Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review – A stronger and longer-lasting Galaxy


It’s been a couple of months since we got the Samsung Galaxy S7 and you knew it was coming. We now have this, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active. It’s more rugged. It’s built for dirt and water and to be dropped. We’re going to have a lot of fun with this. I’m Anwar with teekhimirchi. Let’s go take a look. Let’s talk about the physical design of this.


On the front, it’s pretty normal. You’ve got your big 5.1-inch display, not the biggest display out there. It’s still really good, though, especially for a phone like this that you’re going to be using outdoors a lot. The screen is still really, really good in direct sunlight. The big change on the front is we have physical buttons, three in a row, instead of just a physical home button. You still have multi-tasking on the left. You still have your back button on the right and the home button is still in the middle only now all three of them are physical buttons that you will physically depress. Another big change for the active line is that the home button is now a fingerprint sensor. We’ve enjoyed that on the GS7, the GS6 and the Note 5, phones for a while now. Other than that there’s not a whole lot different on the front. On the back, you can see it’s all one piece, no glass back on this. Right? The idea is it’s going to be rugged.

We have this sort of soft touch plastic casing around the whole thing. The corners are much more rounded. They’re really no sharp edges on the back of this phone. It’s no removable. The battery is still stuck in there but it is a larger 4000 milliamp hours now so that’s good to see.


Let’s talk about the camera for a minute. This is still one of the best cameras you will find on any smartphone anywhere. It’s got a 12-megapixel sensor on the back and it’s really really good in low light thanks to Optical Image Stabilization and all the post processing that Samsung does. The camera is essentially the exact same camera that we have on the Galaxy S7. That means a couple of things. One, it’s really really good. Two, it’s really really good so don’t worry about that too much. This is probably the best camera you can buy today and now it has this built in rugged housing. Got a whole bunch of modes that you can walk through including the full manual mode which they call “PRO.” You’ve got selective focus, panorama, video collages, live broadcasting through YouTube if you want to do that, slow motion, virtual shot, food mode, hyper-lapse, the aqua mode for underwater because, again, this phone is meant to be used under water.

You can geotag everything and sports modes and you can download more from Samsung. There’s just a whole lot going on. You still have the heart rate monitor back here as well. I’ve never used it but if you want it, it’s there.


A couple of other changes here. Up top we’ve got the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack but the SIM tray has moved to the side. You will find it just below the power button. You use an SIM tray tool, just one of those paperclip-looking things to open it. No more prying it open with your fingernail. The power button is here as well. It’s flat, no texture there but it’s easy enough to reach and you know exactly where it is. The other side has your basic up-down volume rocker. It’s long button and pretty easy to figure out. Right above that, though, you have what they call the active button. If you push the activity button once, you get this activity zone which gives you a whole bunch of interesting things if you’re out being active. You’ve got a shortcut to the weather. You’ve got a barometer so it gives you elevation and pressure. If you tap it, it gives you, even more, details on that.

You have S-Health, which we have not launched yet, but this is Samsung’s Health Ecosystem for all of its apps and accessories. You have a compass so we can tell which way we’re going. We’re pointed almost due north right now. You’ve got a flashlight on here as well that you can turn on and off. Obviously, it will do a little more for you at night than it does during the day. Then we also have different settings for the active key so if you don’t want the active key to actually launch the activity zone, you can set it up to run any other of your applications that you want. You can even use it while the screen is locked. If you just want quick access to it, turn that on. A quick double press will open up some SOS settings. You can quickly call 911 or send an emergency text message to a contact that you’ve designated. Kind of a cool thing to have to assume your fingers still work while you’re out being active in an emergency.

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Let’s talk about water-resistance for a second. The Galaxy S7, if you remember, is rated for IP68. That means dust and water. Dust we tend to not worry about too much. Water you’re good for a meter of depth for about 30 minutes. The Galaxy S7 Active, despite this rugged exterior, is actually rated the exact same way. They’re saying five feet for 30 minutes. That’s maybe a tiny bit more than a meter but that’s close enough for our purposes. It’s really no more water resistant than that. For my money, I wouldn’t just go around dunking this all the time just because I can but, if it does get wet, you’re probably going to be okay. If you do happen to drop it in a pool or a toilet or whatever, it should come out all right so long as you notice it fairly quickly.


Software-wise this is very very much exactly what we’ve seen from Samsung throughout the year. It’s running Android 6 Marshmallow as you would expect. It’s running Touch-Wiz and it has a whole bunch of AT&T stuff on it. We’ve written about this a couple times already with the GS7, with another manufacturer phone, AT&T has bloatware out of the wazoo in this. You will immediately some direct TV stuff when you fire it up. We really wish they would do something about that but, the only saving grace there is, this is an AT&T exclusive phone so you’re not going to see that anywhere else at this point. Touch-Wiz is exactly the same. You still have your standard home screen and your standard apps launcher, your apps draw. There’s a huge AT&T folder with things like Device Help and MY AT&T and Smart Limits and AT&T Protect Plus and Caller Name ID and Look Out is pre-installed, AT&T Locker.

Uber’s on there whether you want it or not. Drive Mode, Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Setup and Transfer, Plenty, Remote and Yellow Pages. A whole bunch of AT&T bloatware. You’ve got a Google folder so you’ll have all your Google apps. You’ll have a Samsung folder with all your Samsung apps, Android Pay, A gallery, Messages, Direct TV. Did we mention Direct TV? This thing is full of Direct TV. It’s all over the place. You’re still free to put whatever software and launcher on there that you want of course. Frankly, you really should do that. Do something to this home screen. Don’t just leave it the way that Samsung and AT&T have given it to you. It’s probably the most important thing you can do with this phone.


Let’s talk storage. Like the GS7, this is a 32-gigabyte standard device. Out of that, you’ve got about 22 gigabytes usable to you for things like files and pictures and music or whatever. The storage itself is already eaten up a little bit by the ROM by everything AT&T has put on it, by all of Samsung’s stuff and so you actually only have about 12 gigabytes of that left over to use.


As far as the battery goes, we’ve got a 4000 milliamp-hour battery in this. Anyone who knows anything knows that’s a good bit more than what’s on the Galaxy S7. You are absolutely going to be able to get through an entire day out of this, probably a day plus. That’s about what I’ve been seeing after a few days of use. What it really comes down to for me is “Get me through most of that one day if not all of it.” Samsung’s fast charging takes care of the rest. If I do need to charge up at some point during the day, I can do that. It’s not a huge deal but a 4000 milliamp hour battery really alleviates most of those concerns for me.  Samsung’s done a really good job getting a larger battery into this phone.


Samsung’s game launcher is still here as well. This gives you quick shortcuts to whatever games you might have installed and suggested games you might want to install. They’re also some tools here so you can turn off alerts during the games, lock your recent and back keys so you don’t accidentally exit out of the game while you’re playing it. You can minimize the game. You can take a screenshot and easily record your game. Right now, let’s just play a game. We’ve done some of the basic torture tests that you would expect with a phone like this. We’ve dropped it in the water. We’ve had it half-buried in sand. We’ve dropped it onto concrete. I don’t think we did anything that you would call outside the specs of what they’ve built this phone for. How’s it held up? Well, a little interesting. As you’ve seen, we’ve got some sand stuck in the cracks a little bit in that crevasse between the display and the body.

We have a whole bunch of scuffs on the back. We have some scuffs on the display but the display did not shatter. That’s part of what they’re selling you here is sort of a shatter-proof display. This phone is definitely not in the best shape it could be but it still works, it’s still alive and it’s not like you’re going to go around throwing your phone onto the ground or into the water or into the sand on purpose. That’s not the idea here. The idea here is that you just don’t have to baby it. How did it hold up? I think, in that respect, pretty well. Really. Don’t over-think this phone too much. It’s a Galaxy S7 just more “Active.” It’s got a more bulky exterior. It comes in camouflage now which is great. It’s mostly a pretty good feel.

It’s still comfortable to hold and it should stand up to drops better than a normal Galaxy S7 would. Obviously, we got sand in ours somehow. You’re going to want to watch out for that. You’re not going to want to just let it live underwater. It’s no more water resistant than the normal Galaxy S7. If you’re not on AT&T it’s all moot anyway. This is an AT&T exclusive with tons of Direct TV bloatware. But, if you want something that’s just a little more rugged on AT&T than the normal Galaxy S7, it’s worth taking a look at. That’s it for us. See you later.


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