First impressions count for plenty, and our first impression of Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 Edge is that this will be the Android smartphone to beat in 2016.
The Korean colossus could perhaps have settled for incremental upgrades to the S6, which already chalked a starting line well down the field from the previous generation, but in just about every measure the Galaxy S7 Edge deserves that full digit bump.
If you’ve got a Galaxy S6 there are temptations a’plenty for the upgrade, and if you’ve got an S5 then your next phone just landed.
We’ve clocked some time with the factory-fresh Galaxy S7 Edge, which goes on sale on March 11, and drilled down on the seven features which business travellers will find most appealing.
(The $1,249 S7 Edge is accompanied by the $1,149 Galaxy S7, which eschews the wrap-around display for a smaller screen 5.1 inch screen and a slightly lower-capacity battery.)
1. Fast charge
We were already fans of the Galaxy’s clever settings to dramatically extend battery life by not just throttling back selected apps and activities but even dropping the screen into mono mode.
The Galaxy S7 gets to work on the other side of the coin with quick-charge tech that’ll fully charge the battery in 100 minutes.
(As with the S6, wireless charging is also built-in but the charger will cost you extra – and in case you missed it, Ikea now offers a range of lamps and tables sporting Samsung-friendly wireless chargers.)
And pleasingly, there’s plenty of juice in the S7 Edge’s tank.
Samsung’s use of a malleable battery material let it shape the cell to better fit the S7’s curved innards and deliver a solid 3,600 mAh capacity, well up from the sixth-gem Samsungs.
Another part of the holistic approach: half of the engines in the eight-core processor run at a slower speed (1.6GHz, against the 2.3GHz ‘power four’ which kick in for demanding tasks such as video) to further extend battery life.
2. Brilliant photos
The S7’s camera tech is a show-stopper.
Both the front (5MP) and rear (12MP) lenses are set to a large fast-focus f/1.7 aperture so that more light flows through to the dual-pixel sensors.
And yes, the S6 series had a 16MP camera, but this is a perfect example of great photos being about more than just the number of pixels behind the glass.
In the S7, the individual pixels are larger so that they snare almost 50% more light.
Daytime shots are crisp and crackling but it’s the clarity of night-time snaps when you’re out and about at restaurants, bars or just playing tourist that’ll take you by surprise.
3. Always-on screen
Most travellers have their smartphone double as a bedside clock, and many of us glance at the phone throughout the day just to check the time.
So why not show the time on the screen even when the screen’s switched off? That’d usually mean a fast death to the battery, but Samsung’s use of advanced AMOLED display technology has a neat trick up its sleeve.
AMOLED simply turns off any pixel which shows as black, so it only needs to send power to active pixels. This in turn draws the tiniest fraction of juice.
That’s the thinking behind the S7’s ‘always on’ screen mode, which turns the otherwise blank screen into a digital clock with almost no battery penalty.
We’re hoping that Samsung extends the always-on modules to allow for notifications similar to the Edge screen.
4. Return of the microSD card
There were howls heard far and wide when Samsung dropped the microSD card slot from the S6, locking users into the phone’s factory-fitted storage.
Kudos to Samsung for knowing when to shift into reverse gear, because the S7 and S7 Edge now let you slip a microSD memory wafer into the same slot as the SIM card to stack up to 200GB on top of the phone’s inbuilt 32GB memory bank for storing photos, videos and the like.
5. Elegant design
The S7 raises the design stakes from the S6 with an even more streamlined shape.
The rear camera lens now sits flush with the metal alloy panel while the S6’s sharp edges have been chamfered to a smooth wrap-around finish which seamlessly melds with the hardened front panel glass through a process of 3D Thermoforming.
It’s a sleek yet solid construction which fits beautifully in the hand.
(We were surprised to see Samsung stuck with the microUSB port instead of the next-gen USB Type-C connector, but it’ll be hard to argue the call in the face of a world full of microUSB cables, docks and accessories.)
6. Samsung Pay
Samsung’s own e-payment system was baked into the S6 series but with the service set to launch in Australia this year, the S7 assumes the mantle of ‘hero device’ for the tap-and-go platform.
American Express is already signed up as the local launch partner and at least two Aussie banks are known to be on board.
And it’s a doddle to use: swipe up from the Galaxy S7’s lock button to launch the Samsung Pay app, tap your linked card from a carousel display, tap your fingerprint to activate the embedded NFC chip, then swipe the phone over the payment terminal. That’s a simple swipe, tap, tap, swipe dance step.
Continued overseas rollout of Samsung Pay will only add to its appeal to frequent flyers.
7. Oh, and it’s waterproof
Also dropped from the S6 but back in the Galaxy S7: IP68-grade waterproofing.
Not water-resistant, meaning it can be splashed while you sip cocktails poolside.
This is full immersion, dunking, dropping-into-the-pool and taking-phone-calls-in-the-shower waterproofing. To be specific, the Galaxy S7 models can sit in up to 1.5 metres of water for 30 minutes yet live to phone another day.
And this is done without ugly plastic flaps over the USB port and headphone socket – the chassis is waterproofed from the inside. Impressive stuff, and Apple should be taking notes.
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