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Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: Inching Toward Perfection

Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: Inching Toward Perfection

Samsung fucks up. A lot. Snooping smart TVs, insane VR demos-you name it. Even its most cherished gadget-the Galaxy smartphone-has seen its share of flaws. But with the seventh iteration the Galaxy S, Samsung inches ever closer to a perfect smartphone.

I don’t use the term lightly. There’s something positive to be said about almost every feature of this phone, from the camera and the battery to the display and processor. When I picked up the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge back in early February, I knew Samsung had something here. I just didn’t know what.

Now I do-and I’m impressed.

The S7 Edge (yes, I have an email problem). (Image: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo)
This phone hits you like “woah”

Aside from a less bulbous camera on the back, you could easily confuse the S7 with last year’s S6. It’s got the same glass-and-metal design, the same color palettes, even the font is the same-still etched in silver.

On the regular 5.1-inch S7, the round sides feel particularly iPhone-ish. The S7 Edge is somewhat different, with both sides of the screen sloping toward its metal bezel. But this year the Edge phone is Goldilocks-not too small like the S7 or too big like last year’s 5.7-inch 6 Edge+. The S7 Edge instead comes in at 5.5 inches, and it makes a big difference, because the S7 Edge is the best feeling phone I’ve ever picked up. Samsung keeps elegance in design, but avoids being super slippery like the iPhone 6s. Though, alas, that sure-handedness comes at a very smudgy price. (Editor’s Note: Our photographer nearly murdered this phone due to its persistent smudginess.)

But fingerprints aside, the Galaxy S’s design has gone from lagging to leading. On the surface, Samsung’s decided to double-down on the much criticized Apple-like design that premiered on the S6. It’s impossible to deny that the iPhone’s DNA is mixed in with the S7’s makeup-just look at the speaker grill and bubble glass edges.

Fixing past mistakes

It’s easy to dismiss Samsung’s latest as “been there done that.” Especially as it remains influenced by the iPhone’s design. But the most amazing thing about the S7 is that it subtly improves on its own design and imbues the device with much-needed utility, like waterproofing and memory expansion.

I even dropped the phone in a sink full of water after overcoming what I can only describe as an innate, heart-pounding fear of purposely destroying such an expensive gadget. Though the S7 is near useless when submerged (water activates the screen’s capacitive sensors), it’s a million times better than being out $700+ and having a sore throat from screaming endless obscenities. While using the S7 Edge, I kept my phone perilously close to the edge of a sink or shower and didn’t need to worry about water damage. It’s the same amazing peace of mind I felt when using Sony’s Xperia Z smartphones, the only other decent-looking waterproof phone out there.

The Galaxy S’s design has gone from lagging to leading.
Expandable storage was the other major feature abandoned on last year’s S6. The S7 brings storage back and supports microSD cards up to 200GB. That’s all thanks to its hybrid SIM tray-it squeezes a microSD card slot into the SIM tray. Yet Samsung’s only half-committed to integrating microSD into the S7. The company left out a key feature from the latest version of Android. Flex Storage, also known as adaptable storage, allows Android devices to treat external SD cards like built-in storage. That means you can hold more than photos and videos on the card itself, and it encrypts the SD card and links it to the specific device, so it’s much more secure.

So instead of some cutting edge hassle-free storage, you get the traditional “Would You Like To Save This App To External Storage” hassle. You’ll still need it though. The S7 shoots 4K, which is always a storage eater. The S7 also takes photos gorgeous enough that you’ll be scrambling for more room. Seriously. This camera is amazing.

This camera is really amazing

In the beginning, the iPhone was the king of mobile photography and Android was great at catching blurry garbage photos you’d cringe at seeing on Facebook. It’s incredible how much Android has caught up with iOS when it comes to mobile photography, and the S7 may be its biggest achievement yet.

From launching to using to shooting, the S7 nails it every step of the way. It keeps the quick camera opening feature introduced on the S6: you launch the camera app by double-tapping the home button. For Apple enthusiasts you can also open the camera by swiping up on the lock screen.

The Apple enthusiasts, and general photographers, will be pleased by the expansive shooting modes introduced in the S7. You can then shoot in a stripped down “Auto” mode that will often be good enough. Or you can opt for more control with “Pro.” This option allows you to adjust nearly everything an actual photographer would want to adjust, including metering, focus, white balance, ISO, aperture, and other photo-y insider terms.

But what really matters are the results, and the S7 speaks for itself.