Samsung Galaxy S7 Hands On: The Six Things You Need To Know

Galaxy S7 Hands-On: The Six Things You Need to Know

Samsung revealed its new flagship smartphone -- the Galaxy S7 -- this week at Mobile World Congress (MWC), and we were lucky enough to get our hands on the device for a short demo. After spending a few minutes testing the device, it became clear that Samsung can still makes a great Android phone.

The Galaxy S7 is all about refinement: The camera is, once again, better than last year's model. The build quality has been improved again, too. But most important of all, Samsung brought back the expandable memory slot, so you can increase your storage with a cheap micro-SD card. There's a lot to love in the Galaxy S7, and its slightly thinner counterpart, the Galaxy S7 Edge. Here's a quick rundown of the six things you need to know about the new devices:

Water resistance and expandable storage is back

Galaxy S7 Hands-On: The Six Things You Need to Know

Despite the Galaxy S6's refined design last year, its lack of expandable storage and water resistance was, for many people, a huge loss. The Galaxy S7 is different. By using a hybrid SIM tray, the S7 can hold up to 200GB of expandable storage. It's also IP68 rated, meaning it can survive a drop in 2m of water for 30 minutes. That also means you could theoretically shower with the phone -- though jets of water disrupt the capacitive touchscreen, so it wouldn't be usable. But it would survive the soak. If that's something you're into... (I'm not weird, you're weird!)

Samsung was also able to shave a millimetre or two off the camera bump on the back of the phone. It also employs the Galaxy Note 5's curved back, which makes the phone much easier to hold. It's easily one of the most comfortable phones I've palmed in a while.

The Galaxy's great camera is now even greater

Galaxy S7 Hands-On: The Six Things You Need to Know

I'm going to save my thorough analysis for our official review coming in a few weeks, but the few minutes I spent thumbing around with the S7's camera left an indelible impression. The big bump in performance is obsessively focused on low-light settings. Although the camera drops from 16 megapixels to 12, those bigger pixels let in 56 per cent more light, according to Samsung. With a f/1.7 aperture and a rearranged sensor layout for faster focus speeds, suddenly the Galaxy S7 comes with the most impressive phone camera system I've ever seen.

Despite being in a closed-off testing room like some pale-skinned agoraphobe, I peeled back a curtain to take a few test shots of the busy a New York City street -- much to the chagrin of one Samsung rep. Although I unfortunately don't have the sample, the shutter was lightning quick, the colour accuracy looked great in HDR, and the detail, even at max zoom, was undeniably impressive. If there's one thing to be excited about -- it's this responsive and accurate camera.

The Galaxy S7 is now "Always On"

Galaxy S7 Hands-On: The Six Things You Need to Know

Lots of smartphones have tried to provide around-the-clock information without completely draining the battery, but Samsung thinks its finally solved the puzzle. With its energy-efficient AMOLED display and Snapdragon 820 processor, the Galaxy S7 comes with an always-on option that can show the time, calendar, notifications, or even spartan wallpaper designs. The only downside is that the options are somewhat limited, and you can't read notifications. But if Samsung can truly bring all this info to the lock screen without sacrificing on battery life, it'd be a big plus.

Samsung gets serious about gaming and virtual reality

Galaxy S7 Hands-On: The Six Things You Need to Know

Samsung's always been on the forefront of using smartphones to power VR headsets, the S7 doesn't mess with the formula. The S7 will be compatible with its latest $199 Gear VR headset and Samsung will also be hocking its own Portal turret -- I mean, Gear 360 camera. You can create your VR stuff right on the S7 with the phones's processor doing all the video stitching. When connected to the S7, you can also get a live preview of what the camera is seeing and also cycle through different modes. You can read all about it right here.

But Samsung's new focus on gaming goes far beyond hardware. TouchWiz, the customised version of Android that powers the Galaxy S7, comes with a new gaming hub. The feature lets you shoot video and funnel incoming calls or texts into small on-screen icons, so you're not knocked out of any serious Candy Crush sessions. A lot of these tools are packed into other apps already, like Google Play Games, but Samsung's integration is much easier to use.

The "Edge" sucks way less

Galaxy S7 Hands-On: The Six Things You Need to Know

When Samsung launched the S6 Edge, it definitely had "woah" street appeal, but not much else. Now, Samsung's doubling-down on its edgy decision by adding many more panels when you swipe from the side of the phone. Some of the new panels are even made by third-party developers. The edge feature is fully customisable and lets you build easy shortcuts to IFTTT-style commands. For example, if you tend to send a lot of emails to your boss, you can automate a shortcut that will automatically open your email client with your boss's information already filled in.

The standard S7 comes with the improved apps edge (app shortcuts), people edge (contacts shortcuts), and the all-new tasks edge. These shortcut sidebars are now twice as big, too, giving you space to add even more shortcuts. But the bigger 13cm S7 Edge comes with a few more extras. The phone will still do its light dance when one your favourite contacts tries to call you, it looks like this on last year's S6:

Galaxy S7 Hands-On: The Six Things You Need to Know

Samsung also decided to partner with Yahoo for an improved edge experience on the larger S7 Edge smartphone. Yahoo brings sports scores, breaking news, and a bunch of other options that make the "Edge" feature a less of a gimmick and more of something you'd want to have. I'm still confused why the smaller S7 couldn't also have these features, but I guess it's just another difference between the two phones.

But a lot remains the same

Galaxy S7 Hands-On: The Six Things You Need to Know

Although the S7 is a refinement of last year's S6 -- with water resistance, expandable storage, and a better camera included -- Samsung's not reinventing the wheel here. The devices I used were loaded up with apps I didn't really want, including Microsoft apps that I couldn't even delete.

Samsung's also tweaked the design of TouchWiz to make it a feel a little more lightweight. It will still feel very familiar if you've used a Samsung device before. In fact, while testing the S7 I mistakenly picked up an S6 and didn't catch my error until I saw the outdated operating system. So, if you didn't like the design last year, you're probably not going to like it now.

Samsung also opted to keep using a micro-USB charger while many other Android phones have switched over to the new USB-C standard. That shouldn't be much of a problem for most people, but it's certainly worth noting.

Oh yeah, and there's no removable battery. C'est la vie.

If first impressions mean anything, Samsung has a winner on its hands with a great camera, design, and hardware. It's too early to tell if you search for a new smartphone ends here, but Samsung definitely just made its most enticing offer yet.



    Not many coverage mention about the lack of Infra Red on this new phone...
    I think we need someone to do complete phone that has everything and do it best (LG G5 is the closest one so far with removable battery and infra red, sadly the camera is under and battery is small size).

      Who uses IR these days?

        I do - when I can't be asked to find the TV remote. Honestly it's one of those things you don't need until you have it.

          Who the hell watches tv now days?

            Need to change the TV between HDMI or USB - personally i use my phone for this because im always losing my bedroom remote!

              Ditto - change from PS3 HDMI to Chromecast HDMI. The other day someone in the house was watching traditional TV - THE HORROR!!

                I've heard about traditional TV.......they're used in conjunction with analog phones.

                  MY wife makes me watch MKR sometimes...



                  The ads!!! We always build a buffer on the recording so we can forward them but even that is getting a bit old these days!!!!

                  MY wife makes me watch MKR sometimes...



                  The ads!!! We always build a buffer on the recording so we can forward them but even that is getting a bit old these days!!!!

                  traditional TVs were large and used big vacuum tubes and valves

                @paaj I've got a PS4 and Chromecast both connected by HDMI with HDMI CEC turned on, and I've found that if I'm using the PS4 or TV tuner and want to watch something using the Chromecast, I just have to load the app on my phone, press the cast icon and the TV will just change to the Chromecast without having manually selected its HDMI input. Might be worth trying on your setup to see if it works. Similarly if I want to use my PS4 I just press the Playstation button on the controller and the PS4 changes the TV to its own input by itself without any other intervention.

                  Thanks for the tips mate. I'll give them a go.

          Or just Use Smart Glass with a Xbox one with Tv Tuner. it does tv, movies, usb. pretty much everything

        I do!! It's great to be able to set my phone up as a TV/media centre remote.

          While they are at it can I request a floppy drive, I want to play kings quest.

        Any time I'm in a doctors office or the like and I want the DVD to play again, or to stop it because they're playing the sponge bob movie again!

    no IR blaster and no front facing stereo speakers. I'm sure I'll get used to it. got a dusty TV remote somewhere..

    I don't understand the obsession with needing to move away from USB 2.0 charge ports on the phone. What benefit will it have using USB 3.0 or 3. or even type C?

      USB 3.0 is about 5x faster at transferring data, filling a 128gb sd card (or 200gb if you're rich enough!) would take an age over USB 2.0

        Very true, I've been waiting on the return of usb 3.0, I transfer alot of files to my phone and usb 2.0 is ridiculously slow compared to usb 3.0 or usb type c, if anything they need to have faster file transfers.

        I get data transfer is faster but aside from that. I can't remember the last time I used a cable to transfer files between my phone and pc

          Do you use wifi, or just not transfer many files?

          I use a cable as it's faster and easier than wifi transfer for me, plus it also charges my phone!

          Maybe I'm the exception, hence why faster cable transfer isn't becoming the standard.

            I typically use WiFi to transfer files, it isn't often I need to transfer large files though. I can see the reason behind needing the Type C for data and hopefully it will become standard in the next generation. I think perhaps the reason for sticking with the older connector is that it it is a more common, readily available connector, so if you are at a mates, or at work and don't have your charger or cable, it is going to be easier to find a micro USB than it is a type C.

              Yeah definitely, it is so much easier having one cable for every tablet, phone, camera etc!

              I'm guessing USB C would slow down anyway if you use an adapter to plug it into a standard USB 2.0/3.0 port on a computer.

    Saw some stats from the blancco tech group which aren't great for Samsung. They used internal data from millions of iOS and Android devices. They underwent diagnostic testing in Q4 last year. The report showed 85% of diagnosed issues occurred on android. Moreover Samsung topped the failure rate among Android manufacturers accounting for 27% of all device issues.
    Its cool they are waterproof. But that isn't going to help the flaky Samsung build/software.

      Of course android devices will have more issues than ios, apple only makes expensive flagship phones, whereas android devices globally go as low as $5.

      But if you look closer at the stats, 82.8% of phones are android, 13.9% are apple.
      ( )

      So 85% of issues are android, and 15% are ios.

      This means that the ratio of apple phones to apple issues is almost 1-1. They have 14% of phones, so they get 15% of the issues.

      And the ratio of android phones to android issues is almost 1-1. They have 83% of phones, so they get 85% of the issues.

      So even though the android market is full of <$300 phones in this country alone, they still have the same rate of issues, per device sold, as apple!

      Makes sense seen as the parts in an iphone have been proven to be worth about $300, you just pay $700 extra for the half eaten fruit logo!

      ( )

      Last edited 25/02/16 2:58 pm

    Good point re the cheaper android phones in the mix. The rest of the statements don't really add up though. The report I saw wasn't looking at market share but from the same amount of android vs ios devices. They were then put through diagnostic tests and the results were published.
    e.g 5mill Android and 5mil iOS, 85% of failures were from Android and most were from Samsung.

      Yeah if that's true it would make sense, as you would expect apple devices to be less problematic than your bog-standard android device.

      You'd have to send me a link, the only report I can find is from AppleApple (sounds very reputable!) and just says "85% of mobile devices returned" i.e. not 5mill vs 5mill.

      Last edited 26/02/16 3:47 pm

    Any word on whether it will support MHL to HDMI output?

      Almost all the galaxy phones do, and since the note 4/S6, they have used standard MHL. I see no reason why it would in this instance (in fact, apparently a USB OTG cable is included in the box, according to Samsung's website.)

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