Pulling yet another page from the Apple playbook, Samsung on Sunday announced its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge flagship smart phones, devices that look awfully similar to its previous generation devices. But Samsung did at least address a few complaints, and the firm is pushing a broader virtual reality strategy that could bear fruit.
Indeed, Samsung is so hell-bent on VR succeeding that it actually hobbled the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge with old-school microUSB ports: That way, they will work just fine with the firm’s existing Gear VR headset. But that was a terrible decision: USB-C is vastly superior to microUSB on many levels, and its addition—a requirement in a non-Apple 2016 flagship, I think—would benefit all users. Samsung should have simply made a USB-C version of the Gear VR, a device that is interesting only to a tiny subset of Galaxy phone users.
As for the phones themselves, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge look an awful lot like their S6-era predecessors, with the same iPhone-inspired designs, complete with iPhone-like antenna bands and iPhone-like speaker and mic grills on the bottom. But there have been some improvements since last year, and some are quite welcome.
For starters, Samsung is now more obviously differentiating the S7 and S7 Edge by making the latter device a larger, phablet-class handset. So while the Galaxy S7 arrives with a normal 5.1-inch display, the S7 Edge now features a larger and curved/wrap-around 5.5-inch display. Both are Super AMOLED and offer Quad HD (2560 x 1440) resolutions.
And while the battery is still locked inside the device—the Galaxy S5 was the last Galaxy flagship to feature a removable battery—Samsung is once again offering microSD expansion, which was missing in the S6 devices. But both offer higher capacity batteries than the previous models, which should help offset some complaint.
I don’t personally think this is a huge deal—though, to be fair, I have in fact dropped a smart phone in a hotel toilet by mistake—but the S7 phones are water resistant (not “water proof”), another feature missing since the S5. But unlike that older model, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge do not require a hokey USB port cover to achieve this functionality. That’s a plus: I have many times considered ripping the dangling rubber stopper off the bottom of my S5.
From a specs perspective, both new Galaxies are absolutely flagship class, with 64-bit 2.15 GHz Snapdragon 820 processors, 4 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of internal storage (again, expandable with microSD). Both feature fast charging capabilities, with via a special USB power source or wirelessly. And both feature the expected next generation wireless networking capabilities, NFC/mobile payment functionality, and a full array of sensors.
As always, from my perspective, the cameras are an open question. Samsung has dialed back the megapixel count from 16 MP to 12 MP in the new phones, but claims they are superior due to “dual pixels” and what appears to be dramatically faster auto-focus. (This is always an issue with smart phone cameras, so color me curious.) The camera bump is less awful than with the S6s.
Samsung is promoting Android 6.x Marshmallow with these devices, but I’ve never been a fan of the awful custom UIs that the firm puts on top of Android. So we’ll see how that goes.
Both phones will be available for purchase beginning March 11, Samsung says. You can preorder beginning February 23.