I’ve read review after glowing review about Samsung’s current flagship phone, the Galaxy S7 Edge, and it makes me wonder if I’m using the same phone that they are. I know when a new product gets reviewed, the experience is different because they only try it out for a few days before writing about it. To be fair, I rather enjoyed my new phone for the first month or so as well. But now that I’m a few months in, it’s really starting to piss me off. It’s almost to the point where I want to use it as a wireless hotspot for my old, deactivated iPhone 5S.
Here are the eleven biggest (yes, there’s more than eleven!) pain points I’m experiencing with my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge:
Beautiful but highly fragile
These phones are engineered to break – both your heart and the phone itself. I cannot say this emphatically enough – Gorilla Glass is not a selling point, because it provides no protection for the delicate, breakable design of this phone. The S7 Edge has glass on the front and the back, and it will shatter at the slightest ding. We know. One of our two identical phones shattered within a week without a case. This must be protected at all times by a sturdy, impact-resistant case like an Otterbox. That’s a shame for a phone that’s designed like a piece of art.
Big battery, meet power-hungry phone
The Galaxy S7 Edge may tout one of the largest batteries on the smartphone market, but it does little good when it’s paired with such a power-guzzling phone. I routinely – really, at least five days a week – go from 100% charge when I wake up to less than 50% by noon. (And that’s on a good day.) This isn’t a two day phone. If it’s a one day phone, I probably forgot it at home all day. The one saving grace is the built-in Quick Charge 2.0 capabilities, but I’ve found myself creating a network of strategically placed QC 2.0 charging banks at my most visited spots at home, at work and in my car. I even have a power bank six times bigger than the S7’s battery that I carry most of the time.
Storage space: 32 GB is the new 16
Several years ago, I got my first smartphone and my first Android phone – Sprint’s HTC Evo. I experienced a pain back then similar to one of my biggest pains right now, which is the frustrating lack of on-board storage. The Evo rocked a staggering 1 GB of on-board storage and came with an 8 GB SD card. The problem was that so little of the on-board storage was available for apps, and not all apps supported running off an SD card. It was a constant barrage of “out of space” errors.
Forget about the all the media we download or generate. There should be adequate room for the apps we use. This is, after all, a smartphone. I’ve used a 16 GB iPhone for two years, and it’s criminal that Apple had such a small phone on the market for so long. One would think the 32 GB of space on the Galaxy S7 Edge would be serviceable, but I’m getting the same space crunch that I experienced with the Evo all over again.
I’ve scaled my installed apps back to the bare minimum that I use on a somewhat regular basis, which is about 150. I don’t know if that is a low or high number on average, but that’s me. There are 109 of those that must live on the phone, including all the non-removable bloatware apps from Samsung and Verizon. I’ve moved all 40 or so apps that can be moved to the SD card. I store all photos and videos on the SD card. I’m still under 1 GB of free space, which is rendering the phone as a whole laggy and unstable.
This is not an issue unique to this phone. Most of the phones on the market are singular 32 GB models. There is the “adoptable storage” feature of Android Marshmallow that could ease some of these issues, but Samsung doesn’t allow its use on this phone (at least, without some clever workarounds).
Apps don’t stay put
This is also more of an Android frustration, but exacerbated by the limited storage issues of the phone. I’ve worked so diligently to move all eligible apps to the SD card to keep my precious free space in tact. But whenever an app updates, it moves the app back to the internal memory, requiring me to move the app all over again. This is not a speedy process either, and there are certain offenders like Facebook’s portfolio of bloated apps that update all… the… time. Last night, I had 9 apps auto-update on me, which gave me a lot of work to do during breakfast this morning. Is the phone really smart if it can’t remember where to store an app after it updates?
The camera is frustratingly un-snappy
Part of the appeal of a smartphone for most – and 90% for me – is having a good camera with you at all times. A good percentage of the decision to do this phone instead of another iPhone was the quality of the camera, especially in low light. Unfortunately, the camera is anything but reliable. In fact, it’s downright infuriating in critical situations where I need a responsive camera at the right moment, whether that’s a family picture or something for work. The camera has been, more often than not, totally unresponsive to taps of the shutter, and when it is responsive, there is often a delay causing blurry, unintended results.
Then there’s the video performance. Dropped frames are present on every video, no matter what resolution I shoot with. There is a noticeable delay between pressing “record” and the start of shooting, and there is almost always a delay between audio and video at the end of the recording. Other apps also seem to have negative effects on the performance of the camera. I would often get glitching and sync issues when I had Google Now set to listen in any app. Disabling that helped, but the performance of the camera is wholly disappointing, so much so that I now often carry my old deactivated iPhone 5S with me every day solely as a reliable pocket camera.
It’s a hot mess
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is possibly the best phone ever for people who have cold hands. It’s gets warm a lot, and overheats several times a day, in a wide variety of everyday situations. When it goes into its “Cooling Down” mode, performance severely degrades, which adds to the frustration of the experience. I get the times when it goes into this protective mode if the sun shines on it while it’s in my car mount, but not when it’s just sitting on my desk charging. I currently have it in a Spigen Neo Hybrid case, which has a reasonably thin silicone backing. It’s not thick enough to cause heating issues like this. So as a phone it’s not so great, but as a hot plate for keeping your coffee warm, it’s certainly capable.
This thing reboots a lot on its own at random (inopportune) times, or at least it thinks it does. I can’t quite make out a pattern for why it does this, but sometimes it will just up and restart itself. Then there’s the times where it seems to restart itself without going through all the motions. I’ll try to unlock it with my fingerprint – also a process that’s nowhere near as snappy as they lead you to believe – and it tells me that I must use my pattern unlock because it just restarted. Although, it didn’t. That aside, you’d think that the performance would be better because it’s starting up fresh after a reboot, but you’d be wrong.
TouchWiz – after Cheez Whiz, now my least favorite Wiz
Everybody knows by this point that Samsung’s TouchWiz interface is pretty terrible. I agree. It kills performance, is pretty ugly and not that customizable. So there’s not much more to say about it. Luckily you can do something about it by installing a third-party launcher. I use Nova Launcher, which I mostly recommend. There’s so much you can do with it and it removes a lot of the friction from the user experience. My only qualm with it is some of the icons of apps on the SD card disappear when you reboot the phone. You can back up your layouts to help with that problem though.
Always on, always kind of useless
One of the biggest selling points of the Galaxy S7 and other phones of this generation is an always on display. The novelty of having a limited display of information like the clock, calendar or notifications seems like a super-handy thing, but in everyday use it’s not that big of a deal. In fact, the cost/benefit ratio considering the battery drain on an already battery-hungry device makes it seem like a non-starter. If there were more customization you could do to what’s displayed, it might be worthwhile, but the options are pretty limited. Most often, I keep it turned off. It’s a feature with unrealized potential, for certain.
Speaking of features with unrealized potential, let’s talk about the Edge. You know, the curved (but barely) edges of the screen that offer convenience in ways the iPhone can’t? Well, I don’t think I’ve used these features more than a handful of times in the few months I’ve owned this phone, and I don’t see that changing. The Edge Panels are not all that useful, at least any more so than getting to the intended places faster than just navigating there through regular means. There are a couple things like a ruler that are handy in extremely limited circumstances, but not enough to justify going with the Edge over the regular S7.
In fact, the main reason I went with the Edge was the slightly bigger screen. That said, it’s really not great for watching full-screen content, as there is some color degradation on – and due to – the edges when watching brightly-colored images. There’s no reason for the curve except maybe seeing color strobing when you receive a notification and the phone is face-down, but with an always on display and wireless charging, I never keep it face down. If anything, the curve exists to make the phone more fragile, and it does that remarkably well.
Samsung Pay – No, Samsung, pay more attention to supporting this feature
I was really looking forward to the day I could leave my wallet in my pocket and use my phone to pay for stuff. Samsung was looking forward to that day too, and has offered multiple incentives to get people using the feature. Unfortunately, they’ve done an astoundingly-poor job of getting banks on-board to support Samsung Pay. I have a lot of cards in my wallet (from both local and national institutions), and I don’t think a single one is supported. I’d love to use Samsung Pay someday, if they ever let me.
There was a brief, shining moment where I did actually use the app though. They started allowing you to store membership and loyalty cards in the app. These cards flood my keychain and my wallet, so I was thrilled to be able to add them to my phone. Certain ones like my Costco card are natively supported, while others like my library cards worked by manual addition. I got them all programmed in and ready to go, and I used it once at a grocery store, much to my delight. Then I went the second time to a grocery store with famously poor cell reception and my cards would not work whatsoever. Shortly thereafter, an update occurred and my entire portfolio of cards disappeared, never to be seen again. That was the end of that experiment.
In conclusion, I hate this phone with a passion
I love Android so much better than iPhone for a host of reasons, and I had such high hopes that my original Android experience would turn around with improved hardware. Unfortunately, if this phone is any indication, Android hasn’t matured quite yet and the hardware is largely to blame. For being the Cadillac of Android smartphones in 2016, I find myself dumbfounded as to why my experience is so overwhelmingly negative. I find myself now counting the months and days until I’m eligible to upgrade out of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge into a more stable, capable smartphone, and I really wish that wasn’t the case.
Photo credit: Maurizio Pesce (via Flickr/Creative Commons)
Also published on Medium.