Oh how quickly time flies. It's hard to believe that the Galaxy S7 has already been on sale for over six months, as we published our review on March 8. The GS7 has been what I consider my "primary" phone since then (with requisite time spent away from it with review devices), so I've racked up plenty of experience using Samsung's base-level flagship since it was launched.
Revisiting a phone several months after reviewing it gives necessary perspective, particularly as sales continue and potential buyers keep considering the Galaxy S7. So how has it stood up to a half-year of use? Read on for my experiences.
Still holds up
Galaxy S7 Hardware
I wrote our review of the Galaxy S7 edge, but never could get comfortable with the larger curved screen and immediately gravitated to using the "standard" Galaxy S7 instead. The 5.1-inch screen and svelte overall body are just the right size for me: big enough to not feel cramped, and small enough to fit in my pocket and manage with a single hand.
After months of use, my Galaxy S7 is still looking rather pristine, though I'm admittedly not too rough on any of my phones as they often spend hours a day sitting on a desk. I'm also cognizant of the dangers of scratches, bumps and drops while I travel, and my GS7 usually lives in a clear TPU case or Samsung's battery pack case when I hit the road.
My GS7 has spent 80% of its life outside a case, and hasn't picked up any cosmetic damage.
With that being said, my GS7 has probably spent 80% of its life outside of a case, and really hasn't picked up any cosmetic damage. The metal frame has a few tiny scratches, and the back glass is the one place where damage is pretty unavoidable — you can see a few shallow scratches and swirls from sliding around on various surfaces. No cracks or pits in the glass on either side, though, which is a huge victory — and considering how well the GS7 is made I'm not surprised.
The Galaxy S7's display continues to be marvelous, from its punchy colors and crisp resolution to its fantastic daylight visibility. Samsung's displays have been class-topping for a couple years now, and while there are plenty of other phones out there with great displays, they all come up a little short of Samsung's AMOLEDs. Some people aren't as drawn to its over-saturated look, but I quite enjoy it — and if you prefer something more true to life you can tune it back in the settings.
Water resistance has saved my phone numerous times, but it's really about the peace of mind.
Over the past six months I've been using some other phones, too, and I'm regularly reminded how awesome it is to come back to the Galaxy S7 with its water resistance. Though more and more phones are adding some level of resistance, it isn't entirely ubiquitous, nor is it up to the same IP68 rating that Samsung uses. I don't use the Galaxy S7 to take photos under water, nor am I going out of my way to get it wet — but it's just one less thing to worry about when I'm carrying around a $650 phone. I set it out when I'm at the pool, rather than stuffing it in a bag. I leave it in my pocket when I'm walking on the beach and don't have to be worried about a rogue wave ruining it. I can put it on a crowded dinner table even though it's practically inevitable someone will spill a drink. And importantly for Seattle, I can use the phone while I'm on the sidewalk in the rain and not be worried.
Galaxy S7 Daily use
The phone's hardware is a known quantity that doesn't change with use, but the software and experience can certainly deteriorate over time and erode your enthusiasm for a phone. Modern devices are pretty much always going to be quick and show off their features well when you're in a store, or in the first couple days of use, but how well those features still work several months on shows the true character of a phone.
Software and performance
We use our phones all day every day, and a common refrain is how they slow down over time. My Galaxy S7 has survived this seemingly inevitable deterioration of performance, thankfully, despite loading it up with all of my usual apps and using it exactly as I do any other phone.
Performance is still absolutely great, even after 6 months of use.
Now considering the Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM inside this really shouldn't come as a surprise, as the hardware inside really is overkill for most of what we do. It's difficult to know how well a phone will far longterm during the initial review period. But now I know that the Galaxy S7 handles my daily needs the same now as it did when I first received it.
The software hasn't had to grow on me at all, as I was already plenty happy with it when I first used the phone. Samsung's interface is consistent and just fine on the eyes, so my only real complaint at this point is the pile of duplicative apps that can't be disabled or uninstalled. I often use other apps as my defaults for functions like calendar and email, and I want to be able to remove Samsung's versions so they're no longer cluttering my app drawer and settings — this just isn't possible given how deeply Samsung bakes them into its system. At this point, it's the one area that still detracts from my enjoyment of Galaxy phones.
When it comes to software updates, Samsung has done better than expected, while at the same time leaving us a bit underwhelmed. The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge have both received monthly security patches with a regular cadence, but they've been delayed by a few weeks in most cases. They've also been inconsistent across carriers and regions, with Canadian carriers being particularly poor at working with Samsung to push updates and some regions not receiving updates at anywhere near a monthly interval.
The single downside of the smaller size of the Galaxy S7 is its smaller battery, which leads to consistently adequate — but not astounding — battery life. I know exactly how long my phone's going to last based on what I'm doing that day, and with my average use that means not worrying about charging until I head to bed at night. I don't need to watch what I do on the phone, use power saving mode or even turn off the battery-draining Always On Display. I've continued to use the GS7 like I do any other phone and the battery holds up.
If I have to go hard on the phone I may be down in the danger zone by nighttime, and if I'm traveling I'm almost guaranteed to have to pop on the Samsung battery case or hit a wall plug for 45 minutes, but those are fringe cases that don't ruin the experience for me. Few phones out there can handle a full day of travel or hours of hotspotting on top of my normal use, and I don't expect the GS7 with its 3000 mAh battery to provide any more than it does.
Even six months later, I still hold the Galaxy S7 camera as the standard by which other phones are measured. Not only in terms of overall photo quality in a vast range of situations, but in the general experience. The Galaxy S7 still consistently launches faster — with a simple double press of the home button — than any other phone, presents you with a simple interface and captures shots the instant you press the shutter button.
The photos you can get out of the Galaxy S7 still blow me away, and the consistency from shot to shot is still there. The low light shots are generally fantastic, but are admittedly a little grainy and can sometimes rely too much on a high ISO versus a slow shutter speed in situations where there are both bright and dark parts of a scene. But that decision makes sense from the perspective of keeping images crisp — the main feature most are looking for.
If you're willing to switch into Manual mode you can tweak things for some really great shots, including long exposures using a tripod, but the important part is that it isn't necessary. You can get great photos time after time in full Auto with Auto HDR turned on.
Age is just a number
The bottom line, six months on
Samsung has likely already sold tens of millions of Galaxy S7s at this point, and now six months on many of them are coming to the same conclusion that I have: the GS7 is still a damn good phone. Although there will always be questions about fragility of a glass body, the sturdiness and outstanding feel of the GS7's hardware is undeniable, and I really enjoy using it. The screen hasn't been surpassed by any phone in the meantime, and I personally appreciate its manageable size next to all of the other mainstream phones that have gravitated toward 5.5 inches.
Just as importantly, the daily experience on offer from the Galaxy S7 is still great, even after several months using the phone and loading it up with all kinds of apps and data. I still wish that Samsung would scale back on its duplicative apps that can't be disabled or uninstalled, but the interface is slick and fast, with no performance issues. At the same time, battery life is good enough to get your through a day without worrying about hitting a charger. And then you have the camera, always waiting and ready to snap a picture at a moment's notice with excellent results in a variety of situations.
Considering how well the Galaxy S7 has held up to my use, I still have no hesitation in recommending it someone who wants the best of hardware, performance and camera in a phone that's still a manageable size. Even six months on with some price cuts the GS7 is still quite expensive, but it continues to offer excellent value that few other phones can match.
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