After numerous leaks, Samsung has officially revealed the successors to its popular Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones: the new 5.1-inch Galaxy S7 and 5.5-inch S7 Edge. Headline features include a water-resistant chassis, the return of the microSD card slot, and a whopping 4GB of RAM. Both are due for release on March 11 in Europe and the US, with preorders beginning on February 23 (Tuesday morning).
In a surprise move, those that pre-order in the UK and US will receive a free Galaxy Gear VR headset to go along with their shiny new phone.
At first glance—besides their larger screen sizes—both phones look largely identical to their predecessors, the S7 sporting a flat glass front, and the S7 Edge sporting a curved display that gently folds in at the edges to the meet the aluminium body. Both phones will be available in Black Onyx and Gold Platinum, with the S7 Edge also available in Silver Titanium. Unfortunately for fans of 4K, both the S7 and S7 Edge are rocking 2560×1440 pixel displays. The most noticeable design change comes to the rear of the phone, where the dreaded camera bump has been removed to to make the camera module flush with the body. Surprisingly, this hasn't affected the thickness of the phones, which remain fairly svelte at 7.9mm for the S7 and 7.7mm for the S7 Edge. The regular S7 also gains a curved back like the Galaxy Note 5.
Perhaps more exciting is that the S7 and S7 Edge both feature a microSD card slot, a much requested feature that was removed from the S6. Both phones will ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which allows users to merge the SD card with the internal flash memory to create one large seamless pool of storage, making the SD card slot a welcome addition. Also back is water and dust resistance, which was previously found in the Galaxy S5 but was skipped over for the S6. The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are both rated IP68, which equates to "totally dust tight" and prolonged submersion in water (the S5 was IP67, which is only "temporary immersion").
There's nothing too surprising happening on the inside, aside from the bump up to 4GB of RAM. The US version of the phone uses Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 820 SoC, with a quad-core Kryo CPU and Adreno 530 GPU. The international version using Samsung's own octa-core Exynos 8890 SoC, which it claims its 30 percent more powerful than that in the Galaxy S6. Both are cooled by an intriguing heatpipe system, which is similar that seen in laptops and graphics cards. Samsung claims the S7 and S7 Edge are the first phones to feature support for Vulkan, a new low-level API that hit version 1.0 earlier this week. The company even wheeled out Epic's Tim Sweeny to show a range of physics based graphics effects running in real-time on the S7.
Camera-wise, both the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have moved to a "Dual Pixel" 12-megapixel rear shooter with optical image stabilisation (OIS), paired with a 5MP front camera and fast f/1.7 aperture lens. Samsung claims the pixels are 30 percent larger those on the iPhone 6S Plus, which results in better low light pictures. "The dual pixel" sensor is said to make for faster autofocusing, and again Samsung compared its camera to the iPhone 6S Plus, showing a video with the S7 focusing far quicker than its rival. There's also a neat motion panorama mode that lets you scrub through wide panoramas.
Battery life, which doesn't get enough attention from manufacturers in my opinion, actually gets a boost in the S7 and S7 Edge thanks to the inclusion of beefier 3000mAh and 3600mAh batteries. Wireless charging continues to be supported, along with NFC for making use of Samsung's mobile payment system Samsung Pay. The company will launch Samsung Pay in the UK and other countries in Europe later in 2016.
Early rumours that the S7 and S7 Edge would include a USB Type C-port proved to be unfounded: both phones use the older micro-USB standard. While USB Type-C is starting to see wider adoption, micro-USB chargers and accessories are far more prevalent. Plus, including Type-C would make both phones incompatible with Samsung's Galaxy Gear VR headset, at least without some sort of adapter.
On the software side, most of the improvements come to the S7 Edge, which features a larger edge panel you can swipe in from along the curved edge. There's also an open SDK for developers to create their own software. Both phones also get a neat always on mode that shows a clock along with a few select notifications and sips very little power according to Samsung.
While the lack of a big design change may disappoint some, not to mention the increased thickness, the S7 is still a handsome phone, and sports the kind of premium materials you'd expect from a flagship device. Be sure to read our hands-on impressions of the S7 and S7 Edge.