Samsung launched its latest flagship phones – the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge at the Unpacked 2016 event here at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Along with the two phones, Samsung also announced the Gear 360 camera post which Mark Zuckerberg came on stage to talk about how Gear 360 paired with Samsung Gear VR will be the future of consuming 360 videos.
Post the event, we got a chance to try out both the Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphones. Here are our first impressions of the same.
Build and Design
Samsung has not really done any major rework in terms of design philosophy on the Galaxy S7 smartphones and we quite like it that way. The new flagships come with IP68 certification, which lets you submerge both the smartphones for around 30 minutes under 1.5 mts of water. The other interesting design element that we noticed was that the camera module on the rear side is almost flush with the rear glass cover – which wasn’t the case with the Galaxy S6 series.
Both the phones feel good to hold in the hand, but their glass covers have the propensity to attract smudges, so much so that we had to constantly keep cleaning the glossy surfaces. The Galaxy S7 features a 5.1-inch display and measures around 7.9mm thick whereas the Galaxy S7 Edge with its 5.5-inch display is slimmer at 7.7mm thanks to the dual-edge curved display. The Galaxy S7 Edge weighs around 157 grams and the Galaxy S7 weighs around 152 grams.
On the left hand edge, you have the volume rocker buttons, the base has the 3.5mm audio jack, microUSB charging and data transfer port and the speaker grill section. On the right hand edge, you have the power standby button. whereas the top edge has the hybrid SIM card slot.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 sports a 5.1-inch SuperAMOLED QuadHD display giving it a pixel density of 577ppi. The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge on the other hand sports a 5.5-inch SuperAMOLED QuadHD display which gives it a pixel density of 534ppi and of course has the dual-edge curved display as well. The displays looked quite sharp with vivid colours. As we have seen with most Samsung SuperAMOLED displays, there was a slight colour tinge noticeable when viewed from the sides.
Samsung has bundled both the phones with an Always-on display which lets you see the date and time along with all your notifications without having to unlock your device for the same.
Chipset, RAM, Storage and Connectivity
Samsung was very quiet about what chipset it is using inside the Galaxy S7 series, and it only mentioned that the new SoC had a CPU which was 30% faster than the Galaxy S6 series and a GPU which was 64% faster. But the SoC housed inside is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, which explained the silence when it came to outright naming the chipset.
This is paired with 4GB of RAM and there is 32GB of storage space. During the brief hands on time, we did not face any issues with the phone in terms of responsiveness. Considering Samsung had gone ahead with its own Exynos processors with the S6 series, it is interesting to see the new phone with a Snapdragon flagship chipset. So the main thing to look out for would be how well the phone manages the heat.
Also with the S7 series, Samsung has also added in a hybrid SIM card slot, so you can either put in a microSIM and Nano SIM or a nano SIM and a microSD card. According to the Samsung slide, it can support up to 128GB of SDXC storage in addition to the 32GB storage.
On the connectivity front, you get dual SIM configuration, Wi-fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and so on. It also houses the heart rate sensor on the rear side just beside the camera.
OS and Software
Samsung Galaxy S7 series sports Android 6.0 Marshmallow along with the TouchWiz UI skin atop it. While the bloatware isn’t huge, you still find a lot of Samsung apps which you can do without. Samsung Pay has been pre-loaded as it is going to come to many new countries going forward. India did not get a mention as a partner country for the Samsung Pay rollout.
With the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, the Edge user interface now has two columns of apps which lets you quickly access more apps by just swiping from the side of the edges. We noticed that we had to swipe two or three times before the edge user interface reacted. Samsung has also let more developers use the edge user interface and we saw an example of Yahoo News app as part of the edge user interface feature.
For gamers, Samsung had an interesting announcement in the form of support for Vulkan API support. This basically helps the multiple cores take better advantage during gaming. We will need to play some high end games to see how well it performs and at the same time, how well it manages the heat while at it.
On the camera front, both the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge come with a dual-pixel 12MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing camera. Both the cameras sport a maximum aperture of f/1.7 which looks quite impressive on paper. Samsung has ensured that the rear camera is almost flush with the body. Samsung Galaxy S6 series cameras were the best we tested last year. With the dual-pixel AF technology and a 12MP sensor, will Samsung Galaxy S7 series cameras repeat the performance of its predecessors? We will have to wait till we can test the smartphone for ourselves.
Just like its predecessor flagships, the Samsung Galaxy S7 series does not come with a removable battery. The Galaxy S7 sports a 3000mAh battery whereas the Galaxy S7 Edge sports a 3600mAh battery. We will need to use the phone in the real world to see how long these phones are capable of lasting. Samsung also bundles in its power saving features within the TouchWiz UI and claims that its Always on display also bypasses the need to constantly wake up your device to check notifications. We will still wait a full verdict on that till we get the device to test out.
Samsung left out one very crucial component of the launch event. Just like the LG G5 before it today, the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge have not yet got an official price point. The phones will start selling from 11 March and the pre-orders will begin from 23 February according to Samsung.
From our first impressions, at least on paper, Samsung looks like it is ready to do an encore of the Galaxy S6 series. It boasts of a better camera, better battery and a powerful chipset powering things under the hood. But as we had seen with a lot of flagship phones last year, the real life usage is a different beast altogether. Last year, Samsung got most things right and this year, it has added the IP68 certification to the Galaxy S7 series.
Going by past Samsung flagship launches, a price point closer to Rs 50,000 is not really that outlandish to believe. The phones sure have all the makings of a blockbuster, but apart from real life usage, pricing will also be key. Considering the Galaxy S6 series will most likely get a price drop, will the S6 series in a sense prove to be a competitor? Only time will tell. We will be doing a full review of the phone when it launches in India.