Samsung Galaxy S7 And S7 Edge: Australian Hands On

The new Samsung Galaxy S7 isn't the most interesting phone at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. That's LG, with its modular G5. But the S7 and its S7 edge companion is more important, because the changes under the hood are significant and that will make Australia's most popular phone after the iPhone more useful for everyone that will buy it. Here's why I think Samsung has a real good year to look forward to.

The Design: Simple, Straightforward

The new Galaxy S7 is a tiny bit thicker than the S6 it's replacing — 7.9mm versus 6.8mm — and a tiny bit heavier — 152g versus 138g. You don't notice that straight away when you pick the phone up, though, because it feels just about on par with what we've come to expect from a phone of its size and shape. What you do notice is how it feels to hold compared to last year's iteration; the slightly curved edges of the rear panel, like the style seen on the Note 5, make it more comfortable to palm and easier to wrap your fingers around. The same is broadly true of the larger S7 edge as well.

When you look at it for the first time, the S7 looks... normal. It doesn't have any crazy design cues, it doesn't have any out-of-left-field tweaks like a concave screen or a power button surrounding the rear camera. And that's a good thing! Like the iPhone, Samsung is finally making its smartphones for mass worldwide adoption and that means it has to be sensible about the decisions it makes. And that is why it is so excellent to be able to say that the S7 and S7 edge are both water resistant and dust tight, with the highest possible IP68 rating, and also support microSD.

That microSD storage — up to 200GB in a single card — is great for enthusiasts, the people that want to store hundreds of TV shows or movies or thousands of songs and high-resolution photos. But the water resistance is something that'll affect a lot of people, that will stop phones dying in the rain or after being dropped in the bath. It's also good that the S7 doesn't look like a waterproofed phone, like Sony's Z3 and Z5 smartphone family — it's a normal phone, for normal people, just with a little bit of extra skill and precision having gone into its manufacturing.

The Screen: No Huge Gains Made Here

For the most part, the S7 and S7 edge's 5.1-inch and 5.5-inch Super AMOLED displays are the same on paper as last year's S6 and S6 edge+ — despite, of course, the fact that the new S7 edge's size sits between the 5.7-inch S6 edge+ and the 5.1-inch S6 edge, both of which will be eventually phased out with the S7 edge taking their place as Samsung's chief fashion-forward smartphone. Last year's panels, both 2560x1440 pixels, were excellent, so no complaints from me.

Samsung has introduced an always-on element into the occasion, though, using OLED's self-lighting pixels to efficiently display a digital or analogue clock or calendar display even when the rest of the S7's display is powered down. The always-on display can be enabled or tweaked or disabled in settings, of course, but a few of the digital options are actually quite attractive — I'd leave them on on my particular S7.

One thing I did notice on the S7 edge I test-drove for a few minutes was the excellent range of brightness that was on offer when the automatic ambient brightness adjustment was disabled. The minimum screen brightness was very dark, which should make for excellent night-time or cinema-room reading, while the maximum brightness is eye-searingly bright — similarly useful for glancing at your phone when you're outside on a sunny day.

The Camera: A Huge Improvement, Again

When we talk about smartphone cameras, we always say how much they've improved since the last generation. And it's true, the advancement is always rapid — it massively outpaces digital SLR or mirrorless camera development. But you're still working with a tiny imaging sensor with an extremely basic set of lens elements and a relatively high megapixel count, and those three things conspire to make it difficult to take photos in anything but the best and brightest lighting conditions.

The S7 and S7 edge's cameras have improved where it matters. There are fewer imaging megapixels — from 16 megapixels on the S6 to 12 on the S7 — but their individual size is larger at 1.4um, letting in 56 per cent more light than the 1.12um of the previous model. The lens' maximum (and fixed) aperture is down to f/1.7 from the f/1.9 of the S6, letting in another 25 per cent more light. And holding the two phones side by side in dark conditions, you really can tell the difference. And focusing is a huge improvement, nearly instant versus a second or more on the old phone.

Apple has always been ahead of the game in not caring how many megapixels its phone cameras have; Samsung has caught up to that trend, and it's been a long time coming. Zoom in on a S7 photo snapped in normal lighting and you'll see a good amount of detail for a smartphone photo — perhaps as much detail as I've ever seen in a smartphone JPEG. But it's crucially not oversharpened or or oversaturated, and actually looks quite Apple-esque in its detail and colour gradation from my quick testing — and that's quite impressive.

The Hardware: Plenty Of Power Under The Hood

Going on the trend of previous years, Samsung will bring its in-house-developed Exynos 8 Octa 8890 chipset to Australia inside the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. (Other markets around the world get the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 that LG has inside its new G5.) It's an octa-core with a quad 2.3GHz and a quad 1.6GHz setup, made using the most advanced chipset production process currently available. And that means it runs cool and efficient, doing great things for battery life.

That battery is improved again, up to 3000mAh cell size in the S7 and 3600mAh in the larger S7 Edge. That, along with the more efficient processor, should do very good things for battery life. Those kind of upgrades are always incremental — don't suddenly expect two-day battery life from these new phones — but we should finally be reaching that point where you can use your phone heavily all day and not have to worry about whether it'll last you long enough to get home and plug it in later that night.

The phone has grunt, though. I can't say for sure that it's lag free, because I haven't tested it enough to come to that conclusion yet, but it has more processing power than any Samsung phone before it and that means it has the lifting power to handle stitching 360-degree video from the Gear 360 together in a matter of seconds — that's a task that would usually require a proper PC and time and effort. 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM should make for fast app switching, and in my short time with the phone I'd say that's true too.

Gizmodo traveled to Mobile World Congress as a guest of Samsung.


Comments

    I want it!

    Can't justify that cash on a phone though, the last flagship I bought (the google G1) cost $1080 including the 18 month contract cost!

    Think I'll get the S5, $45 a month on Vodafone, can't go wrong.

      Nah dont get the S5. Terrible Camera, especially on the front. S6 is definitely worth the upgrade.

        I am using S5 and my wife use S6. I agree that both front and back camera sucks especially in low light. S6 camera is greater. Wait for S7 lanch n S6 price will drop. Go get S6 unless ur priority is additional storage and water resistance. Go for S7 if u want them all.

      Yeah S5 has one of the worst cameras I've seen. S6 should be cheap now and cheaper when this comes out also.

      Fourth not getting the S5. I picked one up a few months ago and I was really disappointed, bad camera and the display isn't as sharp as it should be for 1080x1920. Also a few mm wider than the newer models so not comfortable in the hand. I'm lucky Big W let me return it because of an audio problem. Save up for something better.

        Cheers for the advice everyone!

        How about the Moto G 2015 ?

    does it have anything to go up against Apples 3D touch?

      Does Apple have anything to go up against it's wireless charging, water resistance or expandable memory?

        I'm an Android user, I just think Apples 3D touch is cool.

          They are just trolls, who has no idea, that it is just a phone.

            I see what you did they're

      3d touch , seems a fairly insignificant feature , look at the other features the Apple device does not have, add to that the stiffness and blandness of iOS I wouldn't trade any good Android device for it, or what is looking to be a great one such as the S7, but to reach his own.

        again, Android user. I've had every iteration of the Galaxy Note since it's first release. I just think a pressure sensitive screen could do wonders for the the Note series of devices as well as other Android Devices. I was curious if the S7 had anything like it because if it does then it's very likely that the next Note will have it too. it's all information thats going to aid in what phone I choose next later this year.

          I have a 6s Plus and honestly don't yet find 3D Touch too useful. The problem is while apps have to predominately support phones that don't have the feature, all the most useful functions remain easily accessible via non force touch gestures. I suspect it's a feature that will be more useful on the iPhone in years to come as everyone has a 6s or newer device and developers can assume users will have support for it. In turn apps can use it in more fundamental and interesting ways than just providing shortcuts to existing functions.

          It's probably a feature that will take time to mature and that'd likely be true for Android devices too when similar features hit handsets. I'm sure some will get it soon, but I wouldn't feel like you're missing out by not having one of the earlier handsets to support it.

    I saw the photo and thought it was a 5S and a 6S. I guess all phones are going to basically look the same for the next decade or so.
    Glad to see the cameras going for performance rather than megapixels.

    Looks very Iphone...ish

    You mean a rectangle with a flat screen, home button, headphone jack, power button, volume rocker and front and back facing cameras?

    I was initially hanging out for the announcement of the S7 to upgrade my N5 which is starting to have issues.

    But after a web chat with Telstra earlier today, I've switched my previous $50 BYO plan, to a N5X, the same $1000 talk which I previously had and a bump to 3.5GB of data all for $60 per month. Really happy with the deal they came up with for me, and after thinking about it, after using pure Android for the last few years, I'm not sure I would enjoy going back a manufactures UI.

      Whilst I'm a big fan of stock Android, Google really needs to work on improving some of their built-in apps before it can truly be a great, attractive OS for the majority of users.

      On my N7 recently I was trying to edit a picture sent to my Gmail as an attachment, but "Download" would only save it in a hidden temp directory where it was inaccessible and not available in Photos. I had to "Share" it to Photos first to actually "download" and save it to Downloads (huh?) and edit it. It was fairly confusing! You would think that hitting "download" on your file would actually download and make it accessible but it didn't.

      By contrast on a Samsung, you save any photo from any source, it shows up in Gallery immediately and you can edit it without an issue.

      I know you could install a 3rd-party app to stock Android and solve it that way, but the point is that the built-in apps should be good enough at the basics to not need to unless the new app offers something unique.

        Installing your chosen 3rd party app to edit pictures is far preferable to trying to deal with Samsung's dreadful bloatware and crapware. A lot of that bloatware cannot even be disabled, let alone uninstalled (unless you root the phone and void your warranty).

        On my S5 I have many excellent many 3rd party apps, which I use daily, However, Samsung's unremovable crapware still interferes and won't let some of those 3rd party apps function properly.

        My next phone will be a Nexus.

          You're preaching to the choir there mate!

          Most of Samsung's addons are unnecessary and bloated, I totally agree. ChatOn for instance is ridiculous - there are so many other better messaging solutions out there that are regularly in use, Samsung should just give up on it. Bundling crap like Flipboard that most people never use as well, etc. They really should just stay away from anything extra like that. The worst for me is their TTS application that takes up a tonne of space with voice packs for different languages when Google's works just fine. Obviously that is a feature provided for disabled people but they should allow it to be at least deleted if you don't want to use it or need certain languages.

          Having said that though, they are good at making easy, functional apps for basic functions. Like the aforementioned Gallery app for instance. They really need to stick to that IMO. Provide some core things to use out of the box and leave the rest alone.

            So all that Samsung 'bloatware' people talk about is still on the S7 ? I wouldn't pay this much for a phone but it is a nice looking thing indeed.

    Without USB 3 Type C... I have no real reason to upgrade from my old S5..... I'll wait till Samsung catches up with everyone else.

    Usb 3 type c lol if samsung hasn't used it already bet their is no current advantage right now to having it.
    Why?
    We charge more than we plug for data transfer. Currently Samsung has the fastest charge times and bet they don't see the point with the s7 to add the expense for show and tell just right now.

      I have USB type c on one of my phone's, I was happy to use the old style, day to day use I don't see much advantage to it, it may be a tad faster charging than my note 4, but there's not much in it, unless I wireless charge my note, which I find easier anyway, just leave it on the pad over night, ready to go in the morning, no fuss, no effort.

    Comparisions to the iphone 6s, which has a screen resoultion of 750p some relic of a screen from 2011. The Galaxy has a Qhd screen but nothing much has changed, at least its a world beater and not something from the archives for my money.

    Free Gear VR (valued at $160 australian) for pre-ordering the S7. Sold!

      That's what I'm thinking. The Vive and Rift don't seem refined enough to justify the cost, I'll muck around with toy VR until they drop the price (a lot) or come out with something less janky. Current VR will look so quaint in a few years time.

    The whole review is about hardware. What S7 may win in hardware specs, will lose in software and user experience. Its time to go......

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