Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review

The best Android phone for your clumsy... 'friend'

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review

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Specs and Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Everything Galaxy S7 can do, S7 Active can do tougher. That's the basic thinking behind this fumble-friendly smartphone that's built using all of the same specs and software.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active

It has a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, which is used by almost every Android flagship in 2016 in the US, with an embedded Adreno 530 graphics chip and 4GB of RAM.

There's once again just a single internal storage size, 32GB, but unlike last year's Active phone, this one comes with a microSD card slot. It's tucked away in the nanoSIM tray.

We were able to expand the storage size with a 200GB microSD card, but making that adoptive storage with isn't easy to do and not a part of the Samsung hardware by default.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active

That means the microSD card is mostly meant for photos and music, not offloading apps and games. Adoptive storage basically melds the internal storage and memory card together.

Interface, reliability, compatibility

This phone does have Android 6.0 Marshmallow, however, with Samsung's TouchWiz interface overlaid on Google's operating system. It's actually clean and simple to use.

Samsung's operating system tweaks get a bad rap even today because it was teeming with features that no one needed on the S5 on backward. But that's changed, trust us.

There are even features here you won't get on stock Android Marshmallow, including splitscreen apps. Splitscreen is new to Android Nougat, but Google's is only now rolling out the new operating system update to a few devices.

Samsung does include a number of its own apps, like Samsung Pay and the ingeniously descriptive "Internet," which can't hold a candle to the tucked-away Google Chrome app.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active

It also secretly forces pre-installed Galaxy Apps on you, like Facebook, instead of using versions downloaded from the Google Play Store. That doesn't bother us too much.

It's the AT&T apps and advertisements that get in the way of my enjoyment of this phone. It's full of DirecTV notification shade banners and needless maps apps that no one actually uses sanely.

Disabling these apps and widgets is a pain, but we're really missing out on what we can't enable or disable: HD video calls to people on other carriers using the button within the dialer app.

Even if your friend has a Samsung phone, in the US, they need to be on the same network, too. And there are only four other non-S7 or Note 7-related phones that are on the AT&T HD Calling list... and one outdated LG tablet.

This really hurts both Samsung and Google in their effort to take on Apple's much easier FaceTime setup. Hopefully Google's new Duo video app and forthcoming Allo messaging app takes off to properly connect people. But it's a shame that you can easily switch from voice calls to video to texts because of carrier greed.

Music, movies, gaming

Samsung's vibrant OLED display makes movies and games look impressive, even if the screen size is a smaller 5.1 inches.

Tapping into pre-loaded apps – like Samsung's default video player and the more advanced Google Play Movies & TV – showed off high brightness levels and a wide contrast ratio. Even better news: reflections outdoors are at a minimum on this outdoor-friendly phone.

It exceeds everything outside of the newer Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Where The S7 Active could use some work is within its single speaker. It fires audio out of the bottom frame. Get a pair of headphones (better than the ones in the box) to get good sound out of this device.

Matt Swider