The annual – sometimes more regular – releases from the major players mean that users don’t have to wait longer for a new iteration, or even get used to the one they’ve got before a new version is here.
As a result, new generations are becoming more nuanced in their new features and looks. They’ve become steady evolutions rather than drastic revolution.
Enter, the next Galaxy.
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 edge, and the non-curved S7, are perfect examples of this trend. This is a new phone that you’ll be used to from the moment you pick it up, a great asset in one sense because it is similar to the current generation S6.
But it also lacks a barrage of the headline features that such a device needs to really grab the attention, and that can make life a little more difficult in a market where shouting the loudest is the best marketing.
But let’s not forget that this is still a gorgeous smartphone. The re-design it was given last year for the S6 generation was a smart move – jumping to the all metal and glass body that is now a must on any premium flagship smartphone.
Well this year it’s back with few obvious changes. The camera lens extrusion has been reduced for one, and on close inspection does make for a better aesthetic compared to rival devices – the iPhone 6s for example – that still have quite a bulge for the rear camera lens.
The two other biggest additions to the S7 are not only hiding in plain sight, but also actually returning features. Expandable storage – the ability to add a microSD card to up the space you have on your phone – is back after being dropped from the S6.
It’s a feature that makes a lot of sense given the camera improvements that have been made too (more on those later) and how many more photos you might be inclined to take as a result, knowing the space is there.
The other returning feature is that of waterproof design, again last seen on the S5. Impressively, Samsung has made the S7 edge watertight without having to place clunky rubber protectors over any of the key ports, instead the internals have been tightened to offer protection without affecting the look of the S7.
How practical a feature it is depends on the user – but you will have peace of mind should you accidentally drop your phone in the bath or sink, or even jump in a pool with it in your pocket.
However, the fingerprint scanner that is housed in the home button can be a little less reliable when either it or your finger are wet, so a wipe down for both are required if you want to smoothly unlock the phone.
As already touched upon, the camera in the S7 is an area Samsung has paid particular attention to this year.
The first part of this is the introduction of a bigger lens, which lets in more light, and as a result makes images brighter and higher quality. Hold it up against most rivals and you can see the difference in brightness instantly. Straight away you want to take more images with the S7.
Crucially, this lens combines with what’s known as a dual-pixel sensor – a technology normally reserved for DSLRs – and means that photos in low-light are much clearer. What does this mean for everyday use? All those shots taken in dark bars and clubs have a better chance of survival.
There’s a much faster auto-focus too, and this can handle sharp movements towards and away from subjects better than anything else we’ve seen recently. It’s not only sharp but smart enough to read your focus point more accurately, and again means those quick-fire snaps are easier to come by.
Smartphones are most people’s first choice camera these days, and the S7 is a very good outlet for that.
The screen on the S7 edge, complete with those curves on either side, is undoubtedly the biggest eye-catcher. An instant design success when first introduced last year and now very much the pragmatic lead singer of the Samsung smartphone band, the edge screen gets all the attention.
On this year’s device the brightness has been upped, which is great for viewing media, but it’s also active for longer thanks to the always-on display. This essentially means that the time, date and battery life are always shown, even when the screen becomes idle. It’s very useful if you want to make a stealthy check of the time without waking your device, which is battery consuming.
However in truth the feature makes little profound difference. Even though Samsung assures it uses limited amounts of battery that wasn’t actually the worry. Instead it was that the display was actually distracting, often tricking us into thinking we had a new notification when in fact it wasn’t the case.
Running Android Marshmallow, the S7 has all the latest software perks necessary for an Android device.
On top of that though there are naturally some extensions of their own. The most interesting revolve around the edge panels – the slide out menu that comes from the curve of the screen. After being a rigid trio of segments last year, this area of real estate on the S7 edge has been opened up both literally and metaphorically.
First of all a second column of width has been added, so double the number of icons can now be displayed. Ideal for getting all your key shortcuts and contacts in, something that wasn’t always possible last year.
What this expansion has also done is make room for more creative content, and Samsung supported this too – opening up panels to third party developers and creating a store of new panels that can be downloaded. A Twitter highlights list and news stories from CNN are the most promising at launch, and show off the potential this space has.
Game Launcher too is a smart addition this year, serving as Samsung’s acknowledgement that mobile gaming is now how many people get their gaming fix. The new app serves as a base station for all the games you download, as well as placing a subtle icon in the corner of the screen when you play.
Tap it and pop-up menu appears loaded with handy shortcuts – you can mute notifications while you play, quickly grab a screenshot, or even begin recording to upload the footage to YouTube or elsewhere later. Modern gamers are sharers, and this serves that purpose very well.
There is plenty to like about the S7 edge, and the additions Samsung has made across the board are smart and undoubtedly improve what was already a hugely impressive Android smartphone.
The nagging issue is whether any of these features are the headline-grabber needed to turn heads of consumers who are being overloaded with sales pitches from elsewhere.
Samsung’s could be that it regularly sets the trend for other phones in the coming years – the camera, waterproofing and gaming set-up could do that again here.
The S7 is the smart choice – it’s what your head says you should do, but might not be what your excitable heart wants.