T-Mobile Galaxy S7 Edge review: Samsung sets the bar for all smartphones

Samsung S6 Edge was an engineering marvel, but had a few issues that left some of us disappointed. The Galaxy S7 Edge fixes those issues and is the best smartphone currently available.

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Last week I posted my review of the AT&T Samsung Galaxy S7 and found the device so compelling that I drove 150 miles to a T-Mobile store to find a silver titanium Galaxy S7 Edge in stock. Samsung fixed the issues I had with the S6 Edge and this one will not be returned.

CNET: Galaxy S7 Edge review with a 9.1/10 rating and conclusion that it's the best Android smartphone available today.

The first T-Mobile store in Seattle that I visited was out of stock of black and silver S7 Edge devices with online orders showing 10 days to two weeks of backlog for these color variations. I started calling T-Mobile stores up the I-5 corridor until I found a silver one in stock in Bellingham. I'm a bit tired of typical black smartphones and the silver color is unique to the S7 Edge.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core 64-bit
  • Display: 5.5 inch dual edge Super AMOLED at 2560x1440 pixels resolution
  • Operating system: Android 6.0.1
  • RAM: 4GB (LPDDR4)
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, ANT+, NFC, GPS, MST
  • Storage: 32GB internal and microSD card slot
  • Cameras: Rear dual pixel 12 megapixel with f/1.7 aperture and 5 megapixel front facing camera
  • Battery: 3600 mAh non-removable with fast charging and fast wireless charging technology
  • Dimensions: 150.9 x 72.4 x 7.6 mm and 157 grams

Hardware

cnet

Samsung Galaxy S7 review

This is the phone to beat.

It probably sounds like a broken record by now, but independent DisplayMate scientific analysis confirms the Galaxy S7 Edge has the best performing smartphone display ever. The display is stunning and continues to impress. Unlike the poor auto-brightness I continue to see on LG smartphones, Samsung gets it right. I would like to see something like the Apple iOS NightShift mode available on the S7 Edge, but you can choose different display modes and there are third party apps that offer something similar.

The S7 Edge has a 5.5 inch display, but still fits well in your hand thanks to the curved front and back. People often complain of wide bezels on phones, but that cannot be said about the S7 Edge since there are no side bezels. The top and bottom bezels are just as big as needed to support the physical hardware button, camera, headset speaker, and sensors.

While the side edges are attractive and there is software to make one edge useful, I also find the curved glass edges to be the only problem with the device. When I take photos, I find it difficult to take with one hand and when using two hands I have to make a conscious effort to keep my fingers off of the display edges or the camera capture button cannot be activated. This is a trade-off you make when you select a phone with no room for your fingers, but it is also something you adapt to after a few attempts to capture photos and video.

The speaker is also not as loud as some other phones, but it seems this is due to the waterproof design. Music sounds great through the headphone jack so I'm willing to take a slight hit on a mono speaker in order to gain water resistance and think most people use headphones when they listen to music anyway.

Like the S6 line last year, the S7 Edge back is a fingerprint magnet. I'm loving the silver color and purchased a skin to put on the back, but also don't mind wiping it down once a day to have the silver bullet in my hand. It is also a slick device, but I haven't dropped it yet.

Phone calls have sounded great and one reason I like to purchase carrier phones is to experience the advanced carrier features such as VoLTE, video calling, and WiFi Calling on T-Mobile.

Pros Cons
Superb design, elegance, fit, and finish of the hardware Back is a fingerprint magnet
Amazing display and useful always-on display Edges can cause inadvertent finger activation
Excellent camera performance
Water resistance offers peace of mind in inclement weather
Fast and seamless charging options
Minimized TouchWiz with good balance of useful utilities and settings
microSD card slot for inexpensive storage expansion

Software

Samsung continues to slim down the influence of TouchWiz and I honestly haven't even seen the use of this term in any recent Samsung documentation. There are just a few Samsung utilities installed on the device and the notification area can be slimmed down to just a row of icons too. I wouldn't mind if Samsung took out the included web browser and S Voice apps as these seem superfluous with Chrome and Google Now.

Unfortunately, my Note 5 still doesn't have Marshmallow so it appears the only way to get timely software updates from Samsung is to purchase the newest smartphone. That's a costly method of upgrading your software though, unless you subscribe to JUMP or some other carrier upgrade program.

T-Mobile has a few utilities on the S7 Edge, such as T-Mobile Name ID, T-Mobile TV, Live TV, and Lookout, but they sit in a T-Mobile folder and I just ignore them. The Visual Voicemail, Mobile Hotspot, and T-Mobile My Account utilities are useful.

While I like the ability to apply themes, customize the always on display, turn off the LED indicator, and set things up to my satisfaction within the settings, the real magic in the software of the S7 Edge lies in the edge screen settings.

Launching the edge panel settings gives you the ability to toggle the edge panels, edge feeds, and edge lighting on and off. The edge panels are activated while the display is on by dragging the edge panel handle, visible as a small white tab that you can drag to your desired position on the left or right side, from the edge to the center of the display. Edge feeds are viewable when the display is off by swiping your finger up and down the edge in one motion, similar to rubbing a lamp to reveal the genie.

There are a large number of available edge panels, including app shortcuts, five main contacts, sports news, calendar appointments, weather, music controls, and much more. You can also download edge panels from the Samsung Galaxy Apps store front. There are currently 11 available panels you can download for free, up to $1.50. You can customize the order of the panels, what side the they come in from, the size, and the transparency of the panels.

There are five available edge feed options with two more available for free in the Galaxy Apps store. Panels include notifications, Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! News, and S Health status.

You will also find an area of the settings for advanced features that include several technology features seen on previous Galaxy devices. These options include pop-up view gesture, smart capture, direct call, smart alert, easy mute, and more. There is also a cool new game launcher that lets you have game tools appear so you can toggle alerts, record a video of your gaming session, and more.

Dual screen mode is also supported on the S7 Edge so you can launch the task switcher and choose two apps to view and use at the same time. With a 5.5 inch display, there are useful situations for running two apps side-by-side.

Competition

The best iPhone is the iPhone 6s Plus with a new iPhone likely following the September or October release schedule. Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 is available now with a replacement due later this summer and it remains a great choice, especially for those who use the S Pen.

LG announced the G5 with interesting modular design, but with just camera controller grip and niche DAC modules announced so far I'm not convinced it trumps the S7 Edge. HTC is going to announce its new smartphone in three weeks, but I'm not sure that rumored device can challenge Samsung for the title of the best Android smartphone.

Pricing and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is available in silver, black, and gold on T-Mobile for $779.99. AT&T charges $794.99, Verizon charges $792, and Sprint's price is $749.99. Compare these prices to the Apple iPhone 6s Plus 16GB model at $749 and 64GB model at $849 to see that Samsung is offering a better deal on more advanced hardware than Apple is offering.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

Last summer I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and awarded it one of my highest ratings ever, 9.7 out of 10. The S7 Edge has a similar design, but the integrated SD card slot, water resistant rating, Android Marshmallow OS, and higher capacity battery will likely have it selling more than the Note 5 at the same launch price. I've been using both side-by-side for the past week as I try to determine if one is better than the other, but still have not made that decision and am likely to keep both.

Since I often run in the rain and spend a lot of time outside in inclement weather hiking, fishing, and enjoying sports the S7 Edge water resistance is highly desirable. My older Sony Xperia Z3 was water resistant, but neither Sony nor T-Mobile actively supported the device so I was excited to see a modern smartphone with water resistance appear from Samsung. I've been running with it in the rain and can now rest at ease knowing it can handle splashing and rain, with the occasional dip in the pool.

I was blown away by the design of the S6 Edge last year, but when the battery kept dying at 2 or 3 pm in the afternoon I had to return it to T-Mobile and look ahead to the Note 5. The S7 Edge has lasted me a full day every day since I purchased it and the standby state is phenomenal. Nothing else has been able to match the standby state of my iPhone 6s Plus, until now.

The camera was already fantastic on the S6 and Note 5, especially with the quick launch action of the hardware button. This year's S7 Edge now takes even better low light photos and has the option to capture a short bit of video before the photo is captured.

It's tough to find any faults with the S7 Edge and I think millions will be pleased with the purchase of this new smartphone. It is expensive, but it's less expensive than a comparable iPhone 6 or 6s Plus and if you use your smartphone as much as I do then it's worth the price.

Samsung's designs are amazing and it is clear that it is the company pushing mobile technology to the edge. With inexpensive expandable storage options, water resistance without the use of awkward port covers, fast charging via cables and wireless technology, cutting edge dual pixel camera technology, and the world's best smartphone display Apple, LG, HTC, and others have a lot to prove in 2016 and beyond.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Contributor's rating: 9.6 out of 10

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