The best smartphone in the world right now.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is a phone I’d hate to have had to make. Its predecessor was a multi-award-winning phone, simply because it packed all the power of the ‘normal’ Galaxy S6 and yet… that curved edge. I wasn’t alone in loving it, whipping it out proudly whenever possible.
But that was last year, and the world is bored of the curved design. We’ve seen it. It’s been done. So what can Samsung do to make the new phone a real step forward?
Well, unlike what it’s done on the Galaxy S7, which looks (initially) like last year’s model, the changes on the S7 Edge are brilliant, adding a zest to a design that could have quickly become tired.
The screen is larger, yet somehow the phone doesn’t feel too much bigger in the hand. The rear of the phone is now curved too, making it sit nicely in the hand. It’s waterproof. There’s a microSD card slot. There’s so much power in there I’m pretty sure I could strap it on the back of a speedboat and make my way across the Atlantic.
And that’s even more possible because the battery – such a disappointment on last year’s S6 phones – is boosted massively too, giving us a handset that’s able to last over 24 hours between charges.
All this comes at a cost obviously, and a pretty hefty one. In the UK that cost is £640, while in the US you’re looking at a huge $299 on a two-year contract, or the new unlocked price of $769. In Australia, the Galaxy S7 Edge attracts the highest price for a Galaxy yet: AU$1,249 for the 32GB version.
That’s quite a jump from last year’s AU$1,149 starting price, showing this is one of the most expensive phones around.
But, in my view, it’s worth every penny.
DESIGN: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
The Galaxy S7 Edge is a phone that lives and dies by its looks. If you’re only interested in the power then just go for the standard Galaxy S7. The smaller, ‘normal’, model has all the same smarts, but a slightly sharper screen thanks to packing the same amount of pixels into a smaller area.
Even the simple option to double-tap the home button to activate the camera (which is a really nice element, if not as fast as some others on the market) helps the snapper feel more usable and intuitive; Samsung has really thought about the way it’s put this package together.
Pro tip: use the volume down button to take a picture, as the phone will feel a lot steadier in the hand given its slightly less wieldy size.
Whether you’re shooting a big landscape or a wide-angle close-up, or just want to capture the moment, the Galaxy S7 Edge’s camera performs superbly – take a look at the snaps on the next page to see what I mean.
CAMERA: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
One of the things that struck me during testing was just how many of the features on the Galaxy S7 Edge’s camera interface were similar to the iPhone’s.
I’m not getting drawn into the argument of which came first, as both brands can lay claim to doing things a certain way, but there are a lot of similarities between the two. Samsung is certainly leaning towards a simpler camera interface, where Apple is packing in more settings – and the two are meeting somewhere in the middle.
One feature that Samsung has weirdly added is ‘Motion photo’, which captures a very shot video before taking a photo. It’s just a rubbish feature, producing low-res, silent videos that start way too early and have random lengths – not something I’ll ever be sharing.
Oh, and it’s a little like Live Photos, isn’t it, Samsung? Why aren’t you making a bigger deal of ‘Sound and Shot’ instead?
Testing out the low light capabilities of the Galaxy S7 Edge’s camera yielded some interesting results – the combination of the larger pixels with a big sensor and fast aperture means it should be sensational in low light.
And the good news is, it is. I compared the S7 Edge to the iPhone 6S Plus (Apple’s best at low light photography, complete with optical image stabilisation) and last year’s Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, to see where the improvements have come and how the two leading manufacturers’ flagships fare.
You can see the comparison shots on the page after next, but my big takeaway was that the S7 is both fast at focusing in low light and excellent at capturing detail, not blowing out the highlights in a desperate attempt to let in more light.
The S6 Edge can arguably capture brighter pictures if you force it to do so, but they were horrendously muddy and noisy, as the camera left the shutter open a touch too long in an effort to pull in more light.
The iPhone 6S Plus fared better against the Galaxy S7 Edge, but didn’t capture as much of the scene, nor with as much sharpness generally. Forcing the cameras on each to expose as hard as possible (by tapping on a pitch black element of the screen) showed that, again, the S7 Edge had the… er… beating of the other two, with a brilliant balance of sharpness and detail.
I loathe selfies still (you don’t need to be in every picture, nor is it hard to ask someone else to take a photo of you). But, love or hate them, they’re here to stay – and brands are working hard to pack as many features as possible into their front-facing cameras.
The Galaxy S7 Edge now has a very similar ‘screen flash’ method of illuminating faces in the front-facing camera to the iPhone – it’s hard not to note the similarity when this feature wasn’t present in the S6 duo and has popped up since Apple introduced it last year.
It’s very similar in function as well, although it actually appears to give a brighter glow than Apple can manage. One thing that is evident is that Samsung’s selfies are a lot smoother, with the processing software cleaning up images well.
And that’s even before sticking on beauty mode, which will smooth over skin, enlarge eyes and adjust the lighting to make you look ‘your very best’ / ‘like a weird monster if you push the settings too hard’.
I know it’s perhaps a cultural thing, but I really wish beauty mode would disappear. I don’t mind having a simple option to smooth out images a little, but this is just crazy – and irritating if you forget to turn it off, and wonder why you look a little like a confused alien in the resulting snap.
CAMERA SAMPLES: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
GALAXY S7 EDGE vs iPHONE 6S PLUS vs GALAXY S6 EDGE
- For each image set, the order is as follows: Galaxy S7 Edge, iPhone 6S Plus, Galaxy S6 Edge (except for the last set, as the S6 Edge doesn’t have a front-facing flash)