Samsung Galaxy S7 long term review: We discuss the best and worst bits of Samsung’s 2016 flagship phone after several months of use. Is the S7 still the best phone of 2016 so far? How does it compare with rivals like the new Google Pixel and Sony’s Xperia XZ? Here’s our re-review as the year draws to a close.
When the Galaxy S7 hit the UK back in March 2016, this shiny smartphone had a world of expectation lumped on its curvy shoulders. Its stunning predecessor, the Galaxy S6, managed to snag pretty much every mobile award going, including Recombu’s Best Phone of 2015 prize. So of course, critics and fans alike were frantically rubbing their thighs Vic Reeves-style in anticipation of this year’s Samsung flagship blower, the Galaxy S7.
Of course, the Galaxy S7 definitely wasn’t perfect, despite the fact that Samsung fixed the main issue with the Galaxy S6 (adding a microSD memory card slot to expand the storage). We still awarded the S7 a healthy four and a half stars in our full review, but could already see some cracks where it was likely to be beaten by upcoming rivals.
Over half a year since we first got our hands on the Galaxy S7, we’ve seen loads of other massive Android phones launched in the UK, including the Sony Xperia XZ, HTC 10 and Google’s own Pixel phone which boasts the latest version of Android. Not to mention the incredible OnePlus 3, which at just £329 offers most of the same brilliant features as flagship phones that are twice its price.
So, how does the S7 stack up to the rest of the 2016 flagship posse? Here’s our full S7 re-review.
Samsung Galaxy S7 long term review: Design
We’ve seen some attractive Androids launched in 2016, from the full-metal HTC 10 to the curious stylings of the Pixel phone, but Samsung’s Galaxy S7 is still one of our favourites when it comes to aesthetics.
For a start, the S7’s relatively compact 5.1-inch build makes it easier to handle than most rival Androids. The likes of the Moto G4 Plus and OnePlus 3 really test your grip at 5.5-inches, so it’s refreshing to clutch something that’s a bit more portable. You even get a one-handed mode which crushes your desktops and apps towards the bottom of the screen, if you’re struggling to stretch around with your thumb.
Samsung also nailed the S7’s design when it comes to the subtle curvature, which looks amazing and helps the phone to comfortably fit your palm.
The Galaxy S7 is surprisingly one of the only water-resistant phones to hit the UK in 2016, alongside the Sony Xperia XZ. While most users won’t even notice or care about that little bonus feature, it’s great news for anyone who enjoys browsing the web in the bath, or accidentally dropping their phone in the toilet when inebriated.
After a few months of play, the Galaxy S7 has thankfully proved remarkably hardy too. That glass and metal frame appears to be tough enough to soak up plenty of punishment and there isn’t a single troublesome scratch in sight. Although the glossy surfacing does attract grease in no time at all.
Samsung Galaxy S7 long term review: Performance and battery life
Several months on, performance definitely isn’t an issue either, as expected. Apps load instantly, Android runs perfectly and you can get your game on without worrying about stutters frame rates. You can even record your gaming session without suffering any dropped frames and the like, using Samsung’s own Game Launcher tool.
Of course, while the Galaxy S7 was the nippiest phone around at the start of 2016, it’s now been pushed down the benchmarking ranks by the likes of the OnePlus 3 (which is a lot cheaper too) and Google’s new Pixel phone, which rocks the Snapdragon 821 chipset. But if you’re not bothered about owning the absolute latest tech, the S7 should see you through at least a full year or two before showing any signs of slowdown.
However, when it comes to battery tech, the S7 does sadly fall down when compared with a lot of rivals. We can still make it through a full 24 hours almost without fail, but the likes of the Huawei P9 and OnePlus 3 are longer-lasting and can also be charged faster. In fact, OnePlus’ Dash Charge tech gives you a full charge in almost half an hour less than Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging, while the phone stays nice and cool throughout. Impressive stuff indeed.
Samsung Galaxy S7 long term review: Features
The Galaxy S7 also falls down compared with rivals when you consider the ‘bonus features’. To put it bluntly, rival smartphones have managed to better almost everything that the S7 does.
So for instance, while the S7’s fingerprint sensor is still pretty fast and accurate, it’s not quite as good as the scanner on the HTC 10 or OnePlus 3, which recognise your print and unlock the phone in noticeably less time. And that ‘always on display’ still won’t show notifications from third-party apps for some reason – something the LG G5 managed just fine.
Upday is still a pile of crap, and while I like the Game Launcher feature, it’s something that can be easily added to any phone with a quick download of an app like AZ Screen Recorder. In fact, the heart rate scanner is pretty much the only unique addition, which is of little use if you already have a fitness tracker with HR monitoring built in.
Samsung Galaxy S7 long term review: Cameras
Ultimately, the one Galaxy S7 feature that really stands out and makes it a worthy purchase is that fantastic camera tech. Like the Galaxy S6 before it, this phone’s 12-megapixel camera is still best-in-class and works beautifully as a brain-free point-and-shoot camera.
We’ve since tested the S7’s camera against pretty much every big Android phone out there, as well as Apple’s new iPhone 7. And every time the S7 more than holds its own, across all kinds of conditions and tests. For instance, the S7’s snapper is still the best performer in low light, capturing grain-free shots even without using the excellent two-tone flash.
Check out our S7 vs Xperia XZ vs Pixel vs Huawei P9 camera comparison, to see how it holds up against the best Android cameras of 2016.
Samsung Galaxy S7 long term review: Verdict
After several months with the Galaxy S7, we still really like it – but Samsung’s flagship phone is quaking under fierce competition from rivals. It’s been bettered for battery life and performance by the likes of the OnePlus 3, which costs significantly less, although the S7’s remarkable 12-megapixel camera is still its stand-out feature, proving particularly impressive in low light.
That said, we’re still convinced that Galaxy S6 owners should save their money and avoid upgrading to the S7, while Android lovers should definitely consider alternatives like the Moto G4 Plus, OnePlus 3 and HTC 10 instead.
Samsung Galaxy S7 long term review: Comparisons
Here’s how the Galaxy S7 compares with some of its biggest rivals right now.