Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Active trades beauty for toughness and a massive battery

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Samsung’s Galaxy S7 is a terrific and valuable smartphone, but it’s not a particularly durable one. It’s waterproof mobile, yes, so you can use it in the rain and not blink an eye if it happens to take a dive in a shallow pool. But the for hamfisted among us, the glass-heavy design still demands some kind of case. Instead of just have you buy some ruggedized case for the sleek S7, Samsung and AT&T now have an entirely different phone for you to consider: enter the Galaxy S7 Active. It goes on sale on June 10th for $26.50 per month over 30 months, or $33.13 for 24 months; both of those work out to around $795.

This is the fourth year in a row where Samsung has built a bigger, stronger, and uglier version of its flagship Galaxy smartphone for AT&T. The move made a ton of sense last year, when the Galaxy S6’s flashy redesign didn’t offer any kind of water resistance. That gave the Active an easy and standout selling point. This year Samsung’s regular S7 has learned to swim again, though, so how can Samsung and AT&T lure people towards the Active model?

It probably won’t be looks. The S7 Active is styled pretty closely to last year’s version, so it’s noticeably taller and wider than the regular S7 despite the screen size going unchanged. And, well, it doesn’t look anywhere near as nice. The S6 Active’s tacky visible screws are gone, which is a plus, and the pattern that Samsung chose for the back casing feels rather nice in hand. Same goes for the metal sides and soft-touch bumpers on the corners, which actually make this way¬†more comfortable¬†to hold as a camera than the everyday S7.

Counting the home button (yes, with a speedy fingerprint reader), there are three physical buttons on the front of this phone. That takes some getting used to if you’ve been using on-screen or capacitive buttons for awhile. Another important tidbit for virtual reality fans: owing to the Active’s different measurements, a Samsung spokesperson made no promises that it would work inside the current Gear VR headset.

The S7 Active no doubt takes a hit in the looks department compared to Samsung’s flagship. That’s particularly true of the hideous camouflage color that I’ve been using, which feels like it’s meant for plotting bombing runs or calling in the cavalry or something. I check email and send snaps on this thing, Samsung. Maybe dial it back a bit. You should buy the black or gold option instead. Both of those look just fine by my eyes if you’re into the industrial look.

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