Samsung today unveiled its latest flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 edge, which extend and refine the curved-glass motif of the S6 line released last year.
The new phones, which will go on sale in the U.S. on March 11, feature a camera that shoots less-grainy photos in low light, and has more powerful processors,and a more cohesive design sensibility.
The 5.1-inch screened S7 has a flat display, while the larger S7 Edge has a 5.5-inch screen that’s curved at the left and right edges. The glass on the back of both models curves upward at the edges. The Galaxy S7 is 7.9mm thick, while the S7 edge is slightly thinner at 7.7mm. The Galaxy S6 was 6.8mm thick, while the S6 edge was 7mm thick.
The glass at the corners have been rounded off horizontally, not just vertically, to form a rounded look. Gone is the midline crease in the metal on the top and bottom sides of the phones, which in the S6 created a disharmonious design, mainly because Samsung had situated some ports and access holes around the crease in an asymmetrical way.
Perhaps the biggest improvement in the new devices is a new camera technology that creates less-grainy pictures in low-light conditions. Samsung says it improved the F-Stop (or aperture) in the cameras to F1.7 from F1.9 in both the 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and the 5-megapixel front-facing camera, which in practical terms means it enlarged the hole that lets light into the camera.
Samsung says the new camera uses sets of two photodiodes in the sensor (instead of the single photodiodes used in other phone cameras) to quickly detect faces and other moving objects through the lens. This lets the camera focus much quicker so that important action stills and video aren’t missed, Samsung says.
The phones have a unique drawer for SIM cards and an SD card (which can provide up to 200GB of additional storage to the phones’ onboard 32GB). The SD Card slot doubles as a SIM card slot so it’s possible to put two SIMs in the phone. This innovation will be appreciated by Europeans and frequent travelers to Europe, where users often switch between wireless providers as they move around.
In the U.S. market the S7 and S7 edge are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip, which Samsung says improves processing speed by up to 30% and graphics performance up to 85%, over earlier phone models.
The battery has also been improved. The earlier Galaxy S6 phone had a 2,550 mAh battery, which is improved to a 3,000 mAh battery in the S7. The S6 edge’s 2,600 battery was improved to a 3,600 mAh battery in the S7 edge.
The new phones run the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android 6 (Marshmallow). The look and feel of the OS is governed by Google’s Material Design interface design framework, which was inspired by paper and ink motifs and offers an extremely clean and functional environment.
Some of Samsung’s own interface design is laid over stock Android. The S7 line expand the functionality of the “Edge screen,” the panel you drag out from the edge of the display (users can set it to appear on either the left or right side) that contains links to oft-used content during one-handed phone use. Previously this screen contained links to contact information and apps, but Samsung now adds a third column of links–called “Tasks Edge”– that contains links to common tasks like “compose message” or “create contact.” Links can also point to commonly visited web pages.
Samsung says its flagship phones now have the highest (IP68) rating for dust and water resistance. The resistance is achieved by spraying all components of the phone with a special chemical, and adding rubber insulation in certain places inside the phones, Samsung says.
In the U.S., the Galaxy S7 comes in Black Onyx and Gold Platinum colors, while the Galaxy S7 edge comes in Black Onyx, Gold Platinum, and Silver Titanium.
The phones will go on sale through all four major U.S. wireless carriers March 11, and the carriers will announce their own pricing, Samsung says. Pre-orders begin February 23 at 8:00 a.m. EST.
They’ll also be available at Samsung Experience Shops at Best Buy, as well asBestBuy.com, Car Toys, Sam’s Club, Staples, Target, and Walmart.
Update 2/21 2 p.m. EST: T-Mobile will sell the Galaxy S7 for $670 and the S7 edge for $780 under an installment plan.
Update 2 2/21 9 p.m. EST: People in the U.S. who pre-order either of the new S7 phones will get a free Samsung Gear VR headset. Also, Samsung’s VR partner Oculus is throwing in a bundle of six made-for-VR games. While the bundles will vary by wireless carrier, they’ll include hit games like EVE: Gunjack, Land’s End, and Anshar Wars 2, the companies say.