The Galaxy S7 (left) and Galaxy S7 Edge (Right)
Lisa Eadicicco
By Lisa Eadicicco
February 21, 2016

Samsung is hoping to lure consumers with new Galaxy smartphones that can snap clear, bright photos in any environment, even if it’s dark and drizzly outside.

The South Korean firm unveiled Sunday a new pair of water-resistant smartphones, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, which come with improved cameras aimed at capturing better images in dim conditions.

Both phones are nearly identical except for one characteristic: Their screens. The Galaxy S7 Edge comes with a 5.5-inch screen that’s slightly curved, similar to the Galaxy S6 Edge+ device Samsung introduced last year.

The Galaxy S7, by comparison, has a smaller 5.1-inch display with a flat design. The Edge variant also has a slightly larger battery to power its bigger screen, but that’s where the physical differences between the two gadgets end.

Samsung says carriers like Verizon and AT&T will announce availability and pricing details in the near future.

The new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge’s cameras boast several improvements meant to result in better photos, including larger pixels on their camera sensors and lenses that let in more light. The Galaxy S7’s camera has fewer megapixels than its predecessor, but many experts argue that alone shouldn’t result in poorer photos. Both of the new devices also feature a new autofocusing technique which Samsung says puts subjects into focus more quickly.

That claim proved true during Samsung’s side-by-side demonstration, in which an iPhone 6s Plus and a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge were tasked with capturing a scene hidden inside a black box to test low-light camera performance. Samsung’s phone focused faster and captured an image that was brighter and more detailed. Still, as the test was set up by Samsung, it may not be an accurate representation of how the device will perform in the real world.

The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge have the same metal and glass-style Samsung introduced in last year’s model, but with a few enhancements. Both phones are resistant to dust and water and come with a curved glass back, which is meant to make the devices easier to hold. The S7 models are designed to withstand spills, splashes, and a little rain, but they aren’t meant to be used under water. The camera module is now flush with the back of the device, making it feel more slick and compact.

Samsung’s new Galaxy phones also come with always-on screens that can show the time and notifications without being fully woken up, a feature that could boost battery life. LG’s new G5 smartphone comes with a similar feature, but Samsung’s can be customized with different clock faces and calendars. It’s a useful addition for users who want to be able to quickly see bits of information.

With its latest attempt, Samsung has addressed one of my biggest concerns about its Edge phones. The slightly curved screen looks nice, but it hasn’t added enough extra functionality to justify its higher price tag. (Galaxy Edge models are typically about $100 more than non-Edge units.)

With the S7 Edge, Samsung is debuting new features that make the device’s curves a little more useful — users will be able to add shortcuts to the side screen that open a new email or launch the camera, for instance. Third-party developers, meanwhile, will take advantage of the side screen in other ways, like using it to display headlines and stock updates.

All told, Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge appear to be a great choice for those who want a nice-looking phone with a powerful camera and an interface that makes it easy to juggle multiple apps. Still, it will take real-world testing to see how they stack up.

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