Samsung Galaxy S7 edge Review
Interface and Functionality
The "edge screen" features have been enhanced with additional functionality, while TouchWiz has gotten a facelift.
After playing around with the new Galaxy S7 edge, we became increasingly aware of how this years’ TouchWiz flavor doesn’t necessarily make any huge gains over last year’s interpretation. Generally speaking, the look, feel, and execution of TouchWiz all remain unchanged – save for the fact that it’s running on top of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, carrying along all the new features of this most up-to-date version of the platform.
Visually, however, the iconography of the homescreen and app drawer has transformed into what Samsung dutifully refers to as ‘squircles.’ The name implies its look, blending a circle and square together to form this so-called ‘squircle’ icon shape. It’s rampant amongst the native apps, but doesn’t apply to third-party apps. It’s a small change that most will probably overlook, but it’s nevertheless a slight alteration.
Functionally, Samsung doesn’t deviate from the recipe it followed with last year’s interpretation. In a time when many other competing custom skins have scaled back with their features set, TouchWiz remains a packed one that appeals to a broad set of users – including power users! Staple things like Multi Window, one-handed mode, quick launch camera, and many of its other smart features are all present once again with this iteration of TouchWiz.
As much as it might come off as being an advanced, complex interface, Samsung has kept the same streamlined experience we’ve come to appreciate. No doubt, all of TouchWiz’s features won’t be used by everyone, but the beauty in it is that it’s not overly complex or convoluted. By default, many of its advanced features are turned off, but they can be enabled by traversing through the options.
The Phone app on the Galaxy S7 edge remains unchanged from what we had with the Galaxy S6 edge. The same default, bright green theme is in place, offering the same suite of functionality.
The interface of the app is split into three self-explanatory tabs: Log, Favorites, and Contacts. Your incoming and outgoing calls are recorded by date and time, and digging deeper into concrete events gives you an overview of past communications and their length.
Other neat features include the ability to swipe across a contact left/right to text/call them, and call blocking. Exclusive to the S7 edge (and the S7) is a new feature that draws upon database of known cold callers and tries to recognize incoming calls from unknown numbers in order to save you the hassle.
The Messenger app has also remained largely the same, sporting that bright yellow theme of old.
Standout features of the app include the ability to tweak font size, add priority senders, lock sensitive messages, adding quick responses for when you're in a rush and can't commit to typing, and tweaking the look of the chat background.
As with the Phone app, you can manually add numbers to a blocking list to get them to stop bothering you, while the previously mentioned feature again lets the S7 draw upon its database of known cold callers to better serve you when a particularly tenacious sales reps is trying too hard.
With the S7 edge, you're getting the Samsung S Planner app in lieu of a more appropriately named Calendar. It has the same functions you'd expect.
Identical to its past incarnations, S Planner is mostly concerned with getting the basics done right. There are multiple views available depending on your preferences (year, month, week, agenda), and you can even switch to a separate Tasks tab to make sure groceries shopping is done right and you don't forget to pick up acidophilus milk.
You wouldn’t know it, but there are a few new additions to the TouchWiz experience, especially to this dual-curved screen wielding phone…
Samsung tried to convince us that the Galaxy S6 edge’s edge screen functions were all relevant in enhancing the overall experience, but we found them to be nothing more than just novel ideas. Since then, they’ve naturally brought on additional enhancements to the S6 edge+, but for the S7 edge, it seems like there’s finally a real purpose for those slick dual-curved edges. Well, at least superficially, since pretty much all of the "edge" functionality takes place on the main screen of the device.
As before, Edge UX on the Galaxy S7 edge acts like a hub with shortcuts to apps and contacts, among other features. But it is now wider, with room for more to fit into the edge panel – 550 pixels to be exact, so our fingers aren’t left to teetering on the brink of going over the edge. You could say that many of the edge features last year were novel at best, such as how the edges would light up whenever there were incoming call when the phone was placed down on its screen. Thankfully, more thought and careful planning has been invested into the Edge UX experience here with the S7 edge.
Speaking of edge panels, there is a multitude to choose from. Some are mostly informational, showing things like weather details, the latest headlines, sports game scores, and stocks prices. There are also panels acting like shortcuts to favorite applications and web bookmarks. And the Tasks edge lets you have shortcuts to specific modes inside apps, such as the Panorama mode in the camera, or the stopwatch in your Clock app. Best of all, there’s room for expansion because additional edge panels can be downloaded through the Galaxy Apps portal. At launch, there are a few third party ones, such as those from CNN and Twitter, but you can bet that the catalog will be diversified as the year goes on.
Even though it looks like Samsung has finally done justice in this area, it still would be nice to see the dual-curved edges be utilized in other native apps – like in the camera, similar to how it’s implemented by the Galaxy Note Edge. Regardless, the improvements are considerable enough to make it more practical to use on a daily basis, as it’s more than just another alternative to multi-tasking or getting quick peeks at certain information.
Borrowing a useful feature from its line of wearable devices, the Always-On Display feature of the S7 edge keeps a small portion of the screen always on to show relevant information such as the time, date, and some notifications. Some new and upcoming phones have their own interpretation for this process, such as LG’s G5, but for the most part, the always-on display feature is very new and limited in its availability. It's a definite advantage for the Galaxy S7 at this point.
Better yet, there are several different styles to choose from if the default one isn’t up to your liking. Beyond the clock, there are options for different calendar styles, as well as pre-selected stock images. Now if you’re the type that’s conscious about power consumption, you can choose to disable this feature altogether – albeit, Samsung tells us that they believe it’ll use less than 1% or so of the battery per hour. So far, we really don’t notice this feature critically impacting the battery from a day-to-day basis.
Gamers know the pain of being engrossed in a game, to suddenly being interrupted abruptly due to some sort of notification – whether it’s something minor like an email notice popping up, or having it crash because of an incoming phone call. Samsung understands this kind of annoyance that hardcore gamers face, so that’s why they’re introducing Game Launcher. Turning it on, the feature places a folder on the homescreen that populates with all the games currently installed on the phone. It’s pretty intelligent in sniffing out the gaming titles that are installed, but the listing can be manually arranged as well.
Interruptions are annoying while you’re deep into a game, but a floating ‘game tools’ icon is accessible at any time to set certain rules and permissions. For example, we can set it so that there are no alerts whatsoever during a game, or lock the recent and back keys to prevent accidental presses. There’s even an option to record gaming footage, which is something that gaming fans will surely appreciate, since it allows them to share their replays, victories, and much more.
The Snapdragon 820 screams at a ferocious rate, so there are plenty of smooth moves with this.
Last year’s Galaxy line was a unified bunch that exclusively harnessed Samsung’s homemade Exynos chips to power its devices. This year, however, they’ve reverted back to a familiar strategy that splits up the load. For US-bound Galaxy S7 edge devices, like the Verizon one in our possession, they’re being powered by Qualcomm’s latest and greatest in the Snapdragon 820. As for everyone else, some international variants of the S7 will have the Exynos 8890, while others will again utilize the Snapdragon. Samsung promises equal performance between the two.
Either way, the Galaxy S7 edge is complemented with a whopping 4GB of RAM – the dual-channel variety to ensure things operate smoothly. And that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing thus far with this Snapdragon 820 powered S7 edge, producing all the buttery goodness speeds you’d expect from a top-tiered smartphone. Normal every day operations perform with a tight response, so there has yet to be any instance of delay.
Synthetic benchmarks indicate that the Snapdragon 820 is at the top of its game, reaching new heights in several tests. There’s no compromise with its graphics processing prowess either, seeing that the Adreno 530 GPU shows incredible finesse in dealing with all of today’s graphics demanding titles. Its strong real-world performance is indicative of its superiority, but for those who are still skeptical about battery drain, especially for a device with a sizable Quad-HD screen and blazing processing hardware, its support of the Vulcan API allows for high-performance graphics processing with lower battery consumption.
As it currently stands, Samsung is only offering a single storage option for the Galaxy S7 edge – 32GB to be exact. Although that’s more than a generous amount, it’s still bewildering that no other options are being made available at launch. Still, it should be noted that the reintroduction of the microSD slot adds that level of utility that went missing with last year’s Galaxy S6 line.