I love new and awesome phones, I find tech itself an addictive thing. It’s thus, I try to keep myself always up to date with my phones. I’ve been using only Apple as my “daily driver” for 9 years, with a companion Samsung Galaxy S III Mini that I used to play around with modifying the Android OS.
As of February of this year, I got fed up with the closed Apple ecosystem, phones that don’t work in the cold, and batteries that fail after only 6mo-1yr of use. The iPhone 6 fixed the biggest issues the 4 and the 5 had with signal reliability, but stubbornly persisted with everything else.
Anyway, my first ever daily driver Android was a Nexus 5X, a phone that ran stock Android...for about a month? Then from that point forward it wore Cyanogenmod 13. And, it was bliss. It was everything I loved about iPhones and everything I desired with Android. The biggest caveat with it was that it had an awful plastic battery door, which it seems most of them all got severe “case rub” after just only a few weeks. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so seeing my phone “dirty” but with no actual way of cleaning it drives me absolutely insane.
Replacing the battery door did nothing, the new one became just like the old one after a month. Ugh...
Enter the Galaxy S7 my mum bought me for some reason.
I gave the Nexus 5X to Miss Tesla (who immediately put stock 7.0 on it) and decided to give Samsung a try.
...And at first it was rather lovely. There were aspects of TouchWiz I didn’t like, but overall it’s been a super phone. But oh boy, I should have known better...After this phone has gotten me across the country from the west and now to and from the South, it’s showing bad signs of either poor design, engineering, or even marketing decisions.
What I like
- The Design - I LOVE glass phones. My favourite phone designs of all time are the Honor 8 and the iPhone 4. I never drop my phones, so fragile glass has never been an issue for me. I like to look at my phones just as much as I do my cats. And there’s something about a glass brick that just revs my engine.
Unfortunately, the Nexus wasn’t pretty in any light or angle, but the Galaxy S7 hits almost all the right spots. I even like the creative metal/glass infused battery door on the back.
- Samsung Pay - Yeah, it’s totally a gimmick, but I admit it is fun paying for things with a phone instead of a card...that said, paying for things with the phone takes as long or longer than just inserting/swiping my chip card...so yeah.
- The Camera - This camera is one of the best of the best you can get on Android. Photos are crisp without much blur, noise, or artificial colouring.
Even night photos are clear!
- Waterproofing - The iPhone 4 remains my favourite overall pokédex ever because generally, the thing just cannot be killed. I dropped mine into 20ft deep salt water for about 10 years without a case, and despite the phone being soaked inside and out, the phone booted up 8 hours later, no damage whatsoever.
And that’s not even impressive as compared to what an iPhone in an Otterbox can do. lol
The Galaxy is an awesome reminder of my old iPhone. I’ve never been able to dip a naked phone into a pool, and it’s a fun party trick the Galaxy can do...Or more practically, the ability to use it in the rain, snow, or even for music in the shower!
- The Screen - Oh gosh, it’s just beautiful, a sight to behold...I mean here are some of my wallpapers and one of the home screens I used. Imagine images with this resolution on a tiny screen. :D
- Theme Engine - TouchWiz takes some inspiration from the rooting crowd here and offers a theme engine reminiscent of Cyanogenmod. And I like it! Right out of the box customizable themes, icons, fonts, sounds, etc...just like CM!
- Ease of Use - Now, I consider myself either an expert at Android or an Advanced user...however I do have to say that I’m impressed with how much Samsung tried to make the phone as easy to use as possible. My elderly parents picked up their Galaxy phones at a lightning pace.
- Its raw power (when it works) - It loads fast, it processes faster than my home computer, and awesomely seamless transitions.
- Battery Life - The battery isn’t “impressive”, it’s just very predictable. Unlike my iPhone and also unlike the 5X, I never have gotten anxiety from the Galaxy battery. I know exactly how long a certain percentage will last me.
- Selfie Cam - I don’t care what you think about selfies in general, but the selfie cam on this phone is superb. On top of that, using the heart rate sensor to take pics is a neato trick.
And now, to the annoying stuff...
What makes me disappointed
- Signal - Alright, so my Nexus 5X would never lose signal, even if I were in a freaking bunker. But the Galaxy? Shoot, that thing will randomly drop signal in my apartment (it also only has at most 1 bar at the most in my apartment, despite the Nexus having a full 5) or when I need it most on the road. This phone has the most lousy signal of any phone I’ve ever had outside of the OG iPhone 5. And I mean, we’re talking about the same network (Verizon) here, so it’s not like it’s an unfair comparo.
- Bloatware - *Sigh*, it’s bad enough these phones come with many unnecessary apps from Samsung (I have no desire to play Mobile Strike, stop trying to make Mobile Strike happen), but then Verizon comes around and dumps their own list of shoddy, unattractive apps on top of the Sammy ones. Thankfully, you can disable (not delete, because screw you, that’s why) most of the Samsung and Verizon apps...but it’s infuriating that one would have to do such in the first place.
- Unfathomable Lag - Okay, so when the phone is new, it’s blisteringly fast...But once apps like Chrome start caching data, they slow dramatically down. Most of the time I’m using the phone, webpages are lagging worse than your average low budget Chinese tablet. Of course, you can clear out this cached data and get back to ludicrous speed, but you shouldn’t have to. I never needed to with the 5X. Likewise, I had to fully delete Facebook from the Samsung because of how much memory it ate, again, not an issue the 5X had.
- Unlock, Unlock, Unlock - The most infuriating part of the TouchWiz UI for me is the lock screen. In normal Android, you have a drop down bar that gives you basic functions that work while the phone is locked. You usually can flip on bluetooth, turn on airplane mode, turn on the mobile hotspot, etc all with a quick swipe and tap.
Well, with the S7, you have to unlock the phone first (which requires a button press to activate the fingerprint scanner, like the iPhone), then perform those same functions.
Also, unlike AOSP, Sammy doesn’t want you to read your most current messages. If Miss Tesla sends me two texts, it just says “2 New Messages” instead of giving me a preview of the latest message. It will only give me a preview if she only sends 1 text and only 1 text in between me reading them. Whyyyyyy? I even have it set to give me previews in notification settings, but Galaxy doesn’t care.
- Button Placement - So, you don’t like where the “Apps” folder is located? Don’t like that the select and back buttons are backward from every other Android phone? Too bad, you can’t change it. For the life of me I cannot understand why the Apps folder is a locked icon that can’t be changed.
- Apps Drawer - In normal Android, when you download a new App, the system automatically puts them into the drawer in alphabetical order. TouchWiz? Eh, just drops them at the end of the list. You have to manually re-sort after every install if you want alphabetical order.
- Verizon Branding...Everywhere - So, you just bought this cool $700 phone from your Verizon retailer, and despite the phone being Unlocked and even able to be used Internationally, it’s permanently branded with Verizon logos. The back panel has Verizon’s logo etched into the back. The boot animation is some low res Verizon logo that further annoys you...and if you were to use a SIM from another network, the phone will whine at you that it isn’t a Verizon SIM...yet still work anyway.
- Screen Protectors - None really fit. The S7 has curved glass right before the bezel. This means that your average screen protectors will end inside the screen spaaaaaace. There are glass screen protectors that curve around the curve, however they do somehow add some awkward girth to the phone. If you have a thick case, you probably wouldn’t notice though.
- There’s no way you can ditch TouchWiz without losing features- Like Apple, Samsung strives to lock their patrons into the ecosystem as much as possible. So rooting/installing a new ROM nukes your warranty, Sammy also tries to make their TouchWiz apps as proprietary as possible. As you can see by the absolutely tiny amounts of ROMs out there, there is pretty much no escape from TouchWiz...and if you do manage to get away from TouchWiz, for right now you’re stuck with an inspiration of AOSP.
In the end
The Galaxy S7 (at least mine) is an absurdly powerful and beautiful phone gimped by an awful Android skin...and there’s no easy way of just wiping it out for something better.
It is thus, I’m going back to Google. The Galaxy is being sold to someone who adores TouchWiz and I’m either getting a Nexus 6P or a Pixel. I would have gotten an Honor 8 or a OnePlus 3T, but neither phone works on VZW (and the Honor 8 uses an older battery chemistry).
And honestly, if it weren’t for the existence of the Nexus/Pixel phones, I would have gotten me an iPhone 6S Plus and called it a day.
Have a Subie XP wallpaper for your time. :)