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Samsung Galaxy S7: The Yeas and Nays.

Yesterday morning, my LG G4 decided to call it quits. In what would probably be described by the casual observer as a pretty desperate chain of actions, I had purchased a replacement a mere four hours later. The hasty choice fell on a Samsung Galaxy S7.

I’d only used the the now defective G4 for less than a year, but demanding a new phone from the store was never a realistic option. I voided the warranty within hours of purchasing it by installing a custom ROM, CyanogenMod. Voiding the warranty is something we nerds do, not only with cell phones, but pretty much everything that runs on electricity. It’s a risk, but definitely worth it. Tinkering like that has taught me a lot about how stuff works – and the importance of making frequent backups.

There’s usually a lot of research involved whenever I set out to purchase something. We’re talking days or weeks of poking around on the internet, reading reviews, guides and whatever else I come across that might be relevant. But this time I was in a hurry because I’ve simply grown too used to having the phone. It’s my public transportation ticket, my music library, my books, my news source, and the main reason I survive the two hours I spend commuting every day.

I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S7 for about a day now. What’s the first impression like? Should I have gathered all my mental strength and commuted without listening to music for a couple of days, and done some proper research instead? Here’s a quick list of the phone’s most obvious pros and cons:

Look at all these beautiful, happy, and successful Samsung Galaxy S7 users. Don't you want to be just like them? Photo courtesy of Samsung.

Look at all these beautiful, happy, and successful Samsung Galaxy S7 users. Don’t you want to be just like them? Photo courtesy of Samsung.

The Yeas

A few reasons why you should hail Samsung as the new mobile phone overlords.

The camera

It’s absolutely brilliant, and ready take a picture in less than half a second. Every single shot, from dawn till dusk, has been top notch so far. The camera software sports every single feature you’ll ever need. There’s a very sturdy auto mode that will do wonders for Average Joe Photographer. There’s also a pro mode that allows Professional Joe Photographer to modify pretty much very single setting, from metering to shutter speed. It’s also possible to download further camera enhancements and features from the Samsung app store.

Build quality & speed

It’s glass and metal, no plastic as far as the eye can see. The phone also feels great in my tiny lady-hands. Glass and metal are heavier than plastic, though, so the Samsung Galaxy S7 weighs in at 152 g (5.36 oz). Not at all much, but it feels heavy for its size.

The phones CPU makes everything snappy and responsive, and there’s absolutely no lag at all. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, considering its a brand new, high-end phone. I’m not much of a mobile phone gamers, so I haven’t tested the GPU.

“Always on” display-feature

This feature allows the phone’s screen to stay on at all times. In a low power mode, it’ll show you the current time, date, and some notifications. Getting this information at a glance it great. Having the screen on all the time will consume more energy than having it turned off, but who the hell cares? Smartphones have to be charged every single day anyway. Fear not, though, it’s possible to schedule when the always on-feature should be on, or turn it off completely.

The Nays

A few reasons why you should avoid the Samsung Galaxy S7 like the plague.

The massive pile of pre-installed crap

Samsung has taken the liberty to install quite a lot of custom apps on the phone. This doesn’t come as much of a shock; every phone manufacture does that. In addition, there are some Google apps pre-installed. Not a huge surprise either. But for some reason, Samsung has also decided to ship the Samsung Galaxy S7 with loads of Microsoft apps. Need the entire Office suite on your phone? I certainly hope so, because it’s all there! There is no easy way for you to uninstall the pre-installed junk, but it’s possible to disable most of it.

Glass

A phone made of glass is great to look at, but has two less favorable attributes as well: It’s slippery, and it breaks, which is a bad combination. It’s only a matter of time before the phone slips out of my hands, or slides off an uneven surface. Will the glass break when that happens? Yes. Yes, it will break.

Hardware keys

The Samsung Galaxy S7 uses hardware keys on the phone for navigation instead of soft keys displayed on the screen. This is a double edged sword. On one hand, hardware keys are great because they don’t waste screen estate. On the other hand, they are annoying because they can’t be moved around like soft keys. The S7’s back-button, for instance, is located on the right hand side of the phone. This is an issue for me because I hold the phone in my left hand, and reaching the back-button takes a bit of effort considering my aforementioned tiny lady-hands. With soft keys, this could have been fixed by simply moving the back-button to the left hand side of the screen.

No proper custom ROMs

This came as a huge disappointment. Because of Samsung’s unwillingness to open source their drivers, there are no proper customs ROMs available for the Samsung Galaxy S7. All you’ll find on XDA Developers are almost exclusively tweaked versions of the stock ROM.

Minor annoyances

  • It’s not possible to link the ringing and notification volume. Dumb.
  • You can’t configure more than one Do Not Disturb profile. Most of us certainly don’t have the same schedule during the weekdays as the weekend.
  • The external speaker sucks monkey balls, at least compared to the speakers on the LG G4.
  • There’s no tap-screen-to-wake-feature. This was something I got used having on the LG G4. Now that it’s not there, I miss it. The always on display-feature helps a bit, but it’s not the same.

Summing up

From a hardware point of view, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is a beast, and the camera is absolutely amazing. But the lack of custom ROMs is a major issue. There are several reasons for this.

First of all, what you get when you buy the S7 is not an Android phone. It’s Samsung interpretation of Android. They add some features, remove others, and sprinkle everything with their own UI, TouchWiz. While TouchWiz isn’t bad, it’s not as elegant as the native Android look and feel. No custom ROM support means that it’s hard to get rid of TouchWiz.

Secondly, no custom ROM support means that you have no choice but to accept that Samsung rams their stick up your bum. All those small annoyances? You have to learn to live with them. With custom ROM support, you could have installed a ROM that was more customizable. CyanogenMod, for instance, lets you tweak pretty much everything. Good times.

Last, but not least, is that the lack of custom ROM support shortens the phone’s lifetime. Not long ago, Google released Android Nougat, but the S7 is still sold with the previous version of Android. Samsung doesn’t have the worst track record when it comes to keeping their phones up to date, however. A Nougat update for the Samsung Galaxy S7 is planned for later this year. But phone manufactures will only support their models with new and updated Android versions for so long. They have to somehow get us to buy their new phones, after all.

Phones that support custom ROMs receive Android updates for years after they are abandoned by their manufactures. Thanks to the brilliant minds of the people over at XDA Developers, it’s possible to install Android 6.0.1 – the same version that runs on the S7 – on a 6 year old phone: The HTC Desire.

The bottom line is that the Samsung Galaxy S7 is a great choice of you want a top-notch cell phone, but a terrible choice if you want to a long lasting phone that can be customized.

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  1. SOMEHOW, THIS REVIEW IS MORE OR LESS THE SAME AS ANY OTHER ANDROID REVIEW I HAVE READ SINCE FOREVER. FRAGMENTATION OF THE PLATFORM / DEVICES MAY BE THE STRENGTH, BUT FOR ME IT IS MORE A PROBLEM.

    THIS NEGATIVE COMMENT IS NOT BASED ON YOUR REVIEW, BUT MORE AT THE WHOLE ANDROID THING.

    ANYHOW, CONGRATS WITH YOUR NEW PHONE. HOPE IT WILL SERVE YOU WELL AND GIVE YOU A LONGER AND MORE PROSPER LIFE.

    LOVE. XXX

    • Go back to bed, Mr. Hoang.

      But seriously, though: For me, the main problem with the S7 isn’t Android fragmentation, it’s rather that Samsung is locking down its driver code.

      Also, while Google’s choice of open sourcing Android and letting phone manufacturers have their way with it has led to fragmentation, the alternative is far worse. Without an open source OS that can be used by every phone manufacturer, they would all have had to make their own operating systems. Developing an operating system is complicated and resource intensive, and it’s very likely that some of the companies we see develop phones today never would have existed, or ceased to exist years ago (hello, HTC).

      Having to develop a separate version for each mobile phone OS would also be hell for the app developers. Android fragmentation means that the developers have to resort to some level of tweaking of their apps to get them to work on a broad range of Android handsets, but I can’t imagine that the complexity of that job being even comparable to a total rewrite for each mobile OS. The likely result would be that app developers would focus on just the most popular operating system, very likely iOS, leading to fewer handset choices for the consumers.

      So, yes, fragmentation is an issue, but I prefer that to a Cupertino monopoly.

      • HEY HEY HEY! WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?! IN ONE LINE, YOU’VE INSULTED THE ONLY COMMENTER IN THIS POST.

        I GO TO BED OR NOT, WHENEVER I WANT. WHO SAY I CAN’T DO THE INTERNET AT THE SAME TIME AS LYING IN MY BED? AND WHO ARE YOU TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO? AND WHY THE NAMEDROPPING? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACHIEVE BY CLAIMING YOU KNOW MY IDENTITY? AND WHO IS THIS HOANG? SHOULDN’T THAT PERSON JOIN THE CONVERSATION AND STAND UP FOR HIM/HER SELF?!

        AND BECAUSE YOU’RE SUCH NICE AN ANDROID BOI, I WILL TURN BACK TO THE TOPIC: OPEN SOURCE IS GREAT. I LOVE FOSS. I USE IT EVERYDAY. I LOVE THE FACT THAT I GOT OPEN SOURCE LICENSE PRINTED OUT AND DELIVERED WITH HARDWARE THAT I DIDN’T THINK WOULD BE USING OPEN SOURCE. I AGREE THAT IT WAS GOOD FOR COMMUNITY THAT ANDROID GOT OPEN SOURCED. I AM ONLY AFRAID THAT ANDROID (SAME AS IOS) ALREADY HAVE SEEN THEIR BEST DAYS.

        ANDROID WAS A GREAT IDEA OF THE ULTIMATE PHONE OS OF THE WORLD. I PERSONALLY IS NOT SURE THAT OPEN SOURCING ANDROID WAS SOMETHING GOOGLE DID JUST TO SAVE THE WORLD. GOOGLE IS LIKE TRUMP, WHAT THEY DO IS PLANNED WITH PROFIT ON THE OTHER END OF THE ROAD. I DON’T TRUST THEM MORE THAN I TRUST APPLE.

        WHAT I DO KNOW, IT THAT 24 HOURS IN A DAY IS WAY TOO FEW HOURS FOR MY NEED. I HAVE BEEN ON AND OFF THE ANDROID WAGON, BUT NOW I’M OF AND HAVE BEEN HAPPY WITH AT PHONE THAT JUST WORLD.

        I AM STILL WAITING FOR A PHONE WITH GOOD BATTERY, GOOD CAMERA AND IS USING A GOOD OS.

        SAMSUNG TRYING TO MAKE THEIR IMPLEMENTATION OF ANDROID CLOSED AND LOCKED FOR THEIR PHONES, SHOWS THAT THEY ON THE END AREN’T THAT DIFFERENT. IF THEY HAD BEEN THE POSITION AS APPLE, I AM SURE SAMSUNGS SMARTPHONE STORY WOULD BE A TOTAL DIFFERENT ONE.

        I DO HOPE THAT ANDROID SUCCEED. I DON’T BELIEVE IN IT ANYMORE, BUT MAYBE IT CAN BE ANOTHER STEPPING STONE TOWARDS THE NEW WORLD.

        FOR NOW, STICK TO A PHONE THAT IS 100% AOSP COMPATIBLE OR BUY A JOLLA DEVICE! (YOU ARE ALWAYS WELCOME BORROWING MY N900 ANY TIME.)

        IN THE END, TRUST NO ONE. TRUMP OR CLINTON? WHO IS WHO?

        LOVE. XXX

        • You, Sir, need your own angry-old-fart-blog.

          If you’re still waiting for a phone with good battery, good camera, and a good OS, perhaps the Pixel might be of interest? Or you can just stick with the iPhone.