The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is a phone I’d hate to have had to make. Its predecessor was a multi-award-winning phone, simply because it packed all the power of the ‘normal’ Galaxy S6 and yet… that curved edge. I wasn’t alone in loving it, whipping it out proudly whenever possible.
But that was last year, and the world is bored of the curved design. We’ve seen it. It’s been done. So what can Samsung do to make the new phone a real step forward?
Well, unlike what it’s done on the Galaxy S7, which looks (initially) like last year’s model, the changes on the S7 Edge are brilliant, adding a zest to a design that could have quickly become tired.
The screen is larger, yet somehow the phone doesn’t feel too much bigger in the hand. The rear of the phone is now curved too, making it sit nicely in the hand. It’s waterproof. There’s a microSD card slot. There’s so much power in there I’m pretty sure I could strap it on the back of a speedboat and make my way across the Atlantic.
And that’s even more possible because the battery – such a disappointment on last year’s S6 phones – is boosted massively too, giving us a handset that’s able to last over 24 hours between charges.
All this comes at a cost obviously, and a pretty hefty one. In the UK that cost is £640, while in the US you’re looking at a huge $299 on contract. In Australia, the Galaxy S7 Edge attracts the highest price for a Galaxy yet: AU$1,249 for the 32GB version.
That’s quite a jump from last year’s AU$1,149 starting price, showing this is one of the most expensive phones around.
But, in my view, it’s worth every penny.
The Galaxy S7 Edge is a phone that lives and dies by its looks. If you’re only interested in the power then just go for the standard Galaxy S7. The smaller, ‘normal’, model has got all the same smarts, but a slightly sharper screen thanks to packing the same amount of pixels into a smaller area.
What it misses is the clever elements that Samsung’s used on the Edge. The display curves further away into the sides of the phone than ever before, which means that even though you’ve got a phablet-sized display, the phone is as compact as possible.
Place it side by side with the iPhone 6S Plus and you’ll see what I mean. The amount of bezel used above and below the display on Apple’s phone is almost laughable, especially when you compare it to how tightly packed everything is on the S7 Edge – and the Samsung has a much, much larger battery.
The S7 Edge is shorter and narrower (150.9 x 72.6mm) than the 6S Plus (158.2 x 77.9mm), even though both devices have the same 5.5-inch screen size. The iPhone is however, a hair thinner at 7.3mm versus the Samsung’s 7.7mm girth.
It’s also very similar in size to the LG G5 (149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7 mm), which again sports a 5.5-inch display – with the Android manufacturers really sticking it to Apple.
One of my favorite parts of the design upgrade on the S7 Edge comes on the rear. A process called 3D Thermo Forming – which sounds like it’s been named by a sentient marketing machine – enables the brand to curve the rear of the phone into a single metal rim that runs all around the edge.
It’s a feature that was used last year on the Note 5 (and is also used by brands like Xiaomi) to really help the phone slip into your palm and remove any sharp metallic edges.
Combine that with the same curve on the front of the device and you can see why it feels so smooth in the hand, almost pebble-esque in the way you can roll it around in your palm.
Intriguingly, this has left some people with the impression that it’s not quite got the same premium feel as previous Samsung phones. By having less metal to grasp on to you’re touching the Gorilla Glass 4 covering, which can feel a little like plastic due to its lightweight (but still very strong) construction.
Tap the back of the phone and it lacks the sheen of metal, but in fairness that lack of metal allows for the wireless charging that’s a key feature of the S7 Edge.
That back does have one issue though: it’s a fingerprint fairground, a veritable carnival for any crime scene investigators looking to nab you for some dirty villainy.
So many phones have that criticism thrown at them, but it’s particularly true for Samsung’s new curved phone. It’s easy enough to wipe the sticky offenders off, but it’s annoying to have to do it time and again.
The camera protrusion on the rear has been reduced to just 0.42mm, which means it’s barely noticeable when you’re placing the phone down, while still being strong enough to help protect the lens.
And then you remember something else: this phone, with its elegant rim and clean lines, and complete with exposed ports, is waterproof.
No, sorry, water-RESISTANT, as it’s IP68 rated. That means it’s still able to work after being dunked in fresh water for 30 minutes up to a depth of 1.5 metres, so you’ll be able to use it happily in the bath, or beside the shallow end of the swimming pool, and not worry about dropping it.
It’s less of a ‘let’s take our phone scuba diving to get some amazing pictures’ feature, and more of a safety feature – and the phone will even refuse to charge if the port is too wet, such is its ability to manage moisture.
Sadly, you’re still left with a single speaker firing out the bottom of the Galaxy S7 Edge, which doesn’t really have the most premium of sound; however, it’s serviceable, and noticeably louder than other mono speakers I’ve used.
Overall, I can’t speak highly enough of the S7 Edge’s design. It feels amazing in the hand, and Samsung has managed to bring enough upgrades to make this look and feel like a completely different phone; and most people trying it for the first time will – even if they’re not a fan – be able to appreciate something different in a world filled with black, rectangular slabs.
The display, while technically part of the Galaxy S7 Edge’s design, is worthy of chatting about in its own right – simply because it looks so great.
It’s the defining feature when you pull this phone out among friends, and while it doesn’t elicit the same response that the S6 Edge’s display did last year (like I said, curved displays are nothing new these days), it still gets a lot of approving looks, especially as it’s combined with the rounded back.
The QHD resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 still looks as good as anything I’ve seen on a smartphone. Despite being stretched a little from last year, the 5.5-inch size still looks absolutely pin-sharp, and it’s very hard to see any artefacts lying around on the screen.
It’s amazing to think that, two years after LG brought out the first mainstream QHD phone, we still don’t have any dedicated content that can be viewed at this resolution. Despite that, however, I don’t feel like the Galaxy S7 Edge really suffers, as that display makes viewing web pages and photos a really great experience.
The S7 Edge uses Super AMOLED technology, which Samsung’s been chucking out for close to a decade now, and it really works well to make the phone look premium and the colors really pop.
The contrast ratio – the difference between the whitest whites and the blackest blacks – is still pretty sensational, which is because when they’re not in use, the pixels are turned off; with something like the iPhone 6S or the LG G5 you’ve got a display that just blocks out the backlight when the pixel is showing a black image, so there can be a small amount of light bleed-through.
The Galaxy S7 Edge screen also has the added benefit of the side display, which is accessed by swiping your thumb along from the right- or left-hand side of the phone’s screen (you can specify which in the settings).
Where this was a nonsense, useless feature in years gone by, the side display has a much more defined role on the Galaxy S7 Edge. You can easily get access to news, regular contacts, tools (the ruler, for digi-measuring is back – GET IN) and other elements that are currently in development.
Check out the Specs and Performance section of this review to hear a little bit more about this feature – or skip it entirely if you’re bored of hearing me witter on about a piece of the display you can swipe.