Samsung made a bold decision last year with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, stepping up to the plate with aluminum bodies, clean lines and killer cameras. In many ways, those phones were the first to mount a serious challenge against the iPhone and manage to hold their own. The premium builds and grown up style of the Galaxy S6 line replaced a plastic, cheap aesthetic that had gone before and consumers responded.
Now Samsung has updated that line, sticking largely to the same formula with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. In terms of design, there is little to distinguish them from the previous generation aside from the slightly larger profile of the S7 Edge. I personally abandoned the Galaxy line after a bad experience with a faulty Galaxy S3, but it’s clear to see that Samsung has iterated to the point of maturity with the Galaxy line, choosing the path of gradual innovation and incremental improvements rather than flashy and futuristic new features, as LG has done.
There was also a surprise guest at the announcement – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He showed up to speak briefly about Samsung and Facebook’s partnership in VR, and walked in to a room filled with people wearing Gear VR headsets, prompting one of the most surreal photos we’ve seen this year.
However, my main focus here is on the camera. The S6 Family had excellent cameras across the board; phones that could shoot high-quality, accurate pictures with a single touch. It was refreshing, and was one of the most-praised features of the S6. Like many other areas of the Galaxy S7, the camera is an improvement on the previous generation, with most of those improvements being made under the hood. The camera bump itself is slimmed down, allowing the phone to sit practically flat on a table.
The megapixel count on the rear camera has surprisingly been stepped down (from 16 to 12), but Samsung is confident that the results will speak for themselves. Newer, larger pixels will allow much better low-light shooting, and each one acts as a ‘focus pixel’, much like the system Canon uses in some of its DSLRs. This results in lightning quick shooting, helped along by a beefy Snapdragon 820 processor (or Exynos processors outside the US) and 4GB of RAM.
Low light shots shouldn’t be an issue, along with larger pixels, the S7 has a f/1.7 aperture lens and an improved sensor, which Samsung says combine to let in 25% more light than the previous generation, which was no slouch in low-light photography to begin with. In addition, the sensor has been changed from 16:9 to a 4:3 ratio. This move clearly shows Samsung is focusing on photography, rather than video in these models. There is little word on what the video quality is like on the S7, but we’d expect it to be a very capable video shooter.
Finally, Samsung also announced an additional ‘lens cover’ for the S7 and S7 Edge. The cover is clipped to the back of the phone and has a recess around the lens, which allows Samsung (and presumably third party) lenses to be screwed into the case to improve the shots you can get with the S7 family. With the great photographic performance of the previous generation, Samsung is really marketing it heavily in this model. Stay tuned for more hands-on impressions.