I was one of the lucky Finns that got their hands on the new Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge almost two weeks before the official launch date, thanks to a huge mistake made by our local carriers logistic system. I received the device on Saturday and have now used the device on a daily basis since then. Here are my first impressions.
Galaxy S7 Edge – The design
The design of this years iteration is more of a ‘tock’ and hasn’t really had any drastic changes. The biggest changes made are to the S7 Edge is the screen size, which has hopped from last years S6 5.1″ to a more palm stretching 5.5″ display. This was one of the things I really hated about the S6 Edge as the size limited me using the device – the screen was small (like that wouldn’t be enough to throw me off!) it made the device a little harder to handle.
It’s nice to see that Samsung went for a bigger sceen on the edge this year as it also differentiates the normal version from the Edge. We can pretty much say that this year Samsung will not be bringing the S7 Edge+ version to market as has been rumored due to the S7 Edge being almost at the same screen size (5.5″ vs 5.7″). So lets all hope we will get the Note 6 in Europe this year, as even Samsung admit they made a mistake.
Another change is something already seen with the Galaxy Note 5, which we never got to enjoy in Europe, is the slightly curved back. It was great to see Samsung went with Note 5 design again this year on both versions as the curved back makes the phone feel so much better in hand. Gone are the sharp feeling edges in both models but especially with the S7 Edge it makes handling the phone so much easier and it doesn’t feel so awkward to hold. Also with the last years S6 Edge picking the phone up when it laying flat on the table needed some ‘skills’.
Design wise everything else is the same as last year – Samsung is still going with the metal rim and glass back. Personally, I really like the look of the device.
At the edge of hardware
The Galaxy S line has always packed the best of the best hardware that is available at the market and this year is no exception. Samsung is back to producing two different CPU models this year, with their own new octa-core Exynos 8890 and Qualcomms newest beast, the Snapdragon 820. At the moment it seems Samsung is favoring it’s own Exynos chip in most markets and the US seems to be the only market to get the Snapdragon powered version. The jury is still out about which one is actually more powerfull but it seems they pretty much go hand in hand. The Exynos chip seems to be way more powerfull when doing multicore stuff and the Qualcomm is better in single core computing.
Also on interesting tidbit about the new liquid cooling system that Samsung made a ‘big’ deal on their launch event. It seems that the Exynos version is not using this and it’s only found on the Qualcomm variant. This does raise some questions (again) about the new Snapdragon chipset. We might be just overthinking this but if the rumors are true it really raises the question that Qualcomm still hasn’t got the heating to ‘acceptable’ levels without the need for special cooling systems. In the end I don’t think we have another 810 fiasco here and we propably have to wait for iFixit to tear the devices to their bones.
Other than the chipsets, Samsung has also upped the RAM of the phone to 4gigs from last years 3. The S6 had some problems with the ram management, although they might have just been because of poor software (Touchwiz) and it is interesting to see if the new improved (more on that later) Touchwiz handles this any better.
Also new in the hardware compartment of the S7 and S7 Edge is the return of the micro-sd support. Samsung has opted to integrate the micro-sd to the same slot where you input your sim card. For this reason Samsung has also opted not to use the new Android 6.0 feature called ‘adoptable storage’ what can integrate the sdcard storage with the internal storage of the phone. After the launch event Samsung issued a statement about the missing feature
Samsung decided not to use the Android Marshmallow ‘adoptable storage’ model. We believe that our users want a microSD card to transfer files between their phone and other devices (laptop, tablet, etc.), especially the photos and videos they shoot with the camera
I kind of agree with the decision that Samsung made as the adoptable storage option would tie the sdcard to your phone and you just couldn’t use it with other devices without formatting the card (and the phone). Although an option for it would have been welcomed.
Another big thing that returns to the S7 Edge is the waterproofing that was strangely absent from last years models. Samsung says it has listened its users feedback and have noticed that people wanted to have a flagship that they can use whatever the weather outside is. Welcomed return indeed (atleast for us here in Finland).
It is also great to see Samsung has kept the wireless charging capabilities of the phones (Qi and PMA compliant). I hate hassling with cables in the dark and as I have wireless charging pads all over my house, one in the car and one in the office, it’s great to have a device to use them. The device also supports fast charging, but even as the hardware supports the Qualcomms new Quick Charge 3.0, Samsung has opted to use the Quick Charge 2.0 on it (atleast 2.0 is mentioned in the manual). I also have to mention the monster of a battery that Samsung has crammed on to the S7 Edge, 3600mAh should last easily a day with heavy usage. I won’t comment about the battery life after my three days as my usage hasn’t been normal usage as I have done lot of tinkering, shooting videos etc.
Also the fingerprint sensor is in my experience a lot better than last years models. It’s very quick and recognizes the finger a lot faster and better when compared to the S6 version. You still have to press the home button first though. I also made a comparison video between the S6 and the S7 Edge which you can find below.
Software – General
The biggest moaning I have always had with Samsung devices has been with the TouchWiz overlay Samsung uses. I really like vanilla Android and Touchwiz has always caused lot of headache for me. It was interesting to see what the Android 6.0.1 version of Touchwiz would bring to the table.
Samsung has again fine tuned the Touchwiz software from last years Lollipop based version. Colors are now more material design, and the ugly color scheme is almost gone. It’s still instantly recognisable as Touchwiz but everything is now tuned down and easier for your eyes. The biggest change can be seen in the notification shade/drawer where Samsung uses a very light blue and white based theme. Same theme can be seen in the settings application – although I still don’t like the vertical quick toggle style that Samsung insists on using.
Samsung also includes it’s own ‘Theme engine’ again on these phones. You can pretty much change the whole outlook of the UI with themes. There are a few nice dark and material design themes available too which are available to download from the Samsung theme app.
S7 Edge specific software features
When we talk about the S7 Edge you know that there will be these Edge specific features. When Samsung released the first Edge device, called the Galaxy Note Edge it tried to find real usecases for the edge part of the screen. The whole Note Edge didn’t really take fire and the edge features were laid down as software gimmicks.
Last year Samsung tried it again, but this time the S6 Edge had two curved edges however almost all the edge features from the Note Edge where removed. The S6 Edge had the ‘People Edge’ which allowed easy access to your favorite contacts. Each contact was assigned a colour which would be displayed if you received a phone call from one of these friends and the phone was laying face down.
This year Samsung has brought back most of the edge features from the previous versions and on the S7 Edge you have these edge features:
- Edge panels
- Edge feeds
- Edge lightning
Edge panel is pretty much the same you saw on the original Note Edge. There are a few default panels like Apps edge which allows you to setup 10 shortcuts to your apps. This is a very nice feature for multitaskers as you can get to another app by just swiping from the edge and select the app you want to go to.
A new addition is the Task edge where you can create task shortcuts to different apps like ‘compose email’. Unfortunately it only supports a few Samsung apps at the moment. There is also the possibility to download more panels from the Galaxy Apps store – although there is nothing available form third parties as yet.
I still think that the edge features are kind of gimmicks but atleast the S7 Edge brings a few features for the edge screen that, atleast I, will be using. I often constantly switch between few apps and the Apps edge makes it much more easier compared to going through the recents apps screen
Always On Display
Another new feature in the S7 line is the Always on Display (AoD) – a feature that allows users to easily to check the time and date and possible notifications without waking the phone. Nice feature, but the biggest problem here is the way Samsung has done this. It took a while to work out, but sort is currently limited once again to only native Samsung apps. So you need to use the Samsungs sms app for example to get the notification icon to show on the Always on Display.
Same goes with the dialer and emails – this is the biggest drawback and for me mostly renders the feature obsolete. I don’t use Samsungs email client so no notification icons for me. The AoD also does not show any notification content, just the small icon and number of notifications from that app. Combine this with there being no way to interact with the screen and the fact is it doesn’t event live up to ambient display in stock Android.. I hope that Samsung fixes this and allows 3rd party apps to use the Always on Display screen.
Thoughts after the first 3 days
All in all, the S7 Edge is the device I hoped the S6 would have been – Samsung has perfected all the problems that the S6 had with bigger battery, better software and waterproofing. I was little hesitant on getting the S7 Edge over the normal S7, but after these first three days I feel I made the right choice. The edge screen is still a little gimmicky but it has few useful features that I will definately use. I really hope that developers this year will also support the phone better and create content for the edge part of the device.
The biggest drawback and the feature I’m totally unsatisfied is the Always on Display. In it’s current implementation it’s totally useless and I don’t see the real need for it. If you use Samsung own apps for email and sms then the Always On Display is nice but I still would have preferred that the implementation would have been more like Motorolas active display where you can touch the screen and interact with the notifications.
Stay tuned for more reviews and more videos on the Galaxy S7.