'

AT&T Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review: Longer battery life and rugged protection make it a compelling outdoor smartphone

  • Editors' rating
    9.9 Spectacular
  • $794.99

Pros

  • All the greatness of the S7 with shatter-resistant display
  • Fantastic camera
  • Expandable storage
  • Quick access Active key
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Feel not as elegant as the S7
  • Lose ability to use the Gear VR headset

Samsung recently announced the 4th generation Galaxy Active model, the S7 Active and I've spent a week testing out the gold and camo models. The Samsung Galaxy Active phones offer larger capacity batteries, integrated ruggedized protection, and quick access to an outdoor-focused application.

Like the past models, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is an AT&T exclusive. There is a bit less differentiation this year between the Galaxy S7 and S7 Active due to the same water resistant rating for both models. However, the larger battery and enhanced protection still make it a device to seriously consider.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 2.15 GHz quad-core
  • Display: 5.1 inch 1440x2560 pixels resolution Super AMOLED display
  • Operating system: Android 6 Marshmallow
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 32GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Water resistance: IP68 certified for up to 30 minutes in five feet of water
  • Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, ANT+, NFC, GPS, MST and NFC payment system support
  • Battery: 4000 mAh non-removable with Quick Charge and dual wireless support
  • Dimensions: 148.8 x 75.2 x 9.9 mm and 185 grams

Comparing this list of specs to that in my Galaxy S7 review shows that the battery capacity and dimensions are the only differences.

The 4,000 mAh battery is 1,000 mAh more than the standard Galaxy S7, which is a welcome addition given that the S7 has a tough time making it through a long day. By comparison, my Galaxy S7 Edge has a 3,600 mAh battery and easily gets me through a busy day.

Hardware

Millions of people place their smartphone inside a case with rugged ones from OtterBox, UAG, and others being popular choices. With the Galaxy S7 Active, you can carry your smartphone "naked" and relax a bit more than you can with the glass and metal S7 or S7 Edge.

Given the appearance that the S7 Active is in a slim case, I expected it to feel heavy in the hand. It is more than an ounce heavier than the Galaxy S6 Active and at 185 grams (6.53 ounces) it is not a light device.

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Samsung did a great job with the soft touch sides, rubberized frame, and textured back cover. Samsung worked with the display manufacturer to develop a proprietary shatter-resistant display that still shows off the brilliance of a Super AMOLED panel. Watching some of the drop tests is very impressive and if you have fumble fingers then you are probably safe with the S7 Active.

On the upper left side you will find the Active key that is used to launch the Activity Zone utility. This utility includes panels for weather, barometer, S Health, compass, flashlight, and stopwatch. You can customize a short press, long press, and double press of the Active key. By default, these launch Activity Zone, DIRECTV, and Emergency Zone.

Below the Active key on the left side is the volume button. The power button is on the right side with the SIM card/microSD card slot below the power button. The microUSB port is on the bottom. The headphone jack is on the top of the S7 Active, while it is on the bottom of the S7 and S7 Edge.

In addition to the central home button, that also serves as the fingerprint scanner, you will find the task switcher and back physical buttons on either side of the home button. The same double press of the home button to launch the camera works too.

The green S7 Active has a camouflage back panel while the titanium gray and sandy gold have solid color textured back panels.

Software

Everything seen on the Samsung Galaxy S7 is present on the S7 Active, with the addition of the Activity Zone and Emergency Zone software. These are both designed to help you monitor conditions, track your activity, and communicate during an emergency. The S7 Active is built for those who like to run with their phone, work in the field, or spend time outside for long periods of time.

In typical fashion, you will also find loads of AT&T utilities and services installed on the S7 Active.

Pricing and competition

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is only available from AT&T in the US. You can purchase it for the full price of $794.99 or $26.50 per month at zero percent interest for 30 months.

There are also some special launch offers from Samsung and AT&T that make buying one a bit easier. You can fill out a promotion form for a free Samsung Gear VR, $99 value, and also get up to $50 in VR games. AT&T, also lets you buy a Samsung Gear S2 for 99 cents or Gear S2 Classic for $49.99 when you purchase the Galaxy S7 Active with AT&T Next. You can also add a Samsung Tab E for 99 cents with some local stores possibly offering other promotions.

There are very few high end smartphones with integrated rugged features such as the Galaxy S7 Active. Most of the rugged phones have lower tier specifications. The closest current competitor looks to be the Verizon Motorola Droid Turbo 2 with shatterproof display that sells for $624.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

Give my very poor battery life experiences with the Galaxy S6 last year, I was extremely envious of AT&T customers after testing the Galaxy S6 Active last summer. The S7 Active continues with a similar rugged form factor and all the bells and whistles found in the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Given that the S7 and S7 Active are both water resistant, the choice comes down to whether you want more battery capacity and a display that can take a tumble. It's tough to choose between the two because the S7 feels so good in the hand and pocket, but it is a bit fragile with the glass back and front.

The battery life is awesome and I was able to go nearly two full days with fairly heavy usage. Given the wireless and fast charging support, the battery is not something you will pay much attention to on the Galaxy S7 Active.

One thing to note is that the current Samsung Gear VR will not work with the S7 Active. There is not enough room with the current Gear VR attachment, but you may be able to perform a custom modification to get it to fit.

If I was an AT&T customer, I would choose the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active over the S7 for the additional battery capacity and shatter-resistant display. As a guy who spends time outdoors, I also really like the green camo look and feel.

Specifications

Cellular
Type Smartphone
Integrated Components audio player, front-facing camera, rear-facing camera, voice recorder
Mobile Broadband Generation 4G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider AT&T
Operating System Family Android
Operating System Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
Input Device Multi-touch , capacitive
Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, voice control, call timer, conference call, flight mode, voice dialing, vibrating alert
Details
Integrated Components Rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, audio player, voice recorder
Body Color Titanium gray
Messaging & Internet
Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Yes
Miscellaneous
Compliant Standards MIL-STD 810G, IP68
Communications
Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, LTE
4G LTE Band LTE Band 1, LTE Band 12, LTE Band 18, LTE Band 19, LTE Band 2, LTE Band 20, LTE Band 29, LTE Band 3, LTE Band 30, LTE Band 38, LTE Band 39, LTE Band 4, LTE Band 40, LTE Band 41, LTE Band 5, LTE Band 7, LTE Band 8
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
Bluetooth Profiles Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)
LTE Band LTE Band 4, LTE Band 1, LTE Band 3, LTE Band 5, LTE Band 7, LTE Band 20, LTE Band 2, LTE Band 12, LTE Band 8, LTE Band 19, LTE Band 18, LTE Band 38, LTE Band 39, LTE Band 40, LTE Band 41, LTE Band 29, LTE Band 30
Processor
Clock Speed 2.15 GHz
Manufacturer Qualcomm
Processor Core Qty Quad-core
Display
Display Resolution 2560 x 1440 pixels
Diagonal Size 5.1 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 13 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 5.1 in
Color Support color
Camera
Features video recording
Digital Camera
Video Recorder Resolutions 3840 x 2160 (2160p)
Features video recording
Header
Brand Samsung
Product Line Samsung GALAXY
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Touchscreen Technology capacitive
Features
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert, voice control, voice dialing
RAM
Installed Size 4 GB
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 32 GB
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 12 pixels
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 5 Megapixel
Features video recording (1080p), wide angle lens

Where To Buy

Price
$794.99

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Where To Buy

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active (titanium gray)

Part Number: G891A
Price
$794.99