Samsung has been the dominant Android device maker for the last several years, and that's probably going to continue in 2016 with the Galaxy S7. This phone was finally announced after much speculation at Mobile World Congress a few days ago, and it's addressing many of the complaints everyone had about the Galaxy S6 -- the specs are improved, missing features have been added, and the Edge variant has been differentiated from the standard phone.
Here's everything you need to know about the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge.
There are a few subtle differences between the Galaxy S6 and S7, but the GS7 is undoubtedly a Samsung device. This is a unibody phone with an aluminum frame and glass rear panel. The GS7 is a bit more rounded on the corners and back than the GS6 was, which should make it a little more comfortable to hold. The camera hump is also much less pronounced -- it's almost flush with the surface. Samsung actually did something remarkable with the overall shape of the Galaxy S7 -- it's thicker than the Galaxy S6 to accommodate a larger battery and prevent the camera from sticking out.
You still can't take the battery out, which made it easier for Samsung to bring back another much-requested feature -- water-resistance (IP68). You can get this phone wet and it won't be dead. It will actually be fine in 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes, and Samsung didn't even need to resort to that port cover nonsense from the Galaxy S5. However, the port in question is a microUSB. That means all your existing cables will work, but Samsung is dragging out the USB Type-C transition even longer by not getting on-board with the new standard.
The GS7 SIM tray holds yet another surprise this year. Everyone was disheartened when Samsung ditched the microSD card last year, but this time it's back and built into the SIM tray. That's not the most convenient location for swapping cards, but at least you've got one now.
One of the best reasons to get a Samsung flagship phone is often the screen, and that's true again in 2016. Samsung hasn't pushed the resolution any higher, but the 2560x1440 Super AMOLEDs on these phones are better than ever. DisplayMate has tested the GS7's screen and found it to be the best available on any phone with even higher brightness and efficiency than last year's panel. The slightly larger Edge variant probably means there won't be a "plus" edition edge phone like there was last year.
Below the screen is the customary array of home button and capacitive back/multitasking buttons. The home button has a fingerprint sensor built-in, or course. Nothing has changed here as far as I'm aware.
Samsung took the unusual step of rolling its own Exynos SoC for all of last year's Galaxy S6 models due to issues with the Snapdragon 810. That's usually only something it does for international SKUs. This year, it's back to Qualcomm for the US variants. The GS7 will pack a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, a quad-core chip with Qualcomm's new custom 64-bit Kryo cores. The benchmarks for this chip are monstrously good, and early impressions are very positive.
Also inside the GS7 will be 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage with a microSD slot, and a new 12MP camera sensor. This is actually a lower resolution than the GS6's 16MP camera, but Samsung says this one will produce better results. The aperture has improved to f/1.7 from 1.9, so more light will be able to enter. The sensor itself has also been improved with a larger surface area and 1.4 micrometer pixels (the GS6 was only 1.12 micrometer). It can use all the pixels on the sensor to increase focus speeds as well. This all adds up to faster captures and improved low-light performance.
This is something enthusiasts have been begging OEMs to do for years so that larger batteries could be included, and that's just what Samsung has done. The GS7 has a 3000mAh battery and the Edge variant is 3600mAh. The regular phone is a few hundred mAh larger than last year, but the Edge is about 1000 larger. You get all that in about 1mm of additional thickness (7.9mm vs. 6.8mm).
Samsung's new flagship phones will ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and the TouchWiz skin will look a little different than it does on older phones. There's less of the blue/green combo that its default Lollipop skin had. There will be a theme store to change the way it looks, of course. Samsung does this every year -- they tone down one thing or another in TouchWiz, and the experience is improved. It'll probably be marginally better this year, but this is still recognizable as TouchWiz.
According to Samsung, the memory management model for the GS7 has been altered from the GS6-era. Last year, there was a great deal of concern that Samsung's phones didn't really make use of all the memory they had. Those phones would only keep a few apps alive in the background, which caused sluggishness when you were hopping around between them. That is apparently not the case now. You'll be able to keep more apps open without waiting for them to reload.
Samsung is also finally taking full advantage of its AMOLED panels by adding an always-on display mode. It doesn't have a ton of options, but you can display the time, battery level, calendar appointments, and a few other things. It's not going to fundamentally change how you use the phone, but it's a nice additional tweak. The edge display also has a few more unique features like news and more room for contacts.
Even though Samsung has brought back the microSD card slot, there is no support for Android 6.0's adoptable storage. Everything else from Marshmallow should be on-deck, though. That means things like Doze mode to improve battery life and Google Now on Tap for quicker access to contextual information. I have not been impressed with On Tap so far, but maybe it'll get better over time. Be aware, getting the Galaxy S7 means you'll have up-to-date software for the time being, but in a few months Samsung will fall behind the latest and greatest from Google.
Okay, when can I have it?
Samsung plans to release the Galaxy S7 on March 11th across the globe. US carriers are already taking preorders for the GS7 and GS7 Edge. You're looking at roughly $700-800 depending on the carrier and model you choose. Preorders will get a free Gear VR as well.