Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge Phones: Improved but With a Few Drawbacks

REVIEW: The new flagship Galaxy phones from Samsung are better than previous models and offer welcome features that returned from the Galaxy S5.

Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge

Samsung's newest flagship Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphones arrived in my home office this past week for reviews, and I must admit that initially I wasn't too excited.

The reason for my first reaction was that I'm still using a 3-year-old Samsung Galaxy S4 phone as my main mobile device, and its grossly underwhelming performance apparently has desensitized me to Samsung phones.

Well, that's the way I used to feel, at least, because the new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are both giant improvements over my three-generation-old S4 handset. In between, I checked out the former S5 and S6 Galaxy devices in the last 18 months at various press events, but I didn't do full reviews so I had no real idea how far the company's smartphones had come since my S4 model was new.

Wow, what a difference three generations of technology improvements and refinements can make.

After using both the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge models this past week, my impressions are mostly positive about their bright and fast displays; spectacular cameras, particularly in low-light situations; adequate battery life and good all-around performance.

Two huge features that returned to the Galaxy S7 line from the former S5 model are removable microSD storage cards and water-resistance—and both are very much appreciated. Removable storage should be mandatory in smartphones so that users can add whatever storage they need to the phones they are using. The lack of removable storage was a key reason for my decision to replace my old Apple iPhone S4 two years ago. And while I have never ruined a smartphone by getting it wet, the idea of not having to worry about accidental splashes destroying the phone is very nice and will be welcome to many users who have had bad experiences with water exposure with their phones.

My daughter dropped her iPhone in a sink not too long ago, and her device was ruined. It's a costly accident that needn't happen if all smartphones were water resistant in the first place.

The best feature in both the S7 and the S7 Edge is their amazing cameras. The main 12-megapixel rear cameras are shared by both models and include Samsung's first dual-pixel technology that delivers great images even in very low light. This past weekend I took photos using the S7 Edge inside a dark old train caboose inside the huge Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pa., and I was able to capture incredible, bright and finely focused images without any flash. The images look as clear as if I had been taking photos outside in full daylight.

I've also recently been using an LG V10 smartphone and thought that its main camera was amazing as well, but the main cameras in the S7 and S7 Edge definitely eclipse the V10's hardware. The performance of the newest Samsung cameras is truly that impressive.

I also really like the new "always-on" displays featured on both models, which provide important information to users at a glance, without having to activate a button to view the main displays. The Galaxy S7 features a 5.1-inch quad-HD Super AMOLED display (2,560 by 1,440), while the Galaxy S7 Edge features a 5.5-inch quad-HD Super AMOLED display (2,560 by 1,440).

Comparing the two Galaxy S7 handsets, I personally prefer the S7 Edge for its larger display and its better "feel" in one's hand. I also prefer the Edge's curved screen edges, which to me seem to offer more grip.

In fact, grip is definitely an issue with these handsets, and it's where my most unfavorable comments come into play.

Why, oh why, do Samsung and other smartphone makers—including Apple and its iPhones—insist on designing and selling expensive, delicate smartphones that have super slippery backs that make it easy to lose one's grip and drop the things? You can't place the S7 or S7 Edge on an incline on any surface without it sliding off, whether it’s a sofa, a car seat, a chair or even your pant leg. Not a good situation in the real world, I am afraid.