Previous Samsung Galaxy edge smartphones have been the best-looking on the market. The problem is that their defining trait, the Edge screen, doesn’t provide much outside of aesthetic appeal. Sure, it can function as an information ticker or shortcut for apps and contacts, but it ultimately proves redundant to Android’s homescreens, widgets, and notifications.
Samsung hopes to change that with the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. For starters, Samsung is extending the Edge display to 550 pixels, doubling the previous pixel count. This will add an extra row of app and contact shortcuts, and allow for vertically oriented notifications and information, rather than horizontal. The effect here is very reminiscent of Windows 10’s live tiles.
Samsung is also opening up the Edge to third parties, like CNN and Yahoo, for news alerts and sports scores. Perhaps more useful, it’s adding a contextual Edge to deliver alerts based on location, like work and home.
The Three Edges
The Samsung S7 edge features a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with a 2560 x 1440 resolution and 534 pixels per inch. Size-wise, it slots between the 5.1-inch S6 edge and 5.7-inch S6 edge+, with all three having the same resolution. The S7 edge has Samsung’s new “always on” display, which function exactly the same here as it does on the S7, providing basic alerts and information with consideration for privacy. For example, it won’t reveal text or email details, just the arrival of a new message. It’s based around the S7 edge’s light sensor, and will dim bedside at night, or turn off when stuffed in a pocket.
The S7 edge has the familiar and oblong Samsung home button, which doubles as a fingerprint sensor, and the Android smartphone is IP68 rated for water and dust resistance. Technically it can survive up to 30 minutes in up to 5 feet of water. Though one expects Samsung had protection against rain and splashes in mind, not underwater use.
The S7 edge measures 5.94 x 2.85 x .30 inches and weighs 5.5 ounces, making it the thickest and heaviest of the three recent Edge smartphones, but not by much. It has a metal and glass build that feels premium, and a contoured back to aid grip and one-handed operation.
With the added fractions of an inch comes utility. The S7 edge has a microSD card slot that supports up to 200GB, which adds expandable storage. It also has the largest battery of the three by a big margin, at 3600mAh. It supports both wired and wireless fast charging, and Samsung claims it can hit 50% power in 30 minutes.
(Update 2/23: This article previously stated the microSD card could be formatted as internal storage for apps thanks to an Android Marshmallow feature. It appears Samsung has disabled the storage mounting feature on the S7 edge given the confusion it could cause customers. This is disappointing, but understandable. For most users, 32GB is enough for apps, and the option, often referred to as “adpotable storage” renders the card inoperable for other devices. On top of that, the S7 edge microSD card is inserted via the SIM card tray. Taking out the SIM, removes the microSD card, and that could result in performance issues should users try using the S7 edge with a different card, or no card at all.)
The S7 edge shares many specs and features with the Galaxy S7, which Samsung is launching alongside it at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Samsung is offering only one capacity option, 32GB and 4GB of RAM. It has a Quad-core 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz processor, either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or Samsung Exynos 8 Octa, depending on the region. The US will be seeing the Qualcomm SoC, and Samsung promises both will deliver 37% faster CPU performance and a GPU that’s 64% faster compared to the S6.
It’s likely Samsung pushed the GPU with virtual reality and the Samsung Gear VR in mind. Like the S7, the S7 edge supports the latest Gear VR, and that also means it retains a microUSB 2.0 input for data and charging instead of USB Type-C, which might disappoint those looking for the latest and greatest in a flagship.
Samsung is also launching a small and round VR camera dubbed the Samsung Gear 360, with aims to bring VR content creation to every-day users. No word on cost, or when the portable rig will ship (Q2 2016 is the official date), but Samsung stressed that users would be able to easily create 360-degree VR video and stills for sharing on Facebook and YouTube.
That doesn’t mean Samsung is ignoring mobile gaming in favor of the new thing. The S7 edge has a series gamer-focused features, including a battery saving mode that throttles game framerates as a means of saving juice, a “do not disturb” mode for gaming sessions, live recording for services like Twitch and YouTube Gaming, and Vulkan API support (along with the S7, the first in a smartphone).
Better in Low Light
The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge sports a 12-megapixel rear “dual pixel” camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter. Both have an f1.7 aperture, which is 25% more than the f1.9 found on the S6 and S6 edge. This should improve low-light performance, as should the larger individual pixels found on the sensor.
The 2015 Galaxy smartphones have a 16-megapixel sensor, but for the 2016 flagship Samsung decided to use larger pixels which are more sensitive to light. Larger pixels take up more space, so there are fewer of them, resulting in the resolution reduction.
If the demos we witnessed during some hands-on time with the S7 edge are any indication, it’s worth it. The S7 edge was able to produce clear pictures with minimal noise in conditions that would strain any other smartphone currently on the market.
It focuses fast too. That’s thanks to the “dual pixels,” with each doubling as a picture and focus pixel, giving the S7 edge 100% focus coverage. Less than 1% of the S6 edge’s pixels were focus pixels, and Samsung claims the S7 edge can focus two to three times faster.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge has just about everything else you expect on a Samsung smartphone, including Samsung Pay with both NFC and MST support, Samsung Knox, and the TouchWiz Android skin. It supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth v4.2 LE. Samsung has yet to confirm which LTE bands it supports, or GSM and CDMA connectivity options.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge will ship in Black Onyx, Gold Platinum, or Silver Titanium beginning March 11. It will be available from Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular, as well as BestBuy, Car Toys, Sam’s Club, Staples, Target, and Walmart. Preorders begin February 23.
Samsung is offering a great deal for those that preorder the Galaxy S7 edge: a free Gear VR headset. It costs $100 otherwise, and this is in addition to whatever incentives the carriers are offering. Samsung is also including six free games with the Gear VR, which isn’t cheap considering they typically run up to and exceeding $10 each.
The AT&T Samsung Galaxy S7 edge costs $795, which works out to $26.50 for 30 months.
Sprint’s pricing is a bit more complicated. It’s charging $31.25 per month for 24 months, which works out to $750. However, Sprint is also offering a Galaxy Forever deal, which costs $30.50 per month for 24 months with the option to upgrade after 12 months to what will likely be the Galaxy S8 edge. Also, Sprint is offering a buy-one-get-one-one-half-off deal, and extending its Cut Your Bill in Half promotion to March 31. In addition Sprint will pay up to $650 in termination fees for those breaking contracts with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
T-Mobile is charging $780, and including a free year of Netflix for those that preorder. T-Mobile will also pick up any fees for those looking to switch from another carrier. For customers going the installment route, it’s $32.50 per month for 24 months.
Verizon still has not announced pricing, but it’s offering two bundles for the S7 edge: a case (up to $39.99), screen protector (up to $34.99), and 32GB microSD card, all for $79.99; or a wireless charging stand, fast-charging car charger, and fast charging portable battery back for $100. Like sprint, Verizon will cover up to $650 in fees for those switching carriers to Verizon, and is offering an additional 2GB of data to customers on plans up to and exceeding Verizon Plan XL.
US Cellular is also charging $780 for the S7 edge, which works out to $32.50 per month for 24 months. US Cellular is also offering a contract plan, with the S7 edge costing $299 with a two-year agreement.
Best Buy is also offering contract plans for Sprint and Verizon, also for $299 for two years, and offering preorders a 64GB microSD card.
Comparing the two, the S7 edge is approximately $100 more expensive than the S7 overall.
Overall we are pleased with the move towards a more handy Edge display, and the return of both microSD and waterproofing. The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge has the potential to be one of the most useful and most attractive smartphones on the market. That’s a killer combo. And S6 edge and S6 edge+ owners shouldn’t feel too jealous. Samsung all but confirmed the extended Edge display will arrive on the older smartphones as part of an update. We will have a review soon on NotebookReview.