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Review: Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge -- the new phones to beat

Dan Rosenbaum | March 9, 2016
Samsung's latest flagship Android smartphones are waterproof, well designed and have an interesting UI. But there are no unlocked versions in sight.

Three ecosystems is at least one too many, and leaves the nagging impression that the people who sold you the phone think of it less as a piece of personal technology and more as a network endpoint through which you can be sold services. That's not a particular rap against Samsung as much as it is about the wireless industry, except to the extent that the company was unable to build a graceful onboard experience that matches the elegance of their phones.

As it is, the setup process is confusing and intimidating. You're being asked to opt into and create credentials for services you're not really told about; you're being asked three times for permission without being informed what you're signing up for. From a personal security standpoint, this is terrible. From a consumer point of view, it's pretty assaultive and underlines that the companies behind your phone see it as a way to, as they say, deepen their relationship with you. The services may well be useful, but this process isn't designed for informed consent.

Paying the price

Pricing, unfortunately, seems to be carrier-dependent. For example, the Galaxy S7 with 32GB of RAM costs $200 with a two-year Verizon or Sprint contract, or $23 per month for 30 months from AT&T. The Edge, also with 32GB of RAM, costs $300 from Verizon or Sprint with a two-year contract, and $26 per month for 30 months from AT&T. T-Mobile prices the S7 at $670 and the S7 Edge at $780; AT&T prices them at $695 and $795 with "qualifying service." There are a variety of other pricing options as well. According to Samsung, there are no current plans to make the phones available unlocked -- an increasingly unusual state of affairs for high-end phones these days.

Bottom line

Over the past couple of years, Android phones have been gaining in power and sophistication, and the Samsung S7 series is pretty much the state of the art. The physical package is right: top-end build quality, waterproofing, switches in the right place, long battery life, expandability, a knock-out screen and plenty of processing power. The software is right: Smartly implemented UI enhancements and Android's increasingly seamless melding of device and cloud.

There are quibbles -- placement of the fingerprint sensor, lack of handedness control of the basic controls - but they're just that: quibbles. Less of a quibble is a setup process that tries to lock you into ecosystems without your fully informed consent. But you can still say no and use the phone reasonably well until you know what it is you're consenting to.

We're reaching the time of year when top-end phones are hitting the market. The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have set a very high bar for the rest of the industry. Whichever platform you may prefer, these phones are currently the ones to beat.


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