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Should you upgrade to the Galaxy S7 from the Galaxy S5?

Despite all of the advancements in the Galaxy S6 last year, millions who owned and loved their Galaxy S5 weren't super impressed by the new version. Even though the phone was made with better materials, had a nicer screen and dramatically improved camera, the loss of a removable battery, SD card and waterproofing were big changes that didn't sit well with people.

In some ways, that makes the Galaxy S7 tailor-made for anyone who has a Galaxy S5 and skipped last year's phone — it has all of the same great qualities of the Galaxy S6, plus an SD card, waterproofing and dramatically improved battery.

With most Galaxy S5 owners coming up on two years with their phone, it's time to consider an upgrade — we're going to explore if the GS7 is the way to go.

Hardware and specs

Should you upgrade to the Galaxy S7 from the Galaxy S5?

In terms of how the phones look and feel in use, is this even a contest? No, it is not. The Galaxy S7 is a marvel of modern smartphone engineering. The Galaxy S5 ... well, it wasn't that great even the day it was released, and it hasn't aged particularly well. The metal and glass construction of the GS7, despite its similarity to the GS6, is extremely impressive — although it sure is susceptible to dings and scratches over time. The GS5 may be a bit more robust, and easier to grip onto with the rubbery textured back, but I wouldn't ever make that trade off when it involves the bland and cheap physical design of the phone.

The great thing here is that Samsung has kept the smaller screen size of the Galaxy S5 consistent in the Galaxy S7, meaning you don't have to give up your compact and manageable phone in order to move to the latest in specs and capabilities. The two phones are almost the exact same height and thickness, and the GS7 is actually a couple millimeters narrower, making it even easier to hold.

Is this even a contest? No, it is not.

The screen size may have stayed the same, but the quality has definitely increased over the last two years. The bump from 1920x1080 resolution up to 2560x1440 immediately makes everything crisper, but it's the other parts of the display that have really improved: brightness, colors and viewing angles also upped their game a couple of notches. The Galaxy S5 surprisingly still holds its own today with a really solid display, but Samsung has moved on to much better since then.

More striking a difference can be found in the fingerprint sensors on these two phones. Well, saying "sensor" in reference to the Galaxy S5 is a bit of a misnomer, as it's more of a "scanner" that requires you swipe the tip of your finger over the entirety of the home button. That alone makes the experience really bad, even though it's just as secure as the one-touch component on the Galaxy S7. Moving to the newer style will feel like a revelation.

Internally, there are notable updates. The Galaxy S5's Snapdragon 801 is still a very capable processor, but you can't argue with the increased power, graphics performance and efficiency of moving to the Snapdragon 820 (or Samsung's Exynos 8 Octa) — particularly when you're talking about a phone you're likely to use for two years after buying it. The same goes for the jump to 4GB from 2GB of RAM

CategoryGalaxy S7Galaxy S5
Operating SystemAndroid 6.0 MarshmallowAndroid 5.1 Lollipop
Display5.1-inch 2560x1440
5.1-inch 1920x1080
ProcessorQuad-core Snapdragon 820
or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8
Quad-core Snapdragon 801
ExpandablemicroSD up to 200GBmicroSD up to 128GB
Rear Camera12MP f/1.7
1.4-micron pixels
16MP f/2.2
1.12-micron pixels
Front Camera5MP f/1.72MP f/2.4
Battery3000 mAh
2800 mAh
Fast charging
Qi wireless
Powermat wireless
micro-USB 3.0
Water resistanceIP68 ratingIP67 rating
SecurityOne-touch fingerprint sensorSwipe fingerprint scanner
Dimensions142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm142.0 x 72.5 x 8.1mm
Weight152g145 g

Software and performance

Should you upgrade to the Galaxy S7 from the Galaxy S5?

Much like the hardware, the Galaxy S5's software is starting to show its age. The Android 5.1.1 Lollipop currently available on the phone is much nicer than the Android 4.4 KitKat it launched with, but is a clear step behind the much slicker and visually appealing Android 6.0 Marshmallow that's available on the Galaxy S7. We tend to forget just how old that software looks when we're busy paying attention to the latest stuff ... and make no mistake, it looks old on the GS5 — the colors, transitions and odd features just don't look great nowadays.

Interestingly, the Galaxy S5 actually holds up pretty darn well in terms of daily performance — remember, we're still talking about a Snapdragon 801 processor here, powering just a 1080p display. Firing mine back up after a good amount of time in a deep slumber, I was surprised by how well it still performs in my typical use of apps. The Galaxy S5 alone doesn't exhibit much stuttering through the interface ... everything just moves at a bit slower pace. Setting it next to a Galaxy S7 you can tell things are slower all around on the older phone, but that's to be expected.

The software doesn't look great at this point, but the performance has actually held up well.

We know that Marshmallow will make its way to the Galaxy S5 at some point, presumably after the rollout for the Galaxy S6 series of phones is finished, but what we don't know is just how much of the Galaxy S7 experience will be coming back to the older phone. Chances are a few of the features will be left behind, but if the visual changes make their way back and performance can stay high then that update may give some legs to the old Galaxy S5.

In terms of battery life, it's a win for the Galaxy S7. Being able to swap out the Galaxy S5's battery was a bit of a crutch for it, as its 2800 mAh capacity just wasn't quite enough for a day of heavy use. With a larger (3000 mAh) battery and more efficient processor the Galaxy S7 can handle a full day much easier than the two-generation-old phone, though it isn't quite the battery campion that the larger Galaxy S7 edge is.

Add in the new charging features available in the Galaxy S7, which includes Samsung's Adaptive Fast Charging (compatible with Quick Charge 2.0) and both leading wireless charging standards, and you have a much improved overall battery experience. Not only will the Galaxy S7 last longer on an average day, but it's quicker to get charged up when your reserves run low.

Camera quality

Should you upgrade to the Galaxy S7 from the Galaxy S5?

Besides the hardware of the Galaxy S7, the next largest jump to observe is the improvement in camera performance. For its time the Galaxy S5 was actually pretty impressive for daytime shots, but where Samsung came up amazingly short was in low-light performance. The GS5's lack of OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and weak combination of a small sensor and f/2.2 lens just didn't provide enough light to get any good shots in even decent lighting. That hasn't changed any over time.

Again, this isn't really a close competition.

Now in 2016, Samsung is completely hanging its hat on low light camera performance in the Galaxy S7. The new sensor and lens come together to give you lots of light in even troubling conditions, and it's a real treat to use. The daylight performance isn't miles ahead of the Galaxy S5 in the same way, but it is noticeably better in terms of clarity and particularly in focusing speed. Take a look at a few sample shots here to see how the two compare.

Galaxy S7 (left) / Galaxy S5 (right); click images to view larger

The photos are higher quality across the board here, and low light shots in particular aren't even in the same realm. But beyond the photo quality, the Galaxy S7's camera is much faster to open and take shots, quicker to focus in every situation and more capable with new video recording modes, a full manual camera mode and automatic HDR when shooting in auto mode.

At this point it's clearly established that there's far more to this upgrade than just one area, but the big jump in camera quality is one area that's going to weigh heavily on many people's decision.

The bottom line

Should you upgrade to the Galaxy S7 from the Galaxy S5?

Moving from your current phone two years later to the newest model of the same device definitely feels like the path of least resistance, but in this case it's also just a really good decision. Whereas upgrading to the Galaxy S6 last year would've been more costly and involved losing some features that Galaxy S5 owners coveted, this year there isn't really anything to complain about. The Galaxy S5 is still a fine phone today, actually, but we wouldn't blame you for looking for something new — and if you choose the Galaxy S7, you're getting a dramatically improved hardware experience, a better screen, better performance (now and into the future) and a mind-blowing step up in camera quality.

You got your money out of the GS5 — time to move on.

At the same time, in the upgrade process you haven't lost waterproofing (though you did lose the USB port flap!), the SD card slot, the compact size or the familiarity with Samsung's software and services. Sure the battery can't be removed anymore, but the battery is also bigger and accompanied by fast charging and wireless charging tech — that just isn't a reason to hold yourself back.

And because you're likely coming up on two years using the Galaxy S5, chances are there will be some financial incentives that will help with your Galaxy S7 purchase. If you bought your GS5 outright you've gotten your money out of it at this point (but obviously, look into selling it anyway), and if you were on a contract it'll be time to get your carrier to help out a bit in terms of a financing or lease program. Now that doesn't mean the Galaxy S7 is inexpensive in any way — it's still going to set you back at least $600 — but considering all of the factors this is going to be a pretty easy upgrade to make.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • Should I upgrade from my Galaxy s3 haha Posted via the Android Central App
  • S3? That's hardcore. Posted via the Android Central App
  • epic 4G touch?? XD Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Yep still use my Galaxy S3 Everyday. Not a single thing wrong with it. Screen has no scratches or cracks. ( the phone has never been out of a case it's whole life). The phone never gives me amy trouble. I would like to upgrade but at the same time I still like my S3 Posted via the Android Central App
  • bs32315 you are a happy go lucky Galaxy 3 user. My Galaxy 2 and 3 died of untimely death at the age of 13 and 14 months, right after the warranty expired. How convenient. Freezing screen. Battery drains while device is off. Using up internet data in 48 hrs with the device being off. Missed calls, echooo s, Will not turn on sometimes. You name it. Got me NEXUS 5 and a piece of mind. Saved a bundle on psychiatrist. Those Galaxies drove me nuts. My NEXUS 5 with the Marshmallow is like a new phone, never a problem – fast and furious. My new NEXUS 6P is the best Android. I use only Pure Android or OIS (my wife that is). Don’t change it if it ain’t broken. Good luck.
  • To William. I would trade my Galaxy s3 for Nexus phone anyday Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hi, you can get the NEXUS 6P for $50 less. I got the 64gb memory, which I don't need. Paid $550.00 plus tax. You can get the 32 gb for $449.00 plus tax, free shipping. It is a very best, compared to iPhone 6+ or the Galaxy 7, especially for what you pay, plus you will always be up to date. Wish you the best of luck.
  • We are all different and like different things,
    I bought a 6P myself a while ago, I just can't grow to liking it, it doesn't do to much wrong as far as a smart phone goes , but I can't seem to like it after owning 2 galaxy notes , the device is pretty basic, pure Android is fairly basic too.
    By the same token I'm not sorry I bought it to try out and see what pure Android is about, but it will be getting the bullet pretty quick compared to my notes.
    I still use my note 4 more often than the 6p , it feels better to me and has a lot more features, it's not as quick, but speed isn't everything.
    And that is probably relevant to the thread at hand,
    if your happy with the way your old device works why not hang on to it,
  • oldmick, Your comment is quite reasonable. I, myself am not a fanatic about the smart phone I use. However, true to my nature, speed and battery life are important. That's why I am a pure Android man, NEXUS 5, 7, 6p, all the way. I enjoy my 6P though it took me about three months to get use to the size of it. It is a fine pone but I feel the weight in the pocket of my jacket. My all time favorite "phone" is the NEXUS 5, which I managed to change for a brand new one at a low cost of $58. It fits better in my hand than the 6P. Well, that was until today. I applaud Apple for its wise decision to retain the classic design of the iPhone 5S, update the inside of it and introduce a new iteration of an iPhone , a beautiful, sensible, fast and practical phone at a reasonable price. Well, I like it a lot and think the 5SE will be my first iPhone.
  • On paper, but you will be back. If you are a Nexus fan, there is no substitute, not even a shinny new iphone. But I do think you are right, Apple see's the writing on the wall, there is a market for smaller phones. Others will follow, so it shouldn't be long before you got some more choices in Android.
  • Still in the S3 camp too. Bought the S6 Active last summer & sold it within two weeks. No issues with it at all, but went back to my still working S3 that is still on its original battery from June 2012. Have never had a phone last as long as this one has. That said, will be looking into the S7A in May/June when it is released.
  • My coworker still rocks an S3. Says he has no reason to upgrade, despite the fact that the phone's a wall hugger and he won't replace the battery.
    That would drive me nuts. Posted via Xperia Z5
  • Lol, my sister too, but after a couple of replacements, it seems like she is pleased.
  • That would drive me nuts also having to charge all the time like that. I just change the battery when mines does start to hold a charge Posted via the Android Central App
  • Great user name...Meshuggah \m/
  • My mother still uses an S3 lol, she doesn't see a reason to upgrade, she's on prepaid gophone and would have to pay the full price upfront.
  • Lol, gs3 still good budget phone Posted via Samsung Galaxy S5 model SM-G900A running 5.1.1 AT&T
  • not really at this point. There are brand new budget options that are a far better choice.
  • Common bro don't bring S3 and S4 to the table, they are nice but display is horrible, S5 display as good as S6 and S7, S6 and S7 has are faster and brighter of course camera on S6 and S7 are lot better. Last but not least S6 and S7 are extremely beautiful phones. with SD slot on S7 definitely worth the upgrade. to tell the truth I'm still S5 because I just can't give up photo face tag 'cause it's the most important feature for me. for you guys not a big deal because 9 out of 10 Samsung users don't even know the feature exist and 9 of of 10 out of 10 Samsung users not fully understand and master the Touchwiz. Just buy the S7 you won't regret. DO not ever give if you don't know how to use the phone, go Youtube search for tips and tricks
  • 1080p on a 5" screen is not horrible...and one of the best screen-to-phone ratio. The 3 iterations of the S line after didn't entice me to switch from it. HTC One and the next Note are my only hope.
  • Of course. The S7 has the benefits of the S5 along with a better camera, battery, screen, design, processor, and lighter TouchWiz. This isn't even a question. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not all of the benefits. Lack of a removable battery is a deal-breaker. Plus the locked bootloaders across all carriers. No sale.
  • It is a question? Posted via Samsung Galaxy S5 model SM-G900A running 5.1.1 AT&T
  • The Galaxy S5 is probably the most disappointing one among the Galaxy S line. It looked like Samsung was just trying to throw a phone at their consumers just in time. I really think it was a sad looking phone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I had the S5, I got rid of it within 6 months. I hated that phone. It Forced this terrible voice dialer app instead of google voice when using bluetooth. Made it almost impossible to make a phone call in my car. I absolutely love the S7 though!!
  • I immediately flashed my S5 with a non-carrier ROM and have loved it since day. Any issues you had weren't inherent problems with the hardware. As for "looks"... just put it in a case like any sane person. Pick whatever case appeals to your subjective tastes.
  • I think it still looks nice Posted via Samsung Galaxy S5 model SM-G900A running 5.1.1 AT&T
  • This could've been a one word article. :)
  • "No, wait for the HTC 10" I counted more than one... Huh, weird.... Posted via the Android Central App
  • LOL, good one
  • We upgraded my wife's S5. She the type that will use a phone till the screen falls off but the performance for the S5 went to crap. 16GB version. She couldn't be happier. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have mine as a backup, its stuck on 5.0 :/ Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • I don't even know if hers is on 5.0 lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • It should get 6.0 By summer of 2017 Posted via the Android Central App
  • So soon? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Joe.... you mean 6.5, when the S7 is on 8.0
  • I was going to post the same thing, I upgraded my wife's S5 to the S7 Edge and its more than worth it because of the Battery and the camera. The low light performance is amazing. I use a Note 4 and i am about the pull the trigger for the S7 Edge but I am holding out for the Note 6.
  • Unless you really need that removable battery, you should. Huge upgrade on so many levels. Pretty much a no-brainer at this point. Used the Edge for a couple of days and came away impressed. Definitely my next daily driver if my current one fails spontaneously.
  • And like countless people, I really need a removable battery. I don't want to: 1) Be tethered to a wall or a power brick when my battery is dead
    2) Be forced to buy a new phone in 1-2 years when the battery is too weak to be of much use. Plus the S7 gets a 3 out of 10 repairability score at iFixit. Considering how often devices break, especially screens... no thank you.
  • sremick, I agree with you 100% that a removable battery is a must. But I need to give you 1 very important piece of advise. put a piece of black electrical tape over the contacts of the battery when its removed from the phone. I had a battery from my previous S3 explode in my pocket causing third degreee burns to my leg and second degree on my hand from removing the battery from my pants that caught fire. No joke, True story... I still carry an extra battery but always cover the contacts with electrical tape.
  • Wow. I've never heard of that happening, but damn. I hope you were able to recover from such a horrific situation. On that note, the extra battery for my G4 did have a plastic case. If your extra battery has that, use it, or keep it in its charging case.
  • No brainer to keep gs5 Posted via Samsung Galaxy S5 model SM-G900A running 5.1.1 AT&T
  • Opps, dropped my phone, guess you have to upgrade now.
  • Very tempting.
    I wish Samsung makes a GPE of S7
  • I upgraded from the S5 last week to the edge, I have to admit the S5 worked well for me but the S7 edge is a nice upgrade well worth it Posted via the Android C