Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phone are garnering positive reviews, but is it enough to claim victory over the iPhone? Read on.
The upshot is that Samsung has come through with a better camera, better battery life, and a bigger/better S7 Edge. Here's a look at those features, and more, based on reviews coming out over the last few days.
Design: “Every sharp edge has been rounded out,” according to Anandtech’s review of the two phones. That’s important because it makes the phone more comfortable in the hand. Anandtech also points out that the larger S7 Edge (now with a bigger 5.5-inch display compared to the 5.1-inch S6 Edge) is the one you should choose if you’re looking for phablet-like (aka, an extra-large smartphone) experience, like the iPhone 6s Plus.
On the downside, the backs of the phones are fingerprint magnets and smudge collectors, like the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.
Battery life: Samsung has fixed the battery-life shortcomings of the S6 and S6 Edge. As many reviews noted, the S6 typically wouldn’t last an entire day. But “the bigger batteries…mean the S7 and S7 Edge had no trouble lasting through a full day in our tests,” wrote The Verge, which added that the S7 Edge – with its larger battery – gets the best battery life of the two.
Camera: This is probably the one area where Samsung and Apple compete most fiercely. And chalk one up for Samsung in the one-upmanship department. Smartphone cameras have traditionally struggled with low-light photos but Samsung has been working hard to rectify this and is now beating Apple, according to CNET. “Although this camera has fewer megapixels than last year's S6, it takes better photos. Scenes are brighter, which makes the action easier to see,” wrote CNET in its review. The review added that the “S7 trumps the iPhone 6S” by producing more “usable” photos in low light. Note that while the camera on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge has fewer pixels, less means more in this case. The camera's pixels are now bigger and Samsung says the larger pixels let in more light.
Performance: This is another perennial battle fought with Apple. So did Samsung deliver on the S7? Anandtech is one of the best arbiters of comparative performance (because of the thoroughness its benchmarking) and its testing shows that it’s “hard to declare a clear winner when comparing it to Apple's A9 [processor]” on the iPhone 6s. In fact, certain key benchmarks show the iPhone 6s still beating the Galaxy S7's Qualcomm processor. That said, versions of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge outside of North America use Samsung’s own Exynos chip, which is faster than the Qualcomm processor, according to TechRadar.
Display: Samsung is lapping Apple in this department. Not only because its organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays are advancing faster than the liquid crystal displays (LCDs) on Apple’s phones but because OLEDs allow Samsung to venture beyond simple flat-screen designs. The S7 Edge has a wrap-around display that is curved on two sides. This serves a few purposes: the curves lend an aesthetic “cool” factor and allow Samsung to make the S7 Edge more compact. Maybe more importantly, compared to the S6 Edge, the S7 Edge now has more usable edge features and "panels," which take advantage of the curved part of the display, according to PC Mag. For example, there’s the Apps edge, Tasks edge, People edge, and highly customizable edges, such as news and weather panels, as well as more panels from Samsung's store, PC Mag. Some reviews, however, say the panel is still too gimmicky and not very useful. The Verge reviewer "turned it off after a few days."
Other goodies: Samsung made both phones more water resistant, now waterproof up to 30 minutes under five feet of water. Samsung also integrated a MicroSD card slot in the phone, allowing consumers to add up to 200GB more data capacity.
Price: The standard Galaxy S7 is priced around $650 (depending on carrier) and the S7 Edge, around $750. Needless to say, pricing will vary, depending on carrier, deals, and plans.