Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge: Memory Upgrades Are Back

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Despite what management consultants may say, not all change is good, particularly regarding smartphone design. When Samsung ditched water-resistance and the inexpensive memory upgrade option on last year’s Galaxy S6 smartphones, a lot of consumers complained, even though the new phones had sleeker glass-and-aluminum cases and added convenient wireless and quick-charging options.

Enter the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge smartphones, announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. These models bring back the water-resistance and memory features while retaining their sleek cases and multi-charge conveniences. In fact, the Samsung S7 and S7 edge can dive deeper and accommodate larger-capacity memory cards (up to 200GB) than the S5, while their glass-and-metal cases have been given smoother, rounder edges to better fit in your hand.

The main camera is brand new, sporting a slightly larger image sensor and other hardware to make it, according to Samsung, "twice as bright and four times as fast” as the one in previous models. This despite sensor resolution stepping down from 16 to 12 megapixels.

Measuring up to Apple. Samsung’s highly competitive relationship with Apple becomes quite apparent with the S7 smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S7, which measures 5.6 inches x 2.7 inches x 0.3 inches, is about the same height and width as the iPhone 6s, which has a 4.7-inch display. This is the form factor Samsung believes most people will buy. The phablet-sized S7 edge has a 5.5-inch display, which is closer to that of the iPhone 6s Plus, and measures 5.9 inches x 2.9 inches x 0.3 inches. It's geared toward users who appreciate the extra screen real estate for playing games and viewing multimedia. One significant Samsung advantage: Both new phones have quad HD displays that display their subjects with several times the resolution of either iPhone.

A camera that does more with less. Samsung says the Galaxy camera’s megapixel downshift from 16 megapixels (5312 x 2988 pixels) to 12 megapixels (4032 x 2268 pixels) won’t be missed once people take a gander at the results of the technologies it employed to improve image quality. First, its f/1.7 aperture (compared to f/1.9 on the S 6 models) lets in about twice as much light, allowing the camera to capture images with less noise at faster shutter speeds under low-light conditions. It’s also the first camera to include phase-detect autofocus on every pixel site. The advantage of phase-detect auto-focus, a technology often found on SLRs and other high-end cameras, is that the camera can focus on objects almost instantaneously. Other smartphone cameras use a hybrid autofocus technology that may incorporate phase-detect autofocus, but these, according to Samsung, aren’t as fast or accurate.

Water resistance. Both the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the S7 edge meet the ip68 standard for dust and water resistance, which means they should be able to survive a 30-minute dunk in about 5 feet of water. That’s 2 feet deeper than where many other water-resistant smartphones can venture, including the venerable Galaxy S 5. What’s more, these Galaxies protect their ports and other openings without flaps that can get in the way or get lost. Samsung said a special nanocoating and strategically placed gaskets allow these phone to stay dry while keeping ports, jacks, and speaker holes open for business.

Upgradable memory. Samsung would probably like to forget the flack it received for dropping the upgradeable storage option with the Galaxy S6 redesign. Well, that’s all forgotten because both the S7 and S7 edge have room for an extra slot on their SIM tray for a microSD memory cards with up to 200 gigabytes of capacity. On the European version of these phones, the extra slot can be used for a second SIM card, which allows the phones to handle two phone numbers.

Always-on display. With all the great things smartphones can do, the things most people use them for most often are to check the time, the date, the weather and app notifications. And you can set these Galaxies to continuously show these thing after the display goes to sleep. You can easily customize what the screen shows. For instance, you can have it just show you the time, or have it flash alternating views of the calendar, time, and app notifications.

Keeping what works. We quickly scanned the menus of the demo models to make sure these Samsungs kept some of the older, lower-profile features our engineers think improve the smartphone experience. And we were glad to see that Samsung kept its ergonomic five-row keyboard with cursor control, the ability to have several app windows open at once (Multi Window), and the Smart Stay feature that keeps the display from going to sleep while you’re reading it. But there was one unfortunate casualty: Glove mode, which increases display sensitivity so that you can interact with it while wearing gloves.

Availablility. These Samsungs, which come with 32GB or 64GB of internal memory, will be available on all major U.S. carriers by April.

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