It Might Finally Be Time To Quit Your iPhone

Photo: Courtesy Samsung.
If you're in the market for a new phone and are looking beyond the confines of the Apple ecosystem, it can be tough to decide what to get. Google's Nexus 5X and 6P are excellent, and the $400 Nextbit is a fun alternative to your standard glass and aluminum slate.

Announced at Mobile World Congress late last month, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is now the newest Android smartphone on the market. We've been using it for close to a week, and found that it's incredibly fast, a beautiful piece of hardware, and that it takes superb photos. If you were to consider making the jump from iOS to Android, grabbing a Galaxy S7 would be a shrewd move.

So, want to know what it's like to actually use one? Read on.

The Looks
A few years back, Samsung's flagship handsets felt flimsy and plasticky. The Galaxy S7 is the antithesis of that. Iterating on last year's design, it's made of glass and aluminum. It feels strong, sturdy, and expensive. The black onyx finish, which we reviewed, looks remarkably similar to actual onyx stone (my industrial-designer boyfriend marveled at it for a good five minutes).

Overall, the Galaxy S7 is slightly larger than an iPhone 6/6s — a few millimeters longer in length, width, and thickness. Both the glass on front and the rear face curve inwards slightly toward the side edges. I think an iPhone is more comfortable to grip in my hand, but I'm less worried I'm going to drop the heftier Galaxy phone.

On the front, it's got a 5.1-inch display with a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution (that's 576 pixels per inch of screen space, versus 326 on the iPhone 6s, or 401 on the iPhone 6s Plus). That higher pixel density means photos and video looks great — except anything that's not high definition, which looks super pixelated.

Photo: Shot on iPhone 6s (Top), shot on Galaxy S7 (Bottom).
The Camera
What is a phone these days but a slim, large-screened excuse for a camera? The S7 has a 5-megapixel shooter on front, and a 12-megapixel camera on the back that just barely protrudes from the phone's surface.

The rear camera takes vibrant, warm photos with a nice depth of field — if perhaps not quite true-to-life (it's as if they've been slightly Instagram-enhanced). Shots on an iPhone 6s look positively dull in comparison. In full, bright sunlight and in cloudy conditions, this camera captured stunning shots. Its lowlight capabilities are a hallmark feature, and in that, it did better than its iOS counterpart. With light shining behind the object or person being snapped (never an ideal photographic situation), Samsung's camera was able to keep the overall image from getting washed out.

The front-facing camera, like the iPhone 6s, features a built-in "flash" in which the screen itself flashes for a moment before the shutter snaps. Using this flash, photos in low light are rendered usable, but the images aren't as sharp or as detailed as those similarly taken with the iPhone's selfie camera.

The camera app itself is loaded with tons of editing features, and various shooting modes like Panorama, slow motion, hyperlapse, and food. It also has a fun video collage feature that lets you fill the screen with four different six second videos, Brady Bunch-style.
Photo: Shot on iPhone 6s (Left), shot on Galaxy S7 (Right).
Battery Life
While the S7 has a larger capacity battery than similar-sized phones, its battery life isn't any better than what you've come to expect from a smartphone. With average to heavy use, it can make it through a full day, and if left unplugged at night, loses roughly 30% of its charge. For a similar day of Instagramming, Google Mapping, email checking, web browsing, and Candy Crushing, the S7 seemed to lose just slightly more battery life than an iPhone 6S (in the 5 to 10% range).

That extra battery usage is likely partially due to the S7's always-on screen. When the phone is face up on a surface, or in your hand, the display shows the date, the time, and the battery percentage — you can customize it to show the calendar or an image, instead. You can turn this feature off in the settings, but I generally found it was useful to glance at the screen for this information (it's basically a limited alternative to wearing a smartwatch).

But one very nice thing: charging doesn't take too long using its dedicated "adaptive fast-charging" charger. From a nearly dead 3% battery, it took 15 minutes to get to 25%, a little over half an hour to get halfway charged, and under an hour-and-a-half for a full charge. That's roughly twice as fast as a "normal" charger could do it.
Photo: Shot on Galaxy S7.
Everything Else
Like the iPhone, the Galaxy S7 has a fingerprint sensor on its home button, which offers a quick and convenient way to unlock the device instead of using your passcode. You can also double-tap the home button to quickly pull up the camera, whether the phone is locked or unlocked.

General performance is excellent. Games and video play smoothly; apps and webpages load nearly instantaneously. The screen responsiveness in some apps, such as Facebook, is almost too good at times— I'd accidentally rest a finger on the screen, and in doing so tap something I didn't mean to. Luckily a quick tap of the back button, in the lower right of the phone, sends you back to where you were. App switching, accessed by tapping the lower left of the phone's screen, is also super speedy. Like a stack of cards, you can flip through your open apps to hop to one you were recently using, bypassing the home screen.

The software experience is fine — Google Now never ceases to be helpful — but the phone does come preloaded with a bunch of Samsung apps and, as my review unit was a Verizon model, Verizon apps, too (it's available on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular). But every app that I normally use on iOS is now available on Android, which makes the transition of switching between platforms far more seamless than ever before.

Oh, and did we mention, the phone is waterproof? Now if only its glass were completely shatterproof, too.

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is an excellent smartphone. The build quality is great; it has some convenient software features; and the camera is a winner. If you're looking for a new phone this year, this could be the one.

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