I’ve done a lot with the Samsung Galaxy S7 active. In the two months I had to spend with the active, I’ve gone to Seattle and went to the top of the Space Needle. I’ve drank the freshest cup of Nitro Cold Brew money could buy at the Starbucks Roastery, and visited some science fiction rock and roll indie games museums. Just this past week, I actually traveled to Mount Hood in Oregon and captured some excellent photos in the process. In my adventures, the Samsung Galaxy S7 active was able to do exactly what I needed it to do without holding me back.
If you’re new to the active lineup, it’s essentially Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone but inside the rugged protective shield shell. There’s more to it than that but that’s really the gist of it. The S7 active features the same 5.1-inch Super AMOLED QHD display as the Galaxy S7 and it looks excellent, great viewing angles, brightness and contrast. It’s one of the best displays in the market. It has the same Snapdragon 820 quad-core processor paired with 4GB of RAM as the S7, plenty fast enough to provide you the information you need for an active lifestyle.
The active also features the same 12MP f1.7 camera sensor the S7 features and you can tell from the earlier photos that it captured some great shots. With the low aperture, you can capture images in low light with very little noise relative to the competition. The Optical Image Stabilization or OIS helps to keep images and video crispy clear without blur. And I love being able to impress people by throwing my phone into a lake for example and not have to worry about it being damaged thanks to the IP68 water resistance. When the S7 active first launched, Consumer Reports reviewed the device and they found out that the waterproofing rating wasn’t in fact accurate. Their review units were actually ruined from being submerged in water. But since that report, Samsung has fixed the issue. Apparently, all new Galaxy S7 active devices are in fact, truly IP68 water resistant. It’s a crowd pleaser and another feature that the S7 does also have. Enjoy it while it lasts because once waterproofing is standard on tech devices, people won’t be as impressed and life will become a little bit dull.
But let’s not end on that low note. The S7 active is unique. It has its own set of unique features. The build quality department is very much unique. It has a shatter resistant display and a shock/dust and military grade body with water resistance that I’ve already mentioned earlier. It’s on the chunky side for 2016 smartphones coming in at 7.9mm thick but it’s not too slippery. It has a good weight to it. One little perk is that you can do this.
You can’t swap out the battery but you can insert a microSD card for expandable storage. There are physical navigation buttons, no capacitive touch navigation buttons like in the S7. What’s new this time around is the addition of a fingerprint scanner built right into the home button. It works very well, not the absolute fastest but far from the slowest scanner out there. My biggest pet peeve is how the overview and back navigation buttons are flipped from a traditional stock Android layout. It’s not a deal breaker since I’m human and I’m able to adapt pretty well but it is slightly annoying. Now even though you can’t swap out the battery of the active, the battery is one of the greatest things about the smartphone. Samsung packed a massive 4,000 mAh battery under the hood, one of the biggest around. 4,000 mAh will easily give you a full day’s worth of battery likely too if you’re a low-moderate user. Samsung also didn’t sacrifice features like fast charging and wireless charging. You can do both. There’s also this sweet active button—it’s a physical button on the upper left hand side of the phone. It’s nothing new as it was also featured in the last active variant. When you press it, you get the weather, compass, barometer, flashlight, stopwatch and S Health information all at a glance. You can even customize the button to open a different app when pressed or when long pressed or double pressed. I think it’s a neat feature to have. We’re starting to see many other manufacturers add this physical action buttons that can be reprogrammed. The Alcatel Idol 4S, being the latest smartphone to offer such a feature.
Overall, there’s a lot to love about the Samsung Galaxy S7 active. It carries over all the core features of the S7 and sprinkles in some more like a larger 4,000 mAh battery, a programmable active button and rugged build quality that won’t scratch or dent. Really, the biggest complain I have is with the abysmal speaker quality. The sound is absolutely awful, just like the Galaxy S7 speakers. But hey, if you live an active lifestyle, you probably have some sort of portable Bluetooth speaker to use.
The other negative downside to the S7 active is the fact that it’s exclusive to AT&T. it’s not that AT&T is a bad carrier, they were in fact nice enough to loan us this review unit. But because the S7 active’s exclusive to AT&T, not as many people are going to be able to purchase the device. While I don’t think it’s worth switching to AT&T just for the S7 active, it is worth seriously considering if you are an AT&T subscriber and are due for an upgrade. My recommendation to Samsung: launch a Samsung Galaxy S7 active next year. I think it could sell pretty well. The S7 active can be had for about $26/month through AT&T Next or about $800 off-contract.