016.
If you're setting up a new account with T-Mobile for a Galaxy S7 edge, your best bet is to stop by a store or give them a call.
T-Mobile's service plans are also a bit confusing. Postpaid plans start at $50 per month for a single line with 2GB of data, and for $95 you can get unlimited everything on a single line. $150 per month covers up to four phones on a family plan, with unlimited data for every line. Post paid accounts also include features like Music Freedom and Simple Global. If you're interested in setting up a new account with T-Mobile for a new Galaxy S7 edge, your best bet is to stop by a store or give them a call.
Prepaid plans are a bit more straightforward. Single line plans start at $40 with 3GB of LTE data, and move upwards to $60 for plans with 10GB of LTE data. All prepaid plans offer unlimited calling, texting and GSM (2G) data.
You also need to know that every Galaxy S7 edge bought from T-Mobile is network locked, and you'll need to satisfy any requirements to have T-Mobile release it. You can use the fancy Device Unlock app we talked about earlier, or contact T-Mobile in person or over the phone to have it done. Network unlocking is also available from third-parties you can find online.
Don't let any of this stress you out too much. Remember that T-Mobile wants your business, and a phone call goes a long way when it comes to making sense of it all. And there are often plans and pricing that you can only get from a T-Mobile representative which aren't advertised on the website. The number you need is 1-877-464-8646, and folks can help you in English or Spanish.
The bottom line
T-Mobile doesn't work for everyone. No carrier ever does. You need to investigate how well any service provider works in the places you live, work and play. Coverage maps are a good start, but they rarely tell the whole story. Never be afraid to ask the people using a service how happy they are with it.
It's hard not to recommend the Galaxy S7 in either the "normal" or edge configuration. The S7 edge is more sizable, but not unwieldy like we've seen from similar sized phones like the Note 4 or Nexus 6. Making it more narrow changes how it feels in your hands and in your pockets. It's a great choice for folks not interested in something more compact, and the bigger battery is always appreciated. Right now, this is really the only thing left to consider because the Galaxy S7 simply eclipses most everything else that we've seen. In fact, other companies are going to find that it's difficult to make a phone this good, let alone any better.
If T-Mobile's plans and service fit into your lifestyle and budget, I don't think you'll find that they are selling anything better when it comes to phone choices.
Even though I'm hardly a fan of the everything but the kitchen sink approach Samsung has with their premium phones, I'd still recommend the Galaxy S7 edge as the best Android phone of 2016 so far. The amazing hardware makes it worth looking past any misgivings you may have about app clutter and overlapping features, and once you start using it you'll see that none of it has any real impact on how well the phone performs when doing the things you want it to do. There's nothing here that makes me leery of telling you to go out and buy one, and the fact that T-Mobile hasn't done what we see from Verizon or AT&T when it comes to annoying, unremovable apps and nonsense that nobody will ever want makes this version a bit better than the rest. Samsung also seems to have stepped up when it comes to more timely security updates, which are important. We expect the trend to continue.
One last thing to mention is that the boot loader is locked and encrypted, unlike previous Galaxy models from T-Mobile. While this provides better security for the masses, it also means that the T-Mobile Galaxy S7 edge might never be boot loader unlocked. If you don't know what this means, or simply don't care about it, you're good. If you do care, know in advance that while you may own the hardware, someone else has some control over what you do with it. Don't buy this one with the expectations that someone will find a workaround lest you be disappointed. The Nexus 6P works well on T-Mobile, and that's what you're looking for.
If T-Mobile's plans and service fit into your lifestyle and budget, I don't think you'll find that they are selling anything better when it comes to phone choices. And I have a feeling that we're going to continue to feel this way for the best part of 2016.
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