After my precious iPhone 6S suffered what I presume was an unfortunate encounter with a table corner, spending five days without a smartphone as a test, Samsung Belgium was so kind as to send me a Galaxy S7 for a few weeks to try out. Thanks, chaps.
I’ve been on Android before, a Oneplus 2, but got the remark that I should compare a flagship to a flagship, and try it a few weeks to get used to the differences. Here’s a quick overview of my findings after 3 weeks.
Beautiful device, Android is excellent to work with, Google is scary, the GPS is troublesome, VR blew my mind, Volvo is dropping some balls and I miss iMessage.
+ Very nice device
The Galaxy S7 is very slick. It looks and feels premium, solid, lightweight, and the tapered edge of the display is highly enjoyable. A great combination of touchyfeelyness and trusting it as a work horse.
It’s IP68 dust and water resistant, which is great, because I love scrolling through 9gag, Medium and other feeds in my bath tub.
+ First boot
The on-boarding wizard is particularly straightforward (especially when you already have a Google account, which I presume most people have), getting you up and running in no time.
Because I use Gmail and contacts and calendars are synced through it, zero migration was needed, email, contacts and calendar instantly available.
Which brings me to privacy — I was never asked what to share, everything just popped up on my phone. Adding an email account isn’t adding an email account if it’s a Google account. All the data.
Google kind of automatically assumes everything you have is theirs, which is worrying to me.
The Super AMOLED 1440 X 2560 5.1" display really pops, making it a pleasure to read on or watch video. It also adds to the VR experience, which I’ll get to in a minute. However, the display also over-saturates everything a bit, so your pictures will look better on this display than they actually are.
It does have the tendency to change the brightness suddenly, decreasing it significantly, which happened a few times and is pretty annoying.
+ Android is great (read in a Bender is great voice)
The OS is really mature, works great and has lots of interesting features iOS doesn’t (and vice versa, of course).
Loving (not necessarily on every Android device):
- consistent user interface and experience
- speed and ease of use
- notification icons on top
- the led light informing you of notifications
- waving over the screen to see notifications, which 7/10 works and 3/10 makes you look like an idiot waving at your screen
- Ermahgerd, the capacitive buttons on the bottom of the device (recent and back), I keep hitting that area on my iPhone now, wondering why nothing happened. Apple, adopt this, immediately.
- the close-all-button!
Not so loving
- pictures are seemingly saved randomly, and disappear in file system land, especially working with Dropbox and sorts.
- the multitude of apps for the same function (would you like to open your pictures in Pictures or in Gallery? o_O).
- the default alarm screwed me over a number of times, because it’s limited in snoozes. I love using Siri to set alarms, so I try the same with Ok Google, but I find myself having to go into the alarm to change the settings every time (maybe you can change the defaults?).
- notification badges don’t update, happens frequently that I go into the app, and then it updates, usually disappearing because I’ve seen the updates on another device.
- The Gmail app doesn’t have/allow all inboxes as default screen.
All and all, these were not deal breakers per sé.
+ VR blew my mind
I’ve played with VR a couple of times for a few minutes, this time the travel master Tjoolaard set me up with his Gear VR goggles for some proper testing. With this low cost, it’s amazing.
VR is the future. Unquestionably. It’s very impressive and immersive. I believe this is going to be the way we consume video, games, transport into history, the future, and alternate realities.
Imagine kids being able to visit any place, existing or not, see big historic events, visualizations of the past and future, live streams and conference calls in 360/VR. No more boring memorizing from over-copied pages (thank you, about every history teacher I had), but immersive experiences that excite and amaze.
And this is only the beginning. Oh, yes. Big fan.
+ Google everywhere
Google’s personal assistant is better than Siri. Yeah, I said it.
The speech recognition is much better, and the online search interwoven with device control is very well done.
I tried to disable Ok Google for battery and privacy reasons, and I couldn’t find where, which is not very okay, and may be done intentionally. (if I need more than a few minutes to find something, it’s bad UX or hidden)
Is Google listening to every sound, every word?
- Privacy concerns
Google knows everything. My contacts, calls, emails, behavior, searches, and now my voice, surroundings, driving habits, where I parked my car and which pictures I took where.
Much of this was already the case before I got an Android, but now I feel I forked over my entire life to Google, without even being asked.
Perhaps I’m being a bit naive, but it worries me.
I have the same remark in my notes on the Oneplus 2, ‘auto-google is scary’.
- Device policy
When adding my company’s email address, a Google Apps or G Suite account, I was forced to install some policy application that basically lets any administrator block and wipe the device.
Excuse me? For adding an email account?
Update: I called Google, and this is a default setting in G Suite (Google Apps).
Disabled, deleted, all colleagues happy, done.
- Missed calls
It showed a number of missed calls, which were Google Hangouts calls from last February. No. First of all, that’s not a phone call, and second, no.
- The GPS is a bit shite
More than often, it located me next to the road I was driving, costing me much time missing turns, having to turn back into traffic, and those pleasantries, especially in downtown Brussels and on a schedule.
In week 2, I switched back to my iPhone for Waze, because it was getting to0 annoying. Bad points, I hope it’s only on this particular device.
- The Car Issues (Volvo’s fault)
As an avid Spotify user, this is my routine:
- Listen to Spotify on my Mac
- Switch to Spotify on my iPhone, where it would continue playing
- Mount phone and plug in USB cable in the car (so it would charge)
- Continue listening, with artwork and steering wheel controls
- Basically arriving with a (fully) charged phone
Android? Not so much. And this is not Android’s fault, but Volvo’s. In Q2 of 2016, Android had a market share of 87.6%, iOS 11.7%, so clearly it would be a good idea to support both. The protocols are — I presume — standardized, so technically I see no problem.
This is what the Corporate Communications Director of Volvo BeLux responded to my inquiry:
Android will be introduced into our cars end of this year, but only for XC90, S90 and V90, if they have a double USB port. A client that has Apple Play as option has one by default, others don’t, so not every car will be able to upgrade.
I’m not 100% sure Mr. Aerts understood that I was talking about audio support for Android, and not Android Auto, but either way, my car is a driving computer, so not being able to update the software is beyond me.
Why not Bluetooth? Here’s why: Bluetooth doesn’t charge, USB has better audio quality, has less delay in controlling, and doesn’t support artwork in my particular car and/or software.
- No iMessage
Something I’ve missed testing the Oneplus 2 as well — we’ve grown so accustomed to iMessage. Most of my friends and family are on iOS. For the uninitiated — iMessage replaces/unifies rich text messaging on all iOS devices. It doesn’t care if it’s an SMS or a video, and it’s built in right into MacOS and iOS.
I usually text from my Macbook, as I don’t prefer typing on tiny displays.
Fair enough, there are plenty of alternatives, but I’m getting tired of switching between ten apps. Let’s just bloody unify already, my preference right now would be Telegram.
For Android users, I believe when they say the S7 is the best device they ever had, presuming the GPS trouble are only on this particular device. If I were to switch, this one would probably be it (although I’m very curious about the Oneplus 3 and Pixel as well).
I’m not switching because of the iOS ecosystem (not investing in the moving cost), my music (Volvo) and iMessage.
Thanks, Samsung Belgium, for letting me test this device for a few weeks.
Something to add or comment? All ears.