And depending on how clumsy you are (or how much you hate putting a case on your smartphone), the Active might make up for its lackluster looks with toughness. Samsung says the new Active can withstand drops from up to 5 feet — even when the screen is the first thing crashing to the ground. Above the QHD Super AMOLED display and Gorilla Glass 4 is an added layer of polycarbonate, which is an added precaution to help keep the screen from shattering. If there are any downfalls to this approach, I didn’t notice them. The S7 Active hasn’t picked up an abnormal amount of scratches in my time testing it — and I get obsessive about that stuff — and the display looks just as crisp and gets just as bright as the S7’s.
Samsung tested the S7 Active’s rugged build numerous times at a launch event last week, dropping it on the floor, sand, and into water. As you’ll see in the photos below, it’s definitely possible for the thing to get dinged up and show some battle scars, but at least the screen was fine.There are even little bumpers around the camera’s glass to protect it against cracks.
Everything inside is mostly the same. The S7 Active has the same blazing fast Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and tremendous 12-megapixel camera as its non-rugged sibling. And by all accounts, the S7 is still holding up just as well today as when it launched, so that’s all good. You’re still limited to 32GB of built-in storage, but there’s a microSD slot in case you need more. Samsung Pay works just fine, too, if you’ve got a compatible credit/debit card and want to leave your wallet home.
It’s the battery that sees the other big change here. Samsung has upsized the capacity to a massive 4,000mAh. That’s even bigger than what’s inside the S7 Edge, or pretty much any other phone you’d buy from a US carrier today. As you might guess, a huge battery pack and 5.1-inch display (even at this sharpness) produce some stellar longevity. I never had to worry about charging the S7 Active during days of moderate to heavy usage, but you’ll want to plug it in come bedtime — just like any other phone. Just remember that all of that extra battery is probably contributing to the S7 Active’s larger dimensions. It’s not quite the same thing as shoving an enormous battery in the S7’s efficient frame.
One thing I’ve really come to love about the S7 Active is the dedicated shortcut button on the left side, right above the volume. Samsung’s home button shortcut for opening the camera remains lightning quick, so you don’t need a separate button for that. But having a physical control that opens any app you want is pretty fantastic. I’ve got it set so pressing the button opens Twitter, holding it down opens Facebook, and a double-press launches Spotify. All of this works with the phone locked; you’ll just have to enter your PIN or unlock it with a fingerprint before getting into the apps you’ve chosen. It’s a super convenient thing that I wish existed on the regular S7.
I think people who would buy the S7 Active already know they need a smartphone exactly like it. Maybe your job calls for having a phone that can take some abuse, or you’re just a person who drops stuff all the time. Sure, you could buy a regular Galaxy S7 and toss an Otterbox case on it. That more or less gets you something close to equal. But if you can get beyond the camouflage and carrying around something that isn’t quite as nice as Samsung’s metal and glass flagship, the S7 Active — and its gigantic battery — could be worth a look. Now let’s see whether Samsung finally takes it elsewhere.