Updated: April 8, 2016 10:30:33 am
When I finally jostled my way through the MWC crowd to reach the Samsung press preview lounge, it was almost deja vu for me. It felt like it was 2015 and I was peering into the Samsung Galaxy S6 at the very same stall. Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S7 series does look a lot like the S6 series that came a year before, and that is why in my hurried first impression I was not really impressed.
Now, with the phone launched in India, I have a review device and starting today, will tell you how it feels to live with the newest flagship in the market. I am using a 32GB version of the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.
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Out of the box, as I mentioned before, the S7 edge does look a bit too much like the s6 edge+, which I used extensively covering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley last September. The nostalgia aside, this phone still has a very contemporary design. I would have loved an all-metal body and think all flagships should have that differentiator for the price they charge.
Samsung has managed to push in the camera bump and it does not protrude as much as in the S6. Except for that the design hasn’t changed much if you can overlook the feel of the fingerprint scanner, which you will.
Once I set up the phone, the one thing that captured my attention the most was the always one screen. The S7 phones have the ability of switching on a black lock screen on which it can display a lot of basic information like time, missed calls, new messages and the like. There is even a set of screen art that is being created just for these black screens. Thankfully, this always on screen doesn’t seem to be sapping the battery much, which is good.
Also, the display is something to die for. Samsung makes even the most boring Android screen look a bit more interesting thanks to its crisp display technology. And this one has a 5.5-inch 2K screen which make everything look better, even your own selfie.
I have set a fingerprint scanner as one of the first steps, and am regretting it a bit now. The phone fails to recognise my thumb 9 out of ten times and I am forced to key in the PIN to get in. This is strange, because fingerprint scanners are now a very common technology, and you should be able to get it right. I think we can safely assume that an update in the works.
I went to sleep with about 50 per cent left on the phone. Eight hours later, I am up and the phone has lost just 10 per cent juice. So my fear that the always on screen will drain more battery seems to be unfounded. I guess the best idea would be to start using the phone as a night clock, so that a quick glance will show you if there has been an spurt of activity in the dead of the night.
But let’s get to the feature, users want to know more about.
The most buzz so far has been around the camera of the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. The S6 series had a great camera, and I would have thought it was difficult to better that. But Samsung seems to have done just that, especially when it comes to low-light photography. This is something very close to my heart, because over the past decade or so I have focussed on clicking photos without the flash. Low-light performance does impress me.
And impress me did the S7 edge. I didn’t try anything fancy, just a shot of my TV remote on the bed with just the glow of the television as light in the bedroom. It is rare for a camera to give a sharp shot in a such a scenario, let alone a frame that showed the play of light to such perfection.
The other feature users are excited about is the edge. The edge is not really new on a Samsung flagship, but this time it seems to have been fine-tuned enough to be really effective. For instance, you can add any app on the edge and there are two of these screens which you can access and populate with your most commonly used apps. Then there is the ability to add contacts to the edge like before. There is also the Yahoo News widget that brings top news to this edge.
In fact, the edge is like an extra set of homepages that you can use for more focussed content. The only issue here is that you will have to remember to use it. Have used the S6 for a considerably long time, I was using the edge mostly to initiate calls with my favourite contact.
Also, the edge is not really using the curved glass a lot, unlike with the Note 4 Edge. Here the edge is just to swipe and bring in the software add-ons to the right side of the screen. Maybe, Samsung could use the actual edge better.
Yesterday, I told you this camera was amazing in low-light. But not all of us are looking for low-light capabilities, or only low-light capabilities. Today, I tested the camera with a variety of scenarios and I liked what I saw.
Below are two flower shots, the colours of which bleed in most smartphone photos.
Now, that you have seen what this camera is capable of, let me tell you the catch. When you really zoom in on some of the low-light the photos, there is an issues with clarity. The edges seems to be smudged.
But this shouldn’t really bother you unless you are planning to blow up your S7 photos into roadside hoardings. And as you will see the photo below, when the light is right this camera shines bright.
The S7 camera app comes with a lot of new features. For instance, there is a very good Pro mode, that lets you tweak almost all the setting and that too very effectively. Also, there is selective focus which is playing on the core capabilities of the camera.
Another feature that really intrigued me, is the Virtual Shot mode where the camera captures an object from all angles. It is a bit like a 360-degree panorama. However, the end result is not much different from a video.
Today, I took the S7 for an early morning walk. While I was trying to sweat it out, I was trying to figure out what it takes for the phone to break into a sweat.
I started with the Antutu benchmark test, which ended with a really high 1,30,044 score. To give you some perspective the benchmark score, the Moto X Turbo was clocked at above 80,000 and that is a beast of a phone in performance.
One thing that struck me during the test was how smooth the 3D graphics were. There was some bit of heat around the metal frame, but nothing to be concerned about.
I then tried multi-tasking and everything worked fine there too. With gaming again, the graphics where really smooth and you could see ripple in the water and sun peeping through the clouds. While it is a bit hard to grip, I think gamers will still like this.
It is the last day of the blog and time to conclude.
Before that let me tell you that the battery is not such a big worry with this. I got 12 hours of life with full use on 4G. Today morning for instance, I left home for my walk and realised that there was just 5 per cent juice left. Still I managed to complete my 45-minute walk in the park with a couple of photos, one Instagram post and a couple of tweets. I also read a few articles on IndianExpress.com — yes, I do manage to do that. With reduced brightness you should be able to get unto 16 hours on this phone.
Now for the verdict.
I would’t call this a really innovative phone. But what Samsung has managed between S6 and S7 is to make a phone that is near perfect. Except for a dodgy fingerprint scanner, this phone manages to score high on all features. At the end of the day that is all you need. Really innovative features often end up being white elephants, great to show friends at a party but never with any practical application. Samsung seems to have realised that.
However, I see the S7 offering more value for money than S7 edge for most users. The S7 edge is a great phone, but not everyone needs that extra edge. So make an informed choice on whether you want to spend that extra buck.
If you ask me this is the best Android phone at the moment, and certainly the best Android camera. Plus, it doesn’t cost a bomb. Samsung users with phones before S6 should not think twice before upgrading. Others too have a great flagship option to aspire for.
Read my concise review here next week.
Read about full specs of the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge here.
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