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A Weekend with Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge Smartphones

Saying there’s a lot riding on Samsung’s latest smartphones is a fair statement. The company has struggled with mobile sales as of late, and increased pressure from smartphone competitors like Apple (AAPL) and Huawei are putting pressure on the tech giant.

Despite remaining the world leader in smartphone shipments, momentum isn’t on Samsung’s side, and a recent shakeup in the mobile division has led to increased expectations on the newest Galaxy devices.

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I’ve had a few short days to use both devices, which admittedly isn’t nearly enough time with either smartphone to compile a full review. So in lieu of an expansive look at Samsung’s latest wares, here are some first impressions of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge:

  • Samsung promised the camera on the Galaxy S7 lineup was vastly improved, especially in low-light situations, despite putting a 12-megapixel sensor in the phones (compared to a 16-megapixel sensor in the Galaxy S6 line). After a couple dozen photos and blind comparison tests against photos from an iPhone 6S, the S7 camera lives up to Samsung’s promise.
  • The iPhone 6S Plus, Nexus 6P, and a slew of competing smartphones are simply too big for my personal taste. However, the 5.5-inch dual-curved display on the Galaxy S7 Edge combined with the slight curves on the backside of the phone make it very comfortable to hold. As for the smaller S7, it also features a curved back that makes it easy to grip.
  • Battery life thus far has been better than last year’s results on the S6 line, which often failed to last much longer than lunch time. Samsung increased the battery size in both devices, and it shows.

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  • Overall performance with the new Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 820 processor is smooth for the most part. I have experienced some occasional lag and stuttering when launching apps or growing the Play Store.
  • Samsung’s proprietary Android skin TouchWiz is still present, but it isn’t nearly as obnoxious as it once was.
  • The always-on display is somewhat distracting and, frankly, not all that helpful. It’s nice to glance at either phone to check the time. But without full support for app notifications outside of missed calls and a few other apps, it feels more like a gimmick than a useful feature.
  • I was hoping to test the devices in tandem with a Gear VR headset, which the company is giving away with pre-orders. I’m working on getting a unit for inclusion in the full review.

There’s a lot more to unpack and test with the S7 lineup. Samsung Pay, the return of a waterproof design, and microSD support are just a few examples.