When the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge launched in March of last year, they received fantastic reviews. Everyone, including the notoriously-critical David, raved about their fantastic AMOLED displays, water resistance, more grown-up software, excellent cameras, and so much more. Virtually any and all niggles that the Galaxy S6 warranted were fixed in the latest iteration. The S7 edge, in particular, received extraordinarily high praise for its gorgeous curved screen and excellent battery life.
However, Samsung devices aren't exactly well known for holding up well over time. With the highly-anticipated Galaxy S8 launch rapidly approaching, it's time to take a look at how the Galaxy S7 edge is doing, one year after its debut.
|Screen||5.5" 1440p, AMOLED|
|Camera||12MP f/1.7 (rear), 5MP f/1.7 (front)|
|Battery||3600mAh with Quick Charge 2.0|
|Software||Android 7.0 Nougat|
|Measurements||150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7mm, 157g|
If you'd rather learn about our thoughts in video form, check out our revisit of the Galaxy S7 edge in the YouTube video embedded below. Zach Anderson of the Android Police channel shot and edited this one, and his opinions on the S7 edge are nearly identical to those that I've developed over the past year. It's worth a watch, even if you don't hate reading.
Hardware - how's it held up?
Samsung devices ranked pretty poorly when it came to aesthetics for many years (the Galaxy S III and the gold Galaxy S5 come to mind). The company began making an effort towards less-mediocre design with metal frames on the Galaxy Alpha and Note 4, but it wasn't until the S6 and S6 edge that it arrived at the glass-sandwich design that still carries on today.
The Galaxy S7 edge is still one of the most eye-catching smartphones that I've come across. Both the front and rear glass panels are curved, creating a flowing, futuristic design. That curved front glass makes the screen look almost bezel-less on the sides, and that feeling is exaggerated by my unit's Black Onyx color. It's difficult to find a bad angle on the S7 edge.
Unfortunately, that attractive design leads to a few issues in daily use. The back is prone to dust and smudges accumulating, and the rounded front glass makes accidental touches much more common than they should be. The combination of these two issues make the S7 edge one of the slipperier phones I've handled. In an attempt to somewhat alleviate this issue, I slapped a dbrand skin on the back of mine - it's helped, but not by much. And yes, I'm aware that these problems can be fixed by using a case (I've actually amassed quite a collection), but it shouldn't have to be that way. Although I do put a case on the S7 edge often when I take it out of the house, it's not something I like doing.
While the dbrand skin has kept the rear glass pristine, the front panel is another story. Thanks to the "edge" display, it's virtually impossible to get a good screen protector for the S7 edge. You can forget about using regular plastic or tempered glass screen protectors; the only ones that somewhat work are wet-apply, and those are easily scratched/dented, don't feel good while swiping, and frequently peel up when cases with larger lips are installed. Trust me, I've tried virtually every screen protector there is. As a result, my display is nowhere near mint, with scratches both light and deep. I even have an incredibly small crack (I don't know what else to call it) on the upper portion of the display - it's only about a centimeter long, and it hasn't expanded since the drop that caused it occurred, but it's a bit of a nuisance.
I put the phone down gently, I promise.
The rest of the body is... alright. The metal chassis has done a pretty good job, with only a few nearly-unnoticeable chips and marks reminding me of the few times I've dropped the phone. Some of the black finish on the ring surrounding the camera has scraped off, but that's from an incident with the edge of a marble countertop. However, the home button looks absolutely horrendous, with a ton of scratches in its glossy plastic finish. I'd appeal to Samsung to stop covering their home buttons with plastic, but we're all but certain at this point that the S8 won't have a physical button up front, and the fingerprint sensor on the rear will probably be slightly recessed, thus preventing similar damage from occurring.
Aside from wear and tear, the rest of the hardware has been fine. The power and volume buttons have remained tactile, and the home button, despite its many scratches, still works perfectly. The fingerprint sensor is still quick, although it seems to read my prints as invalid more often than its competitors do. I don't personally like capacitive buttons as they frequently lead to accidental touches (I get enough of those with the curved screen), but I haven't had too many issues with them on this phone. The vibration motor is nice and strong, a detail that I can't live without (I actually got rid of the OnePlus 3T because of this, petty as it may seem).
The speaker is adequate for a down-firing unit with water resistance - it gets decently loud and doesn't distort much (until water gets into it, of course). The headphone jack is nothing special; while it doesn't output the excellent audio that the LG V20 and HTC 10 do, it's not by any means terrible. Call quality's been excellent for both me and the person on the other end. Water resistance is, of course, a plus - I've washed the phone in the sink, used it in the rain, and even submerged it a few times without issue. The microUSB port is a bit annoying for me since all of my other devices utilize USB Type-C - ironic, considering USB-C used to be considered a nuisance. Oh, how times have changed.
The Galaxy S7 edge's 1440p AMOLED display was class-leading when the phone launched, and it still is today. I've owned virtually every 2016 flagship since the S7 edge for a period, and none can compare to this one. Samsung just knows how to make a good display - blacks are black, viewing angles are excellent, and brightness is astounding. Additionally, no other Android phone's screen, aside from the now-defunct Note7's, has even come close to the brightness in sunlight that the S7 edge's can achieve. Some tweaking can be done in settings, but the default "Adaptive display" is perfectly serviceable for me.
I initially thought that the curved edges would be an annoyance while watching YouTube or Netflix, but I actually think that it adds to the experience now. The bezel-less effect concentrates your eyes on the content playing, and the melting look of the edges is, oddly, pleasing to the eye. It's difficult to put into words, but it just makes the video-watching experience more... futuristic. Of course, not everyone will agree with this.
Software and performance
Nowadays, it seems that it's more hip to hate on people who bash TouchWiz than to actually hate on the software itself. I can see why; Samsung's come a long way with its skin, and I really don't mind it anymore - for the most part.
Even on the Marshmallow firmware that the S7 edge shipped with, TouchWiz was decent. In fact, I actually preferred some aspects of Samsung's software over Google's at the time. The quick settings were accessible and customizable, the recents menu had (and still has) a "close all" button, and the skin didn't look bad in general. Keep in mind that this was at a time when Google still didn't have multi-window functionality, so that was another plus for Samsung. Although I didn't find the default white/blue themed UI to my liking, the "Material Design" theme in Samsung's Theme Store made everything a lot easier on the eyes. After adding Nova Launcher on top of that, I emerged with a device that had a Google-esque look, but with better hardware and more functionality. Regarding the "edge" features and other Samsung-exclusive features (Game Launcher, headphone tuning, S Health, etc.), I've pretty much turned everything off, save for the Always-On Display, which I leave on whenever I'm not wearing a smartwatch. There is one Samsung software feature that I love, though: Samsung's scrolling capture feature for screenshots. It's incredible.
left: Nope. middle: More nope. right: Even more nope.
Performance, on the other hand, had always been subpar. Out of all of the 2015/2016 flagships I'd owned, the S7 edge was easily the least impressive in this regard. It was the slowest to open apps, often dropped frames, and sometimes became legitimately unusable. It's also worth mentioning that Samsung devices always slow down tremendously while apps are updating in the background. Considering the S7 edge's top-notch Snapdragon 820 chipset and a more-than-adequate 4GB of RAM, this should not have been happening. I was tempted more than once to sell the phone purely because of this issue.
When the Nougat beta for the S7 and S7 edge was unveiled, I signed up in hopes of my performance issues being solved. No such luck there - my phone actually began to lag even more. I tried cache cleaning, factory resets, uninstalling apps, all to no avail. Of course, this was a beta, so I couldn't really fault the phone. Eventually, I gave up and flashed the latest Marshmallow firmware from the unlocked SM-G935U (yes, the one that still doesn't have Nougat). It wasn't much different from the T-Mobile Marshmallow firmware, though there were fewer bloat apps.
Samsung's Nougat + Material Design theme + Nova Launcher = no issues here. And yes, my WiFi's SSID is rather unoriginal.
After the official T-Mobile Nougat update's release, I flashed back to stock to give it a shot, and I'm still on it. Samsung's version of Nougat is pretty decent - the skin is more cohesive and evolved, even if there are a few too many rounded corners for my liking (the S8 probably has something to do with this). There are still some performance issues, and while they're not as frequent as they once were, they're still more than a mild annoyance. Come to think of it, the only complaints I have outside of lag are the warnings that try to prevent you from blowing your ears out but only succeed in being annoying, and the Quick Connect prompt under the quick settings that always suggests random TVs for me to control.
If you're after a speed demon of a phone, this certainly isn't it. I'm not exaggerating when I say that any of its competitors will handily outperform the S7 edge. TouchWiz has functionally and aesthetically matured, but Samsung really needs to work on lag.
Here's an area in which the S7 edge really excels. In my use, the S7 edge has always averaged between 5.5 and 6 hours of screen-on time; this is with the always-on display enabled or an Android Wear/Pebble watch connected, auto brightness, mixed use of WiFi and LTE, messaging, social media, and some light gaming. Lately, my battery stats have gotten a bit weird due to a mix of forgetting to charge the phone at night and playing way, way too many matches on Clash Royale, so here are some older screenshots for reference.
I'm guessing that the performance is limited by Samsung in order to maintain consistently good battery life, although I'd gladly take a bit of a hit in the battery department for some extra oomph. That being said, we should probably keep in mind that a huge majority of buyers won't care about this at all.
The Galaxy S7 edge's camera was class-leading when the phone launched, and it's still among the best a year later. The 12MP "Dual Pixel" sensor shoots great photos in bright and low light alike. Launching the camera is incredibly easy via the double home-button press (though I do launch it accidentally sometimes), and shutter lag is virtually nonexistent. Focusing is insanely quick, too.
As for my experience with the app itself, I'm quite satisfied as well. The Nougat update freshened the UI up a bit and added an option for shape correction, which I didn't notice on Marshmallow firmware. The included modes are mostly pretty useful, and the Live Broadcast feature may come in handy for some. I also haven't used any of the camera's built-in filters, because I'd rather ruin my photos after I've taken a proper shot. More modes and filters can be downloaded from Samsung's Galaxy Apps store, by the way.
Side note: I don't think any Galaxy S7 or S7 edge owner has "Motion photo" (a blatant copy of Apple's Live Photos) enabled. Frankly, I'm not really sure why Samsung even thought this was a good idea.
With the Galaxy S8 and S8 plus's releases coming very, very soon, it's time to ask: Is the S7 edge still worth buying? If you're someone who's careful with their gadgets and/or uses a case, and if you aren't a performance freak, then yes, the S7e is still worth a look. Its gorgeous display, water resistance, excellent camera, (fast) wireless charging, Samsung Pay, and improved software make it one of the most feature-filled phones on the market. And with the next generation's impending unveiling, prices are sure to drop - there have already been several opportunities to get this phone, brand new, for less than $450.
When you think about it, Samsung hit the nail on the head with the S7 edge. The complaints that us enthusiasts might have with the phone (performance, an outdated microUSB connector, etc.) just aren't shared with normal consumers. Most people simply look for an easy-to-use phone that looks good, has a nice camera, lasts for over a day's use, is readily available on their carrier, and maybe has water resistance so that they don't have to shell out extra cash for an expensive LifeProof case. The S7 edge checks all of those boxes and more.
To write this review, I put aside my LG V20 and went back to using the S7 edge as my daily driver for a few weeks. I have to admit that I've enjoyed using it more than I expected to, thanks in large part to the Nougat update, which has modernized the UI and sped things up a bit. The microUSB connector is a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things, so the real deciding factor here is whether you're willing to sacrifice a decent chunk of performance for a phone that is amazing in nearly every other aspect. I'm not, which is why I'll be replacing it with an S8 plus upon its release.
On a completely unrelated note, does anyone want to buy a heavily-used S7 edge?