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Samsung Galaxy S7 And S7 Edge Preview

Software

Running atop Android 6.0.1, Samsung’s TouchWiz UI receives some refinements and new features. This latest build retains the mostly white interface with coordinated highlight colors that was introduced with the Galaxy S6. Looking more closely, however, reveals new application icons and a redesigned notification shade.

One of the new features is Always-On Display (AOD). Similar to Google’s Ambient Display and Motorola’s Moto Display, this feature displays some basic information while the screen is locked, like a calendar, the time and date, or notifications. There's also an option to personalize what's displayed. Power drain is minimized by taking advantage of the AMOLED display’s ability to only illuminate the pixels in use, rather than turning on the entire panel like most IPS displays. AOD also uses the ambient light sensor to detect when the phone is placed inside a pocket or purse and turns itself off.

A new utility called “Game Tool” provides quick, in-game access to several features. One of its simplest tricks, but possibly the most useful, is keeping notifications from interrupting your gameplay. It also allows you to grab screenshots or record up to 6Mbps 1080p video to document your gaming skill. You can even record a voiceover using the phone’s microphone.

Edge UX, a feature unique to the Galaxy edge devices, undergoes a significant makeover and gains new functionality. For those not familiar with this feature, it's a panel that slides out from the curved edge of the screen that's meant to provide quick access to frequently used apps or favorite contacts, among other things. The most obvious change in this latest version is that the panel is now wider, allowing for two columns of circular icons rather than a single column like before.

In addition to the Apps and People edge panels mentioned above, there's a new Tasks edge that offers shortcuts to common tasks such as composing an email, taking a selfie, creating a calendar event, or opening a specific webpage. The new Quick tools edge displays a compass or a ruler, which can certainly come in handy.

What makes Edge UX really interesting is support for third-party panels (think edge widgets). Informational panels showing news, weather, or sports scores are obvious examples, but other possibilities exist too. More panels can be downloaded from within the configuration menu as they become available. To keep things from getting cluttered, individual panels can be toggled on or off, and the panels can be reordered.

Previous TouchWiz features carry over too such as the quick launch camera, which jumps straight to the camera from within any app or from the lock screen by double-clicking the home button. Multi Window, which allows multiple, windowed apps to run at the same time, returns too, and so do the options for improving one-handed use.

All of these software features put pressure on system RAM. This problem negatively impacted the user experience on the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, whose 3GB of RAM was already over 70% capacity after a fresh reboot. Without enough free memory for applications, the operating system needed to unload apps and webpages to make room for new ones, reducing multitasking and browsing performance. We have not had a chance to investigate this issue on the Galaxy S7 devices thoroughly, but a quick check showed only 55% of system memory in use after closing open apps. Hopefully, this translates to better overall performance under heavy use.

  • Nashten
    Glad to see that Samsung brought the MicroSD card slot back.

    I still won't buy a Samsung phone, but they look even better. I can't wait to see what the SD820 holds in store for us when more products hit the street with it.

    I shouldn't talk about SD slots though considering I own a Nexus 6... :D
    Reply
  • chuckydb
    Micro-usb 2.0...
    Come on!! Really?
    Reply
  • xHDx
    What staggers me is how does a Phone manage to use that much RAM? Windows uses a max of 2/2.5
    Reply
  • alchemy69
    Take drink every time someone whines about the lack of a removable battery.
    Reply
  • Edwin Herdman
    The "(sensors with) smaller pixels are bad" line is a myth, and I'm disappointed to see it spread here. There are densely packed sensors, and there are physically large sensors - both are good things.

    Of course, if you had the exact same pixel count, larger pixels are naturally better, but this is not the question facing sensor makers. The "small pixels" line is harmful because it leads people to think that small pixels are naturally compared to large pixels - almost nobody does this, because it would mean viewing pixels off different size sensors at the same size. With a few exceptions, people compare the full images at the same size - where total sensor size is much more important.

    DP Review's Richard Butler took a look at this question last year, with some extra math details on page 2 of the article "The effect of pixel size on noise."
    Reply
  • Calvin Huang
    17541248 said:
    Micro-usb 2.0...
    Come on!! Really?

    I have a phone with USB-C (Nexus 6P), and while I do appreciate the ergonomics of the new plug (it both feels more secure while being less awkward to insert/unplug), the lack of compatibility is a huge drawback. I have to be sure to always carry my own cables with me, and there are no wireless charging dongles that use USB-C. So if you go to Starbucks and want to make use of their Qi charging pads, you're SOL. Granted, it'd be less of an issue if the device had Qi charging built-in, but in the case of the S7, it still doesn't make sense to release a phone that isn't compatible with their VR hardware.
    Reply
  • thezooloomaster
    Micro-usb 2.0...
    Come on!! Really?

    Who uses USB on phones for anything other than charging these days, anyway?
    Reply
  • none12345
    Removing the MicroSD slot, and the waterproofiting from the s5 were 2 big mistakes. Glad to see they realized their stupidity and added them back in for the s7.

    I wouldn't even consider a phone that doesn't have a microsd slot.(or whatever replaces it in the future). The non-removable battery sucks, but its far easier to live with when the waterproofiting and microsd slot are back in.
    Reply
  • MasterMace
    USB 2.0 and a locked down battery are big signals for me to stay away from Samsung, still. That, and my experience with the GS4
    Reply
  • giovanni86
    Still concealing the battery. There almost back to normal. if there note 6 doesn't have battery removal its another year im skipping my Note 4 is plenty.
    Reply