Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S7 comparison review: If you already own the Galaxy S6, this is why you shouldn’t bother upgrading. And if you’re torn between buying the S6 or S7, read on for your answer.
The jump from the Galaxy S5 to S6 signified the biggest shift in the company’s smartphone design language ever. The move saw chromed and textured plastics replaced by glass and metal, tolerances were tightened and aside from a few distinctive cues; mainly home button and camera placement, a complete rework of the Galaxy aesthetic.
By comparison, the S7 simply continues the trend set by the S6 and at a distance you might not immediately be able to tell them apart. Both look like high-end devices, with a metal border housing hardware controls and a fingerprint sensor-laden home button below the display.
Read next: Galaxy S6 re-review for 2016
Ergonomically, the S7 takes the lead, with a rounded back inspired by last year’s Galaxy Note 5 that feels far more comfortable in the hand and what’s more, despite being marginally thicker than the S6, the shallower camera bump makes it that little bit more stable on flat surfaces too.
The biggest design changes are in fact those that you can’t see. Pop the SIM tray out on the S7 and unlike its predecessor, you’ll find room for a microSD card. Samsung’s also sealed the innards of its newest flagship in such a way that it comes with IP68 dust and water resistance. Without a case, your S6 is better left away from the wet stuff.
If a phone’s display is important to you, it doesn’t matter which of these two you go for, they both pack exactly the same type of a screen; a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED offering that is simply stunning.
It’s pretty much the best all-round display on a smartphone right now, with great colour reproduction, contrast, brightness and viewing angles. The one slight upgrade the S7 has received is an always-on mode which puts up a clock, the date and notifications on screen when the phone is locked. It’s a handy extra, but as it presently only shows notifications from Samsung’s own apps, functionality is pretty limited until the company expands support to any application.
Similarly to the screens, the user experience is, for the most part, the same, especially as the Galaxy S6 just joined the S7 on Android Marshmallow, with a new version of the company’s TouchWiz UI to match.
You’ve got a customisable home screen that lets you alter icon size, a rich notifications panel with quick settings and a nice little parallax effect against your wallpaper. Both phones feature a built-in news aggregator too, however the S7 swaps out Flipboard Briefing for a new Samsung exclusive equivalent service called Upday, that if we’re being honest, doesn’t feel quite as slick.
Like the always-on display, the S7 gets one other new feature that for the time being is unavailable to the S6 and that’s Game Launcher. As well as giving you quick access to games already installed on your device, it also recommends games you might want to try from the Play Store and links through to leaderboards and YouTube videos of games in your library.
Whilst in-game, the overlay also lets you disable the phone’s capacitive keys, silence notifications and even record gameplay – all of which is absent on the Galaxy S6.
Unsurprisingly the internals of the S7 pack a notable bump in performance over last year’s S6, which make it unquestionably more future-proofed. That said, in real-world usage, both phones feels perfectly fast and fluid, even if the S7 is milliseconds faster.
In its first few weeks of use, the S7 actually proved a touch less reliable than the S6, with the occasional app crash or restart, but these are hopefully issues Samsung can iron out with updates.
If you search around, you can find the S6 with varying levels of internal storage, whilst the S7 is currently only available in a 32GB variant – alleviated by the aforementioned microSD expandability, which lets you slot in cards up to 200GB to bolster space.
Battery life was a major point of contention with the S6 and most users will struggle to last a day without careful handling of its 2550mAh cell. The S7’s larger 3000mAh battery does just enough to take the pressure off, but you can still expect to charge your phone each night, with about 10 per cent left by bed time.
Media playback tests saw the Galaxy S6 last a respectable 8 hours, whilst the S7 really impressed us with 10 hours of life and in a pinch, both phones offer fast wired and wireless charging, to regain some juice quickly.
Upgrades usually come with bigger resolution cameras, but the S7 actually lags behind the S6’s 16-megapixel sensor size with a 12-megapixel sensor.
According to Samsung, the drop in resolution was needed to fit in dual pixel technology, which in practice does genuinely yield better low light results with less noise. These phones pack the two best smartphone cameras on the market right now and image quality is remarkably similar between the two.
In ‘Auto’ the S7 struggles with motion a little bit more than the S6, but on the flip side, it has greater control over features like beauty mode. You’ve also got options for slow motion, fast motion and up to 4K video recording on either device and room to download additional modes including ‘Pro’ which boasts manual control.
Samsung has created a fantastic handset in the Galaxy S7. Like last year’s S6 it isn’t perfect, but it improves on its predecessor in a couple of meaningful ways and packs slightly better performance, battery life and software features.
We say ‘slightly’ because if you’re already rocking an S6 there isn’t enough going on to truly warrant an upgrade and if money is a concern, the S6 is already a much better deal. It’s still a great device that offers an unquestionably premium experience, one year on – as you’ll see from our full Galaxy S6 2016 re-review. Whichever one you pick, you won’t be disappointed.