Review: Updated: Samsung Galaxy S7
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Introduction and design
Update: The Samsung Galaxy S7 is now available in the US unlocked. We’ve added the new price to this revised review.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 finds itself in a slightly tricky situation. Samsung needed a big win from the Galaxy S6 in 2015, which it got after reinventing the design of its flagship smartphone, but you’re not going to get the same degree of evolution again just a year later.
This means the Galaxy S7 falls firmly into the iterative camp, building on the solid foundations laid by its predecessor without fiddling with the winning formula too much.
Some will argue this phone should be called the Galaxy S6S, but are they right? I’ve put the Samsung Galaxy S7 through its paces to see if it’s a worthy seventh-generation flagship, or a just cheeky six-point-five instalment.
There’s initial good news in the fact that the S7 isn’t competing as closely with the Galaxy S7 Edge as the S6 was with the S6 Edge last year, with the curved display variant getting a bump in screen size this time round, taking it more into phablet territory.
- Read our in-depth Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review
Check out our Samsung Galaxy S7 video review:
That leaves the way clear for the 5.1-inch Galaxy S7 to make its mark as the core flagship handset, and it commands a price tag which places it at the top of the mobile tree. Yet, unlike its predecessor it only comes in one variant (32GB of storage), making pricing more straightforward.
In the UK you’re looking at £529 SIM-free, while those in the US will have to part with $ 199 upfront as part of a two-year contract, or fork over $ 669 for the new unlocked Samsung Galaxy S7 price. In Australia the SIM-free price is set at AU$ 1,149.
Those prices pretty much match up with the 32GB Galaxy S6, so at least Samsung isn’t trying to short-change us, but it’s still a considerable amount to part with for a device which isn’t exactly reinventing the smartphone wheel.
That said, it’s hard not to like the Samsung Galaxy S7. It takes the much-improved, premium design from the Galaxy S6 and reinstates a few features from the Galaxy S5 which were shockingly missing from its successor.
The package is an enticing one, but 2016 is a tough year for flagship phones. The LG G5 has launched with a unique modular pull, the HTC 10 is looking to rekindle some of the Taiwanese firm’s former glories and the Huawei P9 offers up a slightly more affordable, yet still premium experience straight out of China.
Then there’s the Sony Xperia Z6 and, of course, the iPhone 7 expected to arrive later this year too.
Samsung may have been first out of the flagship blocks, but it needs to make the most of its strong start to stay ahead of the pack.
At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking the Samsung Galaxy S7 looks almost identical to the Galaxy S6. And that’s because it is.
Samsung has reused the premium glass and metal finished it employed on the S6, which finally saw the manufacturer move away from its reliance on plastic to materials which better reflected the flagship price tag it was slapping on its top phones.
On closer inspection though, you’ll begin to notice the subtle differences that make the Samsung Galaxy S7 the best looking, and feeling, Galaxy ever.
Samsung has dropped the metallic rim around its iconic physical home key, enabling it to blend a little more seamlessly into the overall aesthetic of the S7, almost masking its existence.
I’m a fan. It makes for a cleaner look, and that look is further improved with the color-coded earpiece grille, which was also metallic on the S6.
The corners are more rounded, and the aluminum frame that’s sandwiched between the front and rear glass is less obtrusive, with less of an overhang than its predecessor. That means there is less metal against your skin, which initially makes the S7 feel a little less premium than the S6, but once you’ve got used to it you’ll find it’s still a stylish presence in the hand.
While the Galaxy S7 sports the same size 5.1-inch display as the S6, Samsung has managed to shave off a fraction of the bezel around the screen, reducing the handset’s height and width slightly.
That gives you dimensions of 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9mm – and it’s that last number which is the most interesting. At 7.9mm thick the Galaxy S7 is fatter than the S6 by 1.1mm, but holding it in your hand you won’t know.
That’s because of the gently sloping edges on the rear of the handset. The finish, which is mirrored on the rear of the Galaxy S7 Edge, is borrowed from the Galaxy Note 5, and enables the phones to sit more snugly in the palm for a firmer, more comfortable hold.
The Galaxy S7 is a phone you can grip confidently – unlike the iPhone 6S and LG G5, with their flat backs resulting in a slightly awkward position in the hand. The metal and glass doesn’t offer much in the way of grip, but because the phone is better positioned in the hand I felt like I was less likely to let it slip compared with the iPhone or S6.
The size, shape and general design of the Galaxy S7 means it’s easier to hold and operate one-handed too. I could reach the other side of the screen with my thumb with far less strain, and it required little to no shuffling in the hand to move around the whole display.
The power/lock key on the right and volume keys on the left also fall nicely under thumb and finger, although you’ll still have to juggle the S7 a bit to reach the fingerprint scanner, which is embedded under the physical home key.
Returning to the rear of the Galaxy S7, the square camera bulge is still there, but this time around it’s less protruding. Samsung has managed to flatten its snapper considerably since the Galaxy S6 – it’s now down to just 0.46mm, and while it’s still not flush with the body of the S7, it’s far less volcanic.
It’s not totally flat, which is something Huawei CEO Richard Yu was more than happy to tell us about at the launch of the P9 – a phone which has, as Yu put it, "no bump, no bump!"
Alongside it you’ll find the LED flash and heart rate monitor – a feature Samsung insists on putting on its top-tier handsets, even though a smartwatch or fitness tracker is much better placed for this tech. It also measures stress and O2 saturation levels, although it’s unclear just how accurate these sensors are.
It’s there if you want it – just head to the S Health app – but I can’t see it getting much use.
What I noticed almost immediately, however, was just how much of a fingerprint magnet the Galaxy S7 is. The glass looks great, but I found myself frequently reaching for my microfiber cloth to smarten up the appearance of the S7.
It’s exactly the same issue the Galaxy S6 had, and it’s surprising that Samsung hasn’t tried to address this with the S7.
There was hope Samsung would address the single speaker setup it placed on the Galaxy S6, but alas it hasn’t. It’s kept the single speaker on the base of the Galaxy S7, rather than opting for dual front-facing offerings like HTC and Sony.
It’s not a huge issue, but the result is sound from your movies, games and music can end up being muffled by your hand.
Samsung has resurrected two features from the Galaxy S5 though, with a microSD slot and dust and water resistance both appearing on the Galaxy S7. The microSD port shares a tray with your nanoSIM, which can be slid out of the top of the handset.
This lets you build on the 32GB of internal storage by up to a further 200GB, giving you plenty of space.
Meanwhile, the IP68 water resistance has improved from the S5, allowing submersion of up to five feet for 30 minutes, plus there’s no annoying flap covering the charging port.
The microUSB port has been waterproofed, but the S7 won’t charge if it detects water in its hole. If you’ve taken the phone for a plunge in the bath, you’ll need to dry the charging port before plugging in.
Samsung hasn’t reinvented the wheel with the design of the Galaxy S7, but it didn’t need to. The Galaxy S6 was an excellently styled device, and the S7 has managed to improve on that.
At first glance, the S7’s screen appears to be the same as the 5.1-inch, QHD Super AMOLED offering on the Galaxy S6. The resolution is still 2,560 x 1,440, giving you a pin-sharp 577ppi pixel density.
That’s no bad thing, as the screen on the S6 was excellent – but Samsung’s made things even better on the Galaxy S7.
The folks over at DisplayMate have run independent, objective scientific analysis on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge displays, and the results show performance improvements across all tests versus their S6 predecessors. It fact, DisplayMate has said the screen on the Galaxy S7 is the best of any smartphone.
What does this all mean? The main point is the screen on the Galaxy S7 is 24% brighter than its predecessor, with improved contrast ratios to boot.
Held side by side with the Galaxy S6 I could see the Galaxy S7 screen had whiter whites, and colors appeared to be a little more natural compared to the slight over-saturation on the S6.
In short, the Samsung Galaxy S7 has a fantastic display. You’re unlikely to notice much of a difference coming from a Galaxy S6, but for those looking to upgrade from a handset that’s two years old your eyes are in for a treat.
That’s not all the screen on the S7 has to offer – it also boasts always-on functionality, a feature that both Samsung and LG (on the G5) have employed on their flagship handsets in 2016.
Samsung’s implementation sees the screen on the Galaxy S7 show a few different things when the handset is lying idle. The default option shows the clock, date and battery level, plus counters for new text messages and missed calls will also display (if you have any).
That’s useful, but I was disappointed that the notifications icons were limited to just these two things. I do most of my messaging via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and not having notifications for those on the display was a little frustrating.
Samsung has opened up the API to app developers, so in the future we should see these notifications come to the always-on display, but it’s something Samsung could have done itself, and it’s annoying that it hasn’t. Returning to the Galaxy S7 a month later and I was disappointed no one had taken up the option to shift notifications to the always-on display – come of devs, help me out here!
Aside from the default display, the other two options you can have are a calendar view or a full-screen pattern, neither of which are particularly useful. I expected at least calendar entries to be shown in some basic form with the former, but alas you just get a view of the days in the month, and that’s it.
Meanwhile the pattern, instead of using a portion of the screen, takes up the whole screen. Furthermore, there are only three patterns to choose from, and you can’t customize them in any way. The hope is more will appear in time, but for now it’s useless.
With the screen never turning off (although you can disable the always-on feature in the settings), there is an additional drain on the battery. Samsung claims it consumes less than 1% every hour, though, and during my time with the Galaxy S7 I didn’t find it was killing the power.
It may seem like a relatively tame addition, and at first I dismissed the always-on functionality as nothing more than a gimmick.
However, as I spent more time with the S7 I became accustomed to glancing at my phone for the time and date, as well as to see if I needed to stick in the charger. Simple, yet affective.
Specs and performance
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a flagship smartphone, so it comes as no surprise that it’s packing a punch under all that metal and glass.
Things aren’t straightforward specs-wise though, as Samsung has deemed it necessary to produce two variants of the S7, with the difference being the processor inside them.
The majority of the world, including Europe, will find a Samsung-made Exynos 8890 octa-core processor inside their Galaxy S7 (model SM-G930F), providing a huge amount of power.
Those in the USA get something a little different: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core chip in model SM-G930. The reason for this is that the 820 supports some vital LTE bands required for Verizon and Sprint customers, and the Exynos doesn’t offer this.
Now both processors are powerful, and with 4GB of RAM backing each of them up you’ll have enough going on under the hood to not slow you down.
However, I had access to both variants during my review, and running Geekbench 3 on them yielded some rather different results, with the Exynos-toting Galaxy S7 coming out comfortably on top.
The Exynos variant scored an average of 6542 on the multi-core test, while the Snapdragon 820 handset averaged 5398 on the same test.
It’s fair to say, then, that customers in America have a right to feel a little aggrieved, although in reality you’re not going to notice the difference in day to day use.
The bigger news here is that both variants absolutely smash their competitors. The Galaxy S6 managed to clock an impressive 4850, but it pales in comparison to its successor.
As for the competition, the iPhone 6S recorded an about-average score of 4417, the Sony Xperia Z5 came in at 4015 and the HTC One M9 only managed a lowly 3803.
Meanwhile the Snapdragon 820-toting LG G5 set an average score of 5386, matching that of the S7 variant with the same chip. We’ll wait and see what the HTC 10 can muster too, seeing as that also packs Qualcomm’s latest chipset.
For a slightly different test, we pitted the Galaxy S7 against five of the best phones you can buy right now to see how well it coped with opening up apps at speed. We ran our speed test on each of the phones to see how fast it could run through 10 apps.
You can watch the results in our video here where it faces the iPhone 6S, Sony Xperia Z5, Huawei P9, HTC 10 and LG G5.
The test found the iPhone 6S was slightly faster than the Galaxy S7 in opening up apps at speed, but only just with it coming two seconds behind. The boot up time on the Galaxy S7 took quite a while which added eight seconds onto the iPhone 6S time.
This is a very particular test and isn’t the only way of showing speed, but it shows the Exynos version of the Galaxy S7 is one of the fastest phones you can get, holding its own against all the other big phones.
Navigation is smooth on the S7, apps load promptly and Samsung’s cleaner, fresher TouchWiz feels more lightweight and easier to manage this time around.
Android purists will still kick up a stink at Samsung’s insistence on playing with app icons – which are an improvement over the S6’s designs – and on bundling in bloatware and generally adding more fuss to the system.
I’d rather have pure Android on the S7, with the addition of the always-on display and a couple of other settings – but that’s in an ideal world, and Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow runs very well here.
Apart from the slightly smarter app icons, another obvious area where TouchWiz has been tweaked is the notification bar, which is now a more pleasing blue-on-white affair.
You get the usual array of quick settings here, along with a brightness slider, while swiping left to right on the home screen opens the upday (or Flipboard if you’re in the US) news aggregator.
This is okay for a general splash of the latest news centered around a few topics you define as favorites, but I didn’t find myself visiting it all that often. The good news is that you can turn it off, so you never have to look at it.
Those of you who like to cram your home screens full of apps may find the default 4 x 4 layout of the Galaxy S7 a little restricting. That can be addressed, though: just hold down on a home screen and you can change the grid layout to either 4 x 5 or 5 x 5.
The latter option can feel tight on the 5.1-inch display – but just think of all those extra apps you can squeeze in.
Samsung’s split-screen view is also still in full force on the Galaxy S7 – hit the multi-tasking button to the left of the home key and apps which can perform the half-screen view trick will have an icon next to the cross button.
The annoying thing about this feature is that only a select few apps can actually go split-screen. Core apps such as Chrome, Gmail, Gallery and so on are supported, along with a handful of third-party options including Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft’s Office suite.
While split-screen view may be mildly useful for business types on the move, in reality I found very little use for it on the Galaxy S7.
Something else I found frustrating was the ability to reduce apps to a floating window on screen.
It’s potentially useful on the very odd occasion, but because the swiping motion to trigger this is very similar to the action to pull down the notification bar I found myself repeatedly shrinking apps when all I wanted to do was see my quick settings. #rage.
There have been some improvements in the keyboard department too, with slightly better spacing and next word prediction on offer, but the Samsung board still frustrates.
Simple actions such as employing a comma are not particularly easy, and I’d still recommend downloading a third-party offering such as SwiftKey if you do a lot of typing on your phone.
Less is more. We’ve all heard the saying, but is it really true? Samsung certainly thinks so when it comes to the camera on the Galaxy S7.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 had a brilliant camera – we branded it the best on the market in 2015 – but the South Korean giant has messed with its winning formula.
The 16MP snapper which adorned the rear of the S6 is out, with a 12MP offering tagging in for the Samsung Galaxy S7.
The camera does at least sit a lot flusher to the body, but alarm bells may be ringing as that drop in pixels sinks in. Don’t panic just yet, though.
There is just one snapper though, unlike the dual-camera set up on the LG G5 and Huawei P9 – not to mention the possibilities of the iPhone 7 also doubling up later in the year – but luckily the S7 is a strong performer.
Low light performance is one of the big selling points for all smartphone manufacturers, with everyone boasting about how well their cameras can perform when the lights go down.
To that end, Samsung has kept the sensor size the same, but by reducing the number of pixels it means each one is now larger – that allows more light in, thus improving performance in low light and generating sharper, brighter shots.
It’s also made the lens wider, enabling you to get more into shot – perfect for picturesque landscapes and towering skyscrapers when you don’t want the hassle of shooting a panorama.
That’s only half the battle though, as the Galaxy S7 still needs to take great shots when the light is favorable – and thankfully it’s good news all round.
The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are the first smartphones to feature a dual-pixel sensor, a technology initially built for DSLR cameras. This gives the S7 faster autofocus, again improving the brightness and overall quality of your shots.
The difference is clear to see when you fire up the camera app and hold it up to your subject. Staring at the viewfinder on the screen, your subject appears brighter, lighter and clearer – it’s a surprisingly impressive feat, and automatically puts you at ease.
Double-clicking the home button triggers the camera app quick launch, swiftly getting you to the snapper without you having to close another app first. Once the app has loaded you can use the volume keys, as well as the on-screen shutter key, to snap a pic.
The volume keys can also be programmed to zoom or to start video recording if you prefer easy access to either of those instead.
There are plenty of modes and effects to play with on the Galaxy S7, but Samsung’s auto mode is excellent for those just wanting a good quality point-and-shoot.
Keep HDR on auto too, and the S7 will take some cracking shots. What really stood out for me was the low light performance. There has been clear improvement in this department, and the camera does an excellent job of sucking in as much light as possible for blur-free, detailed photos. It’s genuinely impressive.
For those looking for more control, the Galaxy S7’s Pro Mode offers up a whole range of controls including shutter speed, white balance, contrast, brightness and ISO. You can also choose to save images as uncompressed RAW files alongside the standard JPEGs.
There’s a wide range of other modes too, with Samsung stalwarts such as panorama, selective focus and slow motion video joined by new additions including Food and Hyperlapse.
The former provides a meal-friendly filter to help you document your culinary adventures, and the latter improves the stability and visibility of timelapse video, while minimizing the file size for easy social sharing.
Samsung’s also added Motion picture and Motion panorama to the Galaxy S7’s camera arsenal. Motion picture is the South Korean firm’s answer to Live Photos, which Apple introduced on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.
Trouble is, Apple’s implementation is far better. On the Galaxy S7 the split second of video capture is often blurred, and playback requires a tap on an icon in the gallery – there’s no intuitive hold down for motion like on the iPhones.
General picture quality from the S7 is superb, though. Colors are bright and vibrant, detail is surprisingly good considering the drop in megapixels, and lighting is top notch thanks to the improved low light capabilities.
Samsung has somehow managed to top the camera it put on the S6 with the Galaxy S7’s snapper – it’s fantastic.
Round the front, Samsung has resisted the urge that has seen rivals slap 8MP cameras (and in some cases even higher) on their handsets, keeping things at 5MP. The overly oppressive beauty mode is here again, ready and waiting to make you look like an alien – it’s best turned off, or at least dialled down.
A genuinely useful feature, though, is the front-facing flash – although you’ll note there’s no LED mounted on the front of the Galaxy S7. Instead it uses the display to flash a white light at you, for an illuminated selfie in low light surroundings.
Images from the front snapper are good, but lack the detail of rival offerings. It’s serviceable, but you’ll want to keep your serious snaps for the excellent rear camera.
It’s interesting to compare how the Galaxy S7 camera compares to the competition, so we took the iPhone 6S, LG G5, HTC 10, Huawei P9 and Xperia Z5 out along with Samsung’s phone to see how the results compared.
You can see some of the results in the video below. We really liked how the Galaxy S7 camera turned out, but it’s not always the best for each test.
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Every year, with every new flagship smartphone I hope – no, I pray – that someone’s finally found the battery elixir we’ve all been craving. So, has Samsung found the holy grail of smartphone technology in 2016 with the Samsung Galaxy S7?
No. But don’t let that put you off.
The elixir is still very much elusive, but the Samsung Galaxy S7 does take steps to try and improve battery performance.
First up, Samsung’s given us a bigger battery – huzzah! – cranking things up from the measly 2550mAh offering in the Galaxy S6 to a far more agreeable 3000mAh power pack in the S7.
Charging times have also been given a boost – both wired and wirelessly – with the fastest charge achieved via the wired connection, using the fast charge adapter which you’ll find in the box.
I ran the Exynos 8890-powered Galaxy S7 completely flat and then plugged it in. After just 15 minutes it had already refuelled to 25%, and around 30 minutes in I was at the 50% mark.
Things slowed down slightly after that, but I had a fully charged Galaxy S7 an hour and a quarter after it completely ran out of juice. That’s a decent performance – and 25% in 15 minutes is perfect for a quick blast before you head out for the night.
Meanwhile the North American, Snapdragon 820-powered handset also managed to regain 25% in 15 minutes; 50% took around 35 minutes, and it was full in under an hour and a half.
The big question, though, is: does the Galaxy S7 last a full day on a single charge? I can happily say: absolutely. It won’t go two days – it’s unlikely to do more than a day and a half at a push – but it’s an improvement over the Galaxy S6, and you can be safe in the knowledge it’ll make it to bedtime.
With heavy usage, and running some rather intensive benchmarking tests as well as a slug of gaming, music streaming and other activities, the S7 managed to make it from 7am to midnight with around 15% still left in the tank.
More moderate usage, with a bit less gaming but still a fair amount of music streaming, emails and social networking, saw me getting into bed with around 30% still in reserve. Plus, the always-on screen was, well, always on. That makes the S7’s effort all the more impressive, as it still performed better than its predecessor.
If you really push the S7 the battery will start to slide, mainly thanks to the luscious Super AMOLED display. My Real Racing 3 addiction is one example of such pushing, with around 10% of the battery falling away during a 45-minute blast – I did absolutely nail the new Nascar circuits though.
I ran the techradar 90-minute full HD video test on the Galaxy S7, with screen brightness on full and the handset connected to Wi-Fi, with accounts syncing in the background. Starting at 100%, the Exynos 8890-powered S7 dropped just 13% during the video. That left it with 87% in the tank, which is a very impressive result. Meanwhile our US variant, running the Snapdragon 820 chip, lost 16% in the same test.
Both comfortably beat the iPhone 6S (which lost 30%), Sony Xperia Z5 (25%) and HTC 10 (22%), but couldn’t come close to the stellar performance by the LG G5 which dropped just 9% – although it struggled to see out a full day on a single charge.
The Galaxy S6 produced a similarly impressive result, losing 16% in the same test, but its downfall, battery performance-wise, was in standby rather than during intense activity.
The Galaxy S7 is much better at holding onto charge when it’s idle. Overnight it lost no more than 10%, and that was with the always-on display enabled. That’s partly thanks to Google’s new Doze mode, which is built into Marshmallow, but I suspect Samsung’s also made some efficiencies of its own.
We also put the Galaxy S7 through a two-hour web browsing test. We ran a web script on the phone, as well as five of our other favorite phones, to see which one had the most battery at the end of the test.
The Galaxy S7 came out of the test with 48% of its battery leftover. That was second place, just behind the HTC 10 that had 56% of its charge. The Huawei P9 was closest to the Samsung with 43%, while the Sony Xperia Z5 had 40%, the LG G5 39% and the iPhone 6S 22%.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of web browsing from your phone, the Galaxy S7 isn’t a bad choice – it’s just the HTC 10 may be a slightly better fit.
If you know you’re going to be away from a charger for an extended period, the Galaxy S7 has two options to help you make the battery last longer.
First up is the standard power-saving mode, which limits performance, vibrations and background data without cutting off any functionality. This can give you a few precious extra hours as your stumble home from a heavy night.
If you’re really up against it, then Samsung’s ultra-power-saving mode takes battery conservation to the extreme. This strips out all the fancy features of the Galaxy S7 and gives you a stripped down, black and white interface with access to only a handful of functions including calls, texts and a web browser.
Just how much extra time these modes give you will depend on individual usage, but with just 5% left in the tank the S7 was telling me that the standard power saver would only give me an additional two minutes over the 45 minutes it predicted the phone to last.
The ultra mode, however, claimed it could keep my phone going for 1 hour 45 minutes, which could be a real life-saver. Obviously, the more you have left in the tank when you enable these modes, the longer they’ll be able to keep you going.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S7 has taken a positive step forward when it comes to battery life. It’s not the best performer out there, and you’ll want to plug in every night to be sure of a full day’s use when you wake – but you won’t find yourself dashing for the charger come mid-afternoon.
Gaming, movies and music
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a flagship device, so it comes as no surprise to find that it takes movies, TV shows, music and gaming in its stride.
While the S7 doesn’t offer the 64GB or 128GB internal storage options that were available with the S6, you do get a microSD slot to compliment the 32GB of built-in storage.
That slot supports cards up to 200GB in size, which is handy seeing as 7.51GB of the internal space in the S7 is taken up by the system memory and pre-installed applications.
With a vibrant 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display and a whole heap of power under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is an excellent gaming-on-the-go device.
Games load quickly, run smoothly and look great, with no hint of slowdown. The Galaxy S7 has no trouble running the graphically-intensive Real Racing 3, and the new curved design means the phone is easier to hold for extended periods.
The big talking point here though is Game Launcher, a brand new feature from Samsung which is debuting on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge.
This puts more power in the hands of gamers, and whenever you download a game the S7 will automatically add it to the Game Launcher folder on the home screen; and it will add any game – even fantasy football apps, which aren’t necessarily traditional games.
You can remove any app from the folder that you don’t deem fit, plus you can add games which the S7 may have missed.
So what does the Game Launcher actually do? Well, when you fire up a game you’ll notice a small red dot to the side of the screen – tap this at any point during your game and you’ll bring up the menu.
From here you can take a screenshot, record live footage of your gameplay, and minimize gameplay so that you can quickly jump into another app before getting straight back to the action.
The two most useful functions, though, are the ones which probably sound the least interesting.
First up, you can disable notifications during gameplay, so you’re not disturbed by panels dropping down in front of the action. It’s something I found really handy, and it keeps you engaged with your game for longer – which for some parents may not be a good thing.
Second, the launcher gives you the ability to lock the navigation keys (back, home and multi-tasking), which prevents you from accidently exiting the app during a crucial showdown.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that in the past, so I was delighted to have this function available on the Galaxy S7. It’s simple yet effective.
Movies and TV
There’s no dedicated video player app on the Samsung Galaxy S7, so you’ll have to make do with the Gallery app to access any movie files you put on the handset, or Google’s Play Movies & TV if you want to access your purchased content, or rent or buy something new.
Playback looks great on the Samsung Galaxy S7, and its brighter display makes watching the latest movie or TV show an enjoyable experience.
Samsung’s handy Pop-up feature lets you minimise your video to a small floating window, enabling you to use other applications on the Galaxy S7 without missing any of the action.
The 5.1-inch screen can get a little cramped in this mode – it works better on the larger S7 Edge – but it’s useful if you need to fire off a quick email, or ping an emoji to a WhatsApp group.
The only negative point here is the placement of the speaker at the base of the handset. When held in landscape mode I found my hand muffled audio on several occasions, obliging me to adjust my grip to something less comfortable.
This can be overcome by plugging in a pair of headphones (or connecting to a pair via Bluetooth), but it’s a niggling issue when you want to share a video with friends and family.
The only music player on the Samsung Galaxy S7 is Google’s Play Music app, and that’s really all you need.
Google offers its own subscription music-streaming service through the app, as well as enabling you to buy and download tracks from its store, and control your own music loaded onto the phone separately.
Audio quality is also impressive when using headphones, although playback falls down in the same way as video when it comes to the placement of the internal speaker.
I’d have loved to have seen Samsung adopt HTC’s and Sony’s use of dual front-facing speakers, but alas I’m stuck with a single, downwards-firing solution again.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Like the look of the Galaxy S7 but fancy a bigger, curved display? Then you’ll want the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Apart from the size and shape of their screens, these two handsets are identical.
The S7 Edge will set you back a bit more, but you get more screen real estate to play with, slightly better battery life, a futuristic look and Samsung’s Edge screen interface, which now has more going for it than the S6 Edge’s slightly lackluster implementation.
It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that as well as being cheaper, the Galaxy S7 is also easier to use one handed.
The decision really comes down to personal preference, and whichever handset you pick you won’t be disappointed.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review
Samsung’s biggest rival is Apple, and the iPhone the Galaxy S7 finds itself squaring up to is the iPhone 6S. The iPhone 7 will arrive later this year to provide a fresh challenge for the S7, but that’s still months away, so if you’re trying to decide between the best of iPhone and Android, these are the two handsets you’ll want to be considering.
The 6S has a smaller 4.7-inch display which is isn’t even full HD, and its flat back means it doesn’t sit quite as snugly in the palm. Its iOS 9 interface, though, is fluid, and while it may not have as much power on paper as the S7, the 6S delivers smooth performance.
Battery life isn’t as strong on the iPhone 6S, but Apple’s interface is arguably more intuitive than Samsung’s TouchWiz – although that’s very much a matter of opinion.
The likelihood is you already know if you sit on the iOS or Android side of the fence – but if you’re genuinely not sure which way to go, the Galaxy S7 is the superior handset.
- Read our iPhone 6S review
HTC is always a brand that’s in the same arena as Samsung, no matter what happens. With a similar spec list – QHD, cutting edge processor and loads of RAM to play with.
It’s also one of the few top-end phones to feature adoptable storage, meaning you can plop in a memory card and use it as internal memory – which is a big help when you’re worried about running low.
And once again there’s the premium HTC design on show – the chamfered edges are ‘sculpted by light’ so when you put it face down on a table it catches random gleams to get the best out of the visuals.
And the headline feature has to be the audio performance – it’s insanely good over headphones, and recording 4K video at a gig is almost professional grade. A sterling performer.
- Check out our HTC 10 review
The LG G5 offers up a more revolutionary flagship experience than its rivals, including the Galaxy S7.
While many comparisons can be drawn between the Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 6S, the G5 offers a modular design and a removable battery, increasing the functionality of the device.
Its 5.3-inch display means it’s bigger than the S7, but its all-metal body feels more premium in the hand, and on the back it boasts two cameras. These work independently of one another, with one offering 16MP snaps and the other sporting a wide-angle 8MP lens.
The G5 may not ship in as high volumes as the Galaxy S7, and the battery life isn’t as good, but its unique appeal still makes it a head-turner.
- Read our LG G5 review
Samsung Galaxy S6
At the end of the day the Samsung Galaxy S7 is essentially just an iteration of the Galaxy S6 – it just happens to be a very good iteration.
The Galaxy S6 has now dropped in price, and while you don’t get a waterproof body or microSD slot, there’s still a top-notch camera, dazzling display and more power than you can shake a stick at.
The thing is, you’ll know in the back of your mind that there’s a better option out there. The Galaxy S7 addresses the issues with the S6 to make an even better smartphone – and that thought may eat away at you.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy S6 review
The best way to describe the Samsung Galaxy S7? Iterative perfection.
It takes the best bits from the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S6, and blends them together into a quite brilliant smartphone.
Samsung hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but it has listened to feedback. It’s righted the wrongs of the S6, reinstated key features and created a stand-out device.
The design may not look all that different, but I love how the Galaxy S7 sits in the palm. It’s comfortable to hold, and the curved edges and reduced width means it’s easier to use one-handed.
Samsung has refined the design from the S6 in all the right ways, including making the Galaxy S7 waterproof. This is a phone you won’t want to put down.
Then there’s the display, which still sports an eye-popping resolution and Super AMOLED technology, but is somehow brighter and more enchanting.
Samsung has freshened up TouchWiz, crammed the S7 full of power, and pulled off yet another supremely impressive smartphone camera – the low light performance of the 12MP snapper is something to behold.
I liked the always-on display way more than I thought I would – it’s simple yet highly convenient – while Game Launcher is another nice touch, and improves the mobile gaming experience on the S7.
Very little, if I’m honest. The cost is high, but that’s to be expected. The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a top smartphone, and its price tag reflects the going rate for such a device in the current market.
There are Chinese manufacturers making phones with flagship specs at half the price, so when Samsung asks for double it raises the question of whether we’re being taken for a ride. We’re not. You are getting a much more accomplished package with the Galaxy S7.
Battery life has improved over the S6, but the Galaxy S7 still needs a nightly charge. Fast charging is useful, but it won’t help you if you’re away from a plug socket for an extended period of time – and unlike the LG G5’s, the S7’s battery isn’t removable.
The return of microSD support is welcome, but I’d like to see more than 32GB of internal space – especially when you consider that 7.51GB of that is already in use when you take the S7 out of its box.
Oh, and the fact that the S7 is a total fingerprint magnet is just plain annoying.
Samsung has tweaked the winning design from the S6, righted the wrongs of its previous flagships, and made a phone you don’t want to put down.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a worthy recipient of a five-star techradar review. That’s no easy feat – only a handful of phones have ever hit the top mark – but the Galaxy S7 has earned its place in our hall of fame.
The differences between the two variants (global vs North America) may frustrate mentally, but you won’t see any differences day to day, so don’t fret.
Is it worth the upgrade? If you’re coming out of a two-year contract and you’re looking for a flagship smartphone, then absolutely – the Galaxy S7 will blow your two-year-old handset out of the water. As long as you’re comfortable with the price – and it really is worth it – then you won’t look back.
For those considering trading in their Galaxy S6 (or other 2015 flagship), the case isn’t quite as strong. The S6 still has a great screen, dazzling camera and plenty of power, so the step up may not feel big enough.
That said, the Galaxy S7 improves on pretty much every aspect of the S6, making it the best phone in the world right now, alongside the larger Galaxy S7 Edge. If money isn’t an issue, the Galaxy S7 will justify the outlay – but the more cash-conscious may want to hold out for the Galaxy S8.
- Read our in-depth Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review
First reviewed: March 2016