One of the complaints about the Galaxy S6 was its loss of a micro SD tray; Samsung listened to its users and has restored that feature. And it managed to seal the unit against water (giving it an IP68 rating) without putting seals over the ports. That means the Galaxy S7 series can withstand immersion in about 10 feet of water.
The battery has been improved: 3000mAh for the S7, 3600mAh for the S7 Edge. And Samsung stuck with a micro-USB port for powering the unit rather than going with the newer USB Type-C.
The phones have a nice feel and look great. Samsung has played with Android around the Settings app, but it's still clearly Version 6.0 (Marshmallow) and probably won't result in any serious complaints from Android purists. It's a little tricky to pull apps over from the side of the Edge -- swiping from the edge of the screen brings up customizable series of quick-access widgets. It was unclear from a quick tryout whether that's something that a little practice could fix.
Of the three phones profiled here, these are the only ones with a firm pre-order and on-sale date: Pre-orders start today (Feb. 23), with delivery March 11. And if you pre-order in the U.S. and U.K., you get a free Gear VR virtual reality headset, which typically costs about $100.
As of press time, the only carrier to announce pricing is Sprint, which will be charging $25.99/month for the S7 and $30.50/month for the S7 Edge over 24 months on its "Galaxy Forever" plan (which allows an upgrade after 12 monthly payments). According to a Samsung representative, there are no current plans for unlocked models.
HP Elite x3
When your best customers are enterprises and IT people, and you listen to your customers, you might well come up with something like the HP Elite x3.
HP Elite x3. Credit: HP
Wait: HP is producing smartphones? Yes, and the company sees it as a way to give back some control over devices to IT departments, control that they long ago ceded in the BYOD revolution.
The first thing that hit me: It's a Windows Phone. This phone is aimed at IT departments that are in charge of securing assets, managing budgets and training people. HP execs see the Elite x3 as a possible PC replacement for light-duty tasks. Using Window's Continuum feature, the phone can be docked to a monitor and keyboard, and presto! A PC running Windows.
The device is big -- it has a 6-in. diagonal screen, and although it's remarkably slim, it has significant heft. A lot of that weight probably comes from the 4150mAh battery (that compared to, say, the Galaxy S7 Edge's 3600mAh battery, is pretty substantial). It charges with a USB-C cable and can take dual SIMs.
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