During the decade I have spent reviewing smartphones, I had realized early on that there is no such thing as a perfect smartphone. A running joke in our community used to be that all companies leave out at least one feature willingly in order to be able to sell a better successor or other models in its portfolio. Think about it, how many times have you come across a smartphone with a great camera but pathetic battery? Or one that has everything going for it but it requires you to have palms the size of a gorilla’s in order to comfortably use it (I’m looking at you, iPhone 6s Plus)? But things are changing, and of all companies, it is Samsung that is changing the status quo with the Galaxy S7. I have been using the Samsung Galaxy S7 as my primary smartphone for the last fortnight and my decade long search for the perfect smartphone is finally over.
Samsung has been the only smartphone vendor that has been able to give any competition to Apple’s iPhones. Its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note range of smartphones have been at the cutting edge of technology but have always let users down with its pricing, design or missing features. Hence, the theory about companies not wanting to build the perfect smartphone. The Galaxy S5 was overpriced, had a really bad plastic build and design that seemed inspired by a bandaid, of all things. To its credit, the Galaxy S5 was waterproof and had a microSD card slot. Needless to say, it couldn’t hold its own against the iPhone 6 that was launched later in the year.
Heads rolled at Samsung after the disaster that was the Galaxy S5 and the company started from scratch with the Galaxy S6. There was a brand new camera sensor that was better than the iPhone 6s‘ that was launched a few months later. The Galaxy S6 was a stunner with the premium glass and metal unibody design, which indeed looked better than the iPhone 6’s flat metal body with ugly antenna lines. But only if looks could kill. In order to get the design right, Samsung had to remove two of the best features from the Galaxy S5 — waterproofing and microSD card slot. When was the last time you saw a flagship smartphone that had lesser features than its predecessor?
The Galaxy S7 is the result of constant fine tuning that has happened over the years and it shows. Samsung had more or less perfected the design with the Galaxy S6 and that has remained mostly untouched. The glass and metal body with curved edges feels great in the hand, though the phone feels slippery initially and takes time getting used to. The back glass is now slightly curved, which offers better grip. What I love the most about it is the thin bezels, which makes the phone comfortable to use with one hand. The 5.1-inch QHD Super AMOLED display is an absolute treat to the eyes. The phone itself is slightly thicker than the Galaxy S6. The rear camera bump is still present, but it is not as pronounced as that on the Galaxy S6. If I were to nitpick, the black variant is a fingerprint magnet, though the gold one looks gorgeous.
With the Galaxy S7, Samsung has managed to keep the design and add some of the most sought after features. The Galaxy S7 finally gives users the option to either use dual-SIM cards or use a microSD card for expandable storage. It is now water resistant too and comes with a bigger 3,000mAh battery compared to the 2,550mAh battery on the Galaxy S6. With the new additions, the Galaxy S7 checks all the features one normally seeks in a flagship smartphone.
Then there is the curious case of the new camera. On paper, the Galaxy S7’s 12-megapixel rear camera might seem a downgrade from the 16-megapixel camera on the Galaxy S6 but the photo results blow away every smartphone camera, the iPhone 6s Plus included. The Galaxy S7 has the same 1/2.6-inch sensor size as the Galaxy S6 but it now has bigger 1.4 micron pixels and a brighter f/1.7 lens. Samsung says it also has a new dual-pixel auto-focus technology where every pixel has two photodiodes that helps in uniform and fast auto-focus.
Specifications aside, during my usage I found the Galaxy S7’s camera to consistently perform far better than the iPhone 6s Plus, especially in low light conditions. The Galaxy S7’s camera had brighter, sharper and overall much better photos than the iPhone 6s Plus. The details it can capture are unparalleled when it comes to shooting with smartphones. Check out the actual crop of the photo clicked in a dark nightclub. Or the photo of the flowers, which I clicked on a windy day and yet the camera managed to focus well, complete with depth of field bokeh effect. Yes, the colors are punchier than real life while the iPhone produced closer to natural colors. Even the front-facing 5-megapixel camera produced bright, crisp and sharp photos.
Samsung has launched the Exynos 8890 octa-core variant of the Galaxy S7 in India and not the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 one. While many were disappointed, during my usage I didn’t find any problems with this variant. Coupled with 4GB of RAM, the phone is fluid no matter what you throw at it. For gamers Samsung has also added a new ‘Game Tools’ feature that blocks alerts, locks recent and back keys, take screenshots and even record the game play. This could come handy for hardcore gamers.
What impressed me the most about the Galaxy S7 is its battery performance. Despite running a high-resolution QHD display and the powerful hardware, I was easily able to see through an entire day consistently with about four hours of screen on time. I always had 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and location services switched on, had a Slack account, two Gmail accounts, about two hours of web browsing and two hours of calls. This is unparalleled performance, especially when you consider the size of the phone — it is not a phablet but a slick, handy device.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is priced at Rs 48,900 for the 32GB variant. While many might scoff at the pricing considering the likes of Xiaomi Mi 5 offers similar features at almost half the price, the complete package with water resistant capabilities, camera quality, microSD card slot and the battery performance makes the Galaxy S7 the perfect smartphone in my books. If you have the money to spare, the Galaxy S7 is the smartphone to buy.