We’ve been using the best Android smartphone on America’s largest operator for a month. Here’s what we’ve found …
Not every Samsung Galaxy S7 is created equal. OK, they’re mostly created equal. That is, you’re going to get the same hardware no matter which U.S. operator you go with. Same Snapdragon processor. Same 32GB of on-board storage. Same look and feel.
Like so many (or too many, depending on how you look at it) phones these days, it’s what’s on the inside that changes things. Especially when the U.S. operators get involved.
First place to start: Read our comprehensive Galaxy S7 review, which goes more in-depth with the phone itself. And we’re now taking a loser look at each carrier model. I’ve been using Verizon Galaxy S7 (two of them, actually) for a month. Let’s take a look at where Verizon’s version stands out from the rest.
Let’s talk bloatware! Like the other carrier variants of the Galaxy S7, the core software experience remains the same. Samsung’s user interface is, for the most part, consistent whether you’re using Verizon’s or T-Mobile’s or Sprint’s or whatever.
Verizon does have a few additions, however, mostly in the settings menu. A longstanding feature is a full icon glossary, which is great if you’re new to smartphones or spot something that simply doesn’t make any sense. (The NFC icon comes to might, right?) You’ll also find links to the My Verizon Mobile app (for all your account needs), and there are a few other settings that Verizon has tweaked for whatever reason. The emergency alerts section (at Settings->Privacy & emergency->Emergency Alerts) is another one that tends to deviate, but not in a bad way.
Where things definitely change is with bloatware, which the carriers pronounce “pre-installed applications.” These can come in a couple forms. The Amazon suite of apps is pre-installed by Verizon, and those arguably can be helpful and may well be something you’d install anyway. Kindle, Amazon Music, Shopping, etc. On the other hand, if you don’t want to use them (I never use Amazon Music, for example), they’re just in the way. You can disable them, which I do, but not uninstall them — which wouldn’t save any space anyway because of the partition they’re on in the first place. (While apps pre-installed to the System partition are annoying, that’s not space you can use for your own stuff anyway.) Verizon also includes the Slacker app, which is a pretty good audio (music and news and such) application. But, again, it’s not one I use, so it’s in the way. And Verizon still has the exclusive on the NFL Mobile app, which sucks for anyone not on Verizon. It’s a decent app, though, so it stays. (That doesn’t mean it’s not bloatware, of course.)
It’s not like Verizon ruined the GS7 or anything — but its bloatware doesn’t make the product any better.
More annoying is Verizon’s own suite of duplicative apps. There’s VZ Navigator, which I’d never in a million years use instead of Google Maps. Disabled. Message+? Disabled. There’s already a text messaging app from Verizon. (And I use Hangouts in any event.) Verizon has its own voicemail app, too. Fine. I’ll deal with that one, not that I’ll ever use it. Go90? I’m told that’s Verizon’s mobile video app. Disabled. Verizon Cloud? Hell, no. Disabled. Support & Protection (aka VZ Protect)? Nope. I’ll handle that one myself. (Though I will allow that if you’re not going to use something like Google’s Android Device Manager or a third-party app to do this sort of thing, then maybe Verizon’s app is fine. Virus scanning, however, is still mostly snake oil.)
Samsung’s got its share of things that I won’t use, too. Milk Music? Disabled. Samsung Gear (for its smartwatch)? Disabled until I decide to use a Gear smartwatch again. S Health? Disabled. Memo? Disabled. (I’ll use Google Keep, thanks.)
Point is, there’s still a lot of stuff on the GS7 that you might or might not use. And that’s before you get anywhere near the crap Verizon’s loaded on there. It’s not a deal-breaker. It’s just (unfortunately) something we’ve had to deal with because Samsung doesn’t directly sell the GS7 outside of carrier control in the U.S. Again, we call for Samsung to do something about this.
One thing that’s missing out of the box, strangely, is Samsung’s own browser — which a lot of folks like. Odd that a single duplicative app would be left out, but you can download it from Google Play just fine.
And seriously, Verizon — just how much time do you think I’ll be spending in your stores? This is not OK.
Call quality and features
This one’s a bit subjective and a good deal anecdotal — you don’t live where I live or work where I work. And I haven’t had any major complaints about the GS7 on Verizon. It still seems to be a little more power hungry than GSM phones — that’s par for the course, though — and what Wifi wonk I’d seen appears to have been cleared up with a recent update. (There are a lot of variables in that sort of thing, though.)
Verizon still has Wifi calling, of course. I’m not a big fan of the feature in general, but it’s there if you want it. And now’s a good time to remind folks that if you want simultaneous voice and data, you’ll need to have Advanced Calling turned on.
One call-related thing I wouldn’t bother with is the included “Caller Name ID” app. Oh, it works great for showing you who’s calling, even if they’re not in your contacts, during the free trial. But for Verizon to want $36 a year for the pleasure of using what should be standard on every phone. This is a basic piece of functionality that Verizon’s trying to make an extra buck off of, and it’s ridiculous.
Pricing and financing
Verizon offers the Galaxy S7 a couple ways. If you’re buying outright, it’ll run you $672 off contract. That’s comparable to the other carriers — just about in the middle, actually.
If you want to do the monthly payments thing, it’ll cost you $28 a month on you bill. If you’re not normally a fan of paying for phones this way, Verizon’s got a bit of an incentive. If you’re paying for the GS7 monthly, you’ll be able to trade it in for a new model after a year. (Technically, after 50 percent of the cost has been paid.)
As for which plan is for you, it depends on how much data you’re going to use. Verizon starts at $30 for 1 gigabyte and goes up to $18GB for $100 a month. That’s for new plans — there are myriad options. Don’t be afraid to adjust things to better suit your usage. You might well find out that you’re paying for more than you’re actually using.
The bottom line
Verizon is still the largest mobile operator in the United States. You don’t get to be that by not doing a lot of things right. And like the other U.S. operators, that means Verizon’s going to do things how Verizon wants to. Bloatware, for sure. App that you’ll never use, and that you can only push out of sight and out of mind.
Verizon’s also broken one feature that’s still pretty niche, but important — we’re having major issues getting this Galaxy S7 to connect to Android Auto. Other models work great, but not Verizon’s.
One final perk, however, is that Verizon’s phones are all SIM unlocked. That’s less of a benefit while you’re in the U.S. because of how radio bands work — but it can be great when you’re traveling overseas, especially since Verizon’s international plans remain unimpressive. But pick up a local SIM once you’re on the ground, and you’re good to go. No worrying about SIM unlocking. (That’s a big reason why I’ve been taking a Verizon phone with me while I travel, actually.)
In about a month of use on Verizon, I’ve not seen anything I’d consider to be a showstopper — even with the software headaches. You’re going to find that on any carrier, really. If Verizon’s your jam, and the Galaxy S7 beckons, this is a match we can easily recommend.
See at Verizon