Samsung Galaxy S7 review roundup: Best Android smartphone; but ‘still leaves Apple in the lead’

The first reviews of Samsung’s flagship smartphones for 2016, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, were published earlier today. The handsets will take on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus from Apple for the next six months.

So, how good are Samsung’s latest Galaxy? Are they better than Apple’s iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus? Let’s do a quick review roundup of the phones and see what other reviewers have to say about the phones.

Gizmodo

Galaxy S7 Gizmodo

The publication came away pretty impressed with the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge. It even called the design of the handset one of its key strengths and says that the handsets are less slippery than the iPhone 6s, while still retaining a premium and elegant design.

Samsung keeps elegance in design, but avoids being super slippery like the iPhone 6s. Though, alas, that sure-handedness comes at a very smudgy price.

But fingerprints aside, the Galaxy S’s design has gone from lagging to leading. On the surface, Samsung’s decided to double-down on the much criticized Apple-like design that premiered on the S6. It’s impossible to deny that the iPhone’s DNA is mixed in with the S7’s makeup—just look at the speaker grill and bubble glass edges.

In its camera comparison, the publication found that the Galaxy S7’s camera is vastly superior to the iPhone 6s, as it is able to intake more light thanks to its f/1.7 aperture.

While both photos below still have a fair share of grain, the S7 picture is a much more pleasing shot because you can actually see the detail of the photo rather than most of it being cloaked in shadow on the iPhone 6s.

However, all of Samsung’s improvements and the powerful hardware inside the company’s flagship handsets are absolutely meaningless when it comes to performance. The handsets still cannot match the iPhone 6s when in the performance department.

The S7 is as slow as a Jamaican bobsled team when it comes to opening big apps and detailed documents. I tested Marvel’s Contest of Champions load time against the iPhone 6s and the S7 took several seconds longer to get the game going. Contest of Championsrelies on online servers to load, so I tried a second experiment, opening up a NOAA nautical chart in PDF format on both phones

In the end though, Gizmodo calls the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 edge as the best Android smartphone in the market right now. You can read the publication’s review over here.

The Verge

Galaxy S7 edge The Verge

Walt Mossberg’s review of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge are highly positive, though he says that the experience of using the phones are ruined by TouchWiz and carrier bloatware.

The design of the costlier and larger Edge model is especially impressive. Its screen’s curved edges seem to melt into the aluminum case, and the bezel is so thin as to be almost invisible. Partly for that reason, it is noticeably narrower and shorter than the rival iPhone 6S Plus, though both have the same sized screen. All told, the S7 Edge has a footprint that’s about 11 percent smaller than Apple’s 6S Plus.

That means that people who found the big iPhone too large to hold comfortably may feel differently about the Edge. I personally still found the Edge a bit too large for my taste, but your mileage may vary.

Mossberg found the battery life of both phones more than adequate to last a day, but he was more impressed with their fast charging capabilities.

The company’s existing fast charger comes in the box and when I plugged the S7 in with the battery drained, it restored a full charge in well under two hours. For comparison, in my experience, it takes about 2.5 hours to fully charge an iPhone 6s with the included charger.

Since encryption has become a big deal nowadays, Mossberg verified with Samsung whether the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge are encrypted out of the box or not. Turns out, they are and Samsung cannot access a user data even if it wanted to.

Default encryption is turned on for Galaxy S7. Samsung cannot decrypt the user’s encrypted phones. The encryption key is randomly generated for each user and the key is protected with the user’s password.”‘

Mossberg came away impressed with the 12MP shooter of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, and even found them better than the iPhone 6s in low light.

I found the S7 cameras to be notably better than the iPhone’s in low light, but a bit worse outdoors. For instance, Samsung did very well at bringing out people and objects in a poorly lit room in my house, but Apple picked up water droplets on shrubbery that Samsung only hinted at.

However, he did come down heavily on Samsung’s software and the pre-installed bloatware on the handsets. In comparison, the iPhone 6s, or for that matter any iPhone, is free of any carrier bloatware.

Samsung said other U.S. carriers are less aggressive than Verizon, and defended the company’s practice of maintaining “close” relations with its carriers. But these kinds of premium devices shouldn’t be vehicles for carrier come-ons. And Samsung says that there isn’t an unlocked S7 model available that lacks carrier software.

Somehow, my iPhones running on Verizon have never had any of this carrier bloatware. Apple seems to be able to maintain good relations with carriers without kowtowing to them. One wonders why Samsung, which is a huge global company, can’t do the same.

To conclude, Mossberg says that while the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge are impressive smartphones, the poor software experience on the handsets still leave Apple in the lead.

Overall, the new Galaxy S7 models are excellent phones for buyers who can afford them. Their build quality, design, and cameras put them in the same ballpark as the iPhone. But the needlessly confusing software bloat and clumsy Edge settings I found on the Samsung devices still leaves Apple in the lead, in my opinion. And that’s despite what I perceive to be a gradual decline in the quality of Apple’s software.

You can read Mossberg’s review of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge here.

Wall Street Journal

Geoffery’s review of the Galaxy S7 is also positive, and he even found Samsung’s TouchWiz experience usable this time around.

But after years of producing B+ phones, Samsung’s now the one I’d want to captain my mathlete squad. The Galaxy S7 and larger S7 Edge have a camera that beat the iPhone 6s Plus in every low-light situation I’ve tested. Its screen is a stunner, packing in more than three times as many pixels as the iPhone 6s. And its blazing fast processor is well-suited for the new world of virtual reality.

I felt that way from the moment I first held the Galaxy S7. We all want to see and do more on our phones, but our hands aren’t getting any more accommodating. The Galaxy S7 has rounded edges that make its 5.1-inch screen feel slightly smaller than last year’s S6, and is almost as slender as the iPhone 6s with a 4.7-inch screen.

He also found the camera on the Galaxy S7 much better than the iPhone 6s Plus, and would prefer to carry the former just for its camera capabilities.

I could really see it when I hiked at sunset to my favorite hilltop overlooking San Francisco, armed with the Galaxy S7 and a stack of other smartphones. The S7 was able to focus and snap immediately (example here), while the iPhone 6s Plus—with Apple’s best camera—kept struggling to find its spot (example here). Across dozens of shoot outs, the Galaxy S7 photos and video had a much more pleasing dynamic range, pulling out detail in places the iPhone just left dark, without blowing out the highlights. No question, I’d rather carry around the Galaxy S7 camera than any other.

On TouchWiz:

But cluttered, confusing software is no longer Samsung’s Achilles’ heel. The Galaxy S7’s version of the powerful Android Marshmallow 6.0 is the cleanest Android version I’ve seen Samsung offer. There’s now just one Web browser (Chrome), and Samsung also kept many aspects of Google’s elegant design.

Conclusion

The Galaxy S7 refined features that matter to become the best smartphone you can buy. That’s a giant feat. But a question haunts Samsung: In a world with lots of great smartphones, what justifies the price premium?

Samsung’s novel ideas for phones have had many goofy turns over the years—remember head-based hands-free scrolling? But don’t forget, Samsung’s early adoption of the phablet also defined the super size of every phone sold today, despite Apple’s resistance.

You can read the Wall Street Journal’s review of the Galaxy S7 here.


What do you think about the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge based on the above reviews? To me, it looks like Samsung has once again managed to come up with a terrific smartphone that — as always — is being led down by its software.

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