UPDATE: Prices and availability for the S7 and S7 edge have been added to this article.
After months of anticipation — and a seemingly endless supply of leaks — Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge are finally here.
Unveiled during Samsung’s press event at the Mobile World Congress electronics show in Barcelona, the S7 and S7 edge look a lot like their predecessors — but there are a couple of key differences, including new cameras, waterproof designs, and the return of expandable storage.
Will that be enough for the S7 and S7 edge to effectively do battle with Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus? Let’s take a look.
To be honest, at first glance the Galaxy S7 doesn’t look all that different from its predecessor, the Galaxy S6. Sure, there are subtle differences, such as the phone’s new contoured back panel and smaller camera bump. But when I laid the S7 next to my S6, it was hard to tell which was which.
The S7 and S6 even have the same 5.1-inch, 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED displays. (By comparison, Apple’s iPhone 6s has a 4.7-inch, 1334 x 760 LCD screen.)
The Galaxy S7 edge, on the other hand, boasts a larger 5.5-inch (up from 5.1 inches) 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED screen. (Compare that to the iPhone 6s Plus and its 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 LCD screen.)
For the clumsy folks out there — and I include myself in that group — Samsung has made both the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge waterproof.
In fact, the company says you can dunk the phones in water up to 5 feet deep for 30 minutes and they’ll come out unscathed. Let’s see your iPhone do that.
Both the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge also have improved cameras. While those cameras have fewer megapixels than the previous models — 12MP versus the previous generation’s 16MP — those pixels are larger. That means images should look sharper and brighter in normal and low-light situations.
The phones also get new “dual photodiode” pixels, which Samsung says will help with focus speed. Indeed, during a demonstration set up by Samsung, the S7 edge focused on an image about two seconds faster than the iPhone 6s Plus.
Living on the edge
As with its predecessor, the S7 edge comes with a few special features that take advantage of its edge screens.
Like the S6 edge, the S7 edge lets you swipe in from either the left or right side of the screen to get quick access to your favorite contacts and apps. On the S7 edge, however, Samsung has also added quick actions to the edge screen, which let you set shortcuts for things like sending texts to specific people or launching certain webpages.
News briefs and updates are also easier to read on the S7 edge, as they are now displayed horizontally rather than vertically.
Both the S7 and S7 edge come with Samsung’s new always-on display. The feature keeps the phones’ screens on at all times, but when you aren’t actively engaged with the handset, the screens only show things like the time, your calendar, the number of calls you’ve received, or the number of unread messages.
What’s more, the always-on displays use the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge’s proximity sensors to determine when you put the phone in your pocket; that then turns off the screen. Samsung says the always-on display will use no more than 1 percent of the phone’s battery life when active.
Under the hood
Inside, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge come with faster processors than their predecessors and 4GB of RAM. That means performance while playing games and running multiple apps should be silky smooth.
Samsung also seems to have listened to its critics, who bemoaned the loss of expandable storage in the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, by giving the S7 and S7 edge microSD card slots.
As a result, you’ll be able to add up to 200GB of extra storage space via a microSD card when you fill up the phones’ onboard storage.
Both the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge also get significantly larger batteries. The S7 comes with a 3000 mAh unit, while the S7 edge gets a 3600 mAh pack. That’s far larger than the 2550 mAh and 2600 mAh batteries found in the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, respectively.
Priced at $669.99 and $779.99, respectively, the S7 and S7 edge can be preordered starting on Feb. 23, with the phones hitting stores and doors March 11. (Check your mobile carrier for S7 and S7 edge monthly installment plan prices.) Those ordering an S7 phone in participating markets (U.S. included) between Feb. 23 and March 18 will receive a free Gear VR headset.
Stay tuned for our full review of both of Samsung’s new handsets in the coming weeks.