Our seven hopes for the Galaxy S7 Active

The Galaxy S7 Active is on the way, with tech enthusiasts having seen leaked photos, desert camo and green colors, and specifications of what the device has in store (and an announcement date that, if we take the June 10th on-screen date seriously, isn’t too far off).

And yet, if you take a look at the usual tech scene, it’s easy to believe that this is all you need to know. I’ve seen it time and time again: the name of a new phone shows up in the database, then photos start leaking (which gives away some aspects); next, specifications leak, with more to follow in the coming days and weeks. By the time the phone is announced, tech enthusiasts have a firm grip on what the specs are. And yet, even in an atmosphere where tech specs are often revealed before an unofficial unveiling, not everything leaks. There are always some surprises that remain.

The Galaxy S6 Active is still one of my favorite smartphones, even in 2016, and the device sits at the top of my favorite smartphones of last year. With the Galaxy S7 Active on the way in a matter of days, it’s time to take a look at seven hopes for the Galaxy S7 Active that have either 1) not been mentioned or 2) have been mentioned but have little confirmation as to their existence.

As you’ll see from the list, current Galaxy S7 Active leaks are merely “scratching the surface” when it comes to the handset. I haven’t ranked these seven hopes in any particular order.

We hope the Galaxy S7 Active has Gear VR support

Gear VR

Though this may not be the most important hope for some consumers interested in the Galaxy S7 Active, this is a huge hope for me. I want to see the Galaxy S7 Active get Gear VR support so that consumers who purchase this handset can have access to the same virtual reality experience as Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge customers.

The Galaxy S6 Active, unfortunately, did not get Gear VR access last year. The Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, and the Galaxy Note 5 did: with these devices, you need only place them correctly into the Gear VR phone slot, and you’d be greeted with a voice telling you about “welcome to Gear VR.” Gear VR would then install the Oculus Store and other pertinent software onto the handset in the headset. I didn’t experience the same result with the Galaxy S6 Active, unfortunately. With a little maneuvering, I could place the S6 Active in the Gear VR headset but heard no voice, saw no software downloaded, and so on. While I have access to multiple devices, someone who waited for six months of 2015 to pick up the Galaxy S6 Active faced disappointment if he or she wanted to use the device to access Gear VR.

Yes, I’m aware that Samsung intends to implement USB Type-C charging in the Galaxy Note 6 and will bring a new Gear VR for the effort, but I still believe Galaxy S7 Active customers should still have access to Gear VR – even if they won’t get access to USB Type-C charging (or could they? This is yet another question about the S7 Active, even if we assume micro-USB is highly probable and Type-C is unlikely). Samsung’s Gear VR is dominating the mass market, and we’d like to see Active customers get the flagship treatment with this device (it is a flagship in its own right).

We hope the Galaxy S7 Active has a fingerprint sensor

galaxy-s7-front-silver

The Galaxy S7 Active has been rumored to feature a fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button, but all we’ve seen so far are photos that leak a distinct home button that is separate from the recents and back buttons (unlike the Galaxy S6 Active, the S7 Active’s direct predecessor).

The Galaxy S6 Active featured a home button that was connected to the recents and back buttons and did not have a fingerprint sensor. What this meant for S6 Active customers is that, if the Active was their favorite smartphone of choice (with its stellar battery life and military standard build), they had to sacrifice fingerprint authentication in order to have the smartphone that checked off nearly everything they had on their smartphone wish list.

This year’s Galaxy S7 Active should have a fingerprint sensor so as to provide the deep protection that consumers want for their devices. As many before me have noted, fingerprint authentication is easier to use than a password or passcode because you don’t have to remember your fingerprint. With that said, the Galaxy S7 Active, for its high-end price, should get the flagship treatment with a fingerprint sensor embedded into the home button this year.

We hope the Galaxy S7 Active has Samsung Pay support

Samsung Pay

Along the lines of the fingerprint sensor-embedded home button, we hope the Galaxy S7 Active has Samsung Pay support. This goes hand-in-hand with the fingerprint sensor, seeing that fingerprint authentication is necessary to experience Samsung Pay.

Samsung Pay, for those who may not know, is Samsung’s mobile payments system that lets you pay with your phone at both NFC and traditional card readers. The beauty behind Samsung Pay is that you can pay for anything with your phone regardless of whether or not the store has updated terminals or not.

What makes the omission of Samsung Pay from the Galaxy S6 Active last year even more glaring is when you consider that Google made Android Pay compatible with the Galaxy S6 Active.  Now, it is true that the Galaxy S6 Active runs Android and that the Galaxy S7 Active will (and thus, it makes sense that Google would bring mobile payments to the device), but it is a remarkable omission for Samsung, owner of the S6 Active, to abandon Samsung Pay integration for it. With the rise of Samsung Pay and Samsung’s desire to dominate the market in its mobile payments service, the more Galaxy users that can use Samsung Pay, the merrier.

Samsung has added more banks and credit unions to its Samsung Pay-friendly list, so we hope that Galaxy S7 Active buyers get the opportunity to experience the Korean giant’s steps to make mobile payments easier than ever before.

We hope the Galaxy S7 Active has a Kelvin camera mode 

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge Camera UI

I’ve spent the last 10 months with the Galaxy S6 Active, which has given me time to see the differences between it and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 (released in August 2015). One thing I noticed when shooting photos is that the Galaxy Note 5 has a Kelvin camera mode that lets you adjust the temperature of your photos (eliminate the yellowish tint, if you’re familiar with most lowlight conditions on most smartphone cameras). The Galaxy S6 Active, unfortunately, does not have this mode, though, which means that you won’t have as many manual controls at your disposal. The Galaxy S6 edge+ also has a Kelvin camera mode, leaving the S6 Active as the one missing out on the Kelvin camera fun.

We’re sure the Galaxy S7 Active’s upcoming 12MP back camera and 5MP front camera, both with f/1.7 apertures, will take care of exposure issues and yellowish tint elimination issues that I’ve had with the Galaxy S6 Active (and Samsung will likely bring back the Pro camera mode that was present in the S6 Active), but a little extra camera control at the user’s fingertips can’t hurt (and professional photographers live in manual controls on smartphones).

We hope the Galaxy S7 Active brings off-screen battery percentages and charge time reminders 

silver-galaxy-s7-edge

I enjoy the Galaxy Note 5 in my lineup alongside of my Galaxy S7 edge, but I remember a time when the Galaxy Note 3 didn’t have charging times and battery percentages off-screen (the Note 3 launched with Android Jelly Bean). All you had was a battery meter that you had to look at to gauge whether the battery was 25%, 50%, or 85% charged.

The Galaxy S7 edge provides the same comfort as the Galaxy Note 5 in that regard: I don’t have to turn on the display if the phone is charging from 0 to 100% (just tap the home button once to see it), but unfortunately, the Galaxy S6 Active was the one phone in Samsung’s 2015 lineup that didn’t get this feature.

What this meant for S6 Active users is that they still have to “gauge” the battery percentage with a battery meter – and they have no indication of how long it will take the device to go from empty to full. Even with in-built wireless charging (which, thankfully, was included with the S6 Active), I still manage to leave the device on the wireless charging pad longer than I should because I have no “x hours, x minutes remaining” charging time reminder.

We hope that the Galaxy S7 Active will feature off-screen charging times and battery percentages for the sake of customers who want to better plan how to charge their phones and live their lives.

We hope that the Galaxy S7 Active brings Always On Display

s7-edge-side-front

The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge have the secondary Always On Display (AOD), but it’s an excellent feature for those who use it. Now that Samsung has added text message and call notifications to the AOD, along with a World Clock option that lets you showcase four time zones simultaneously, and has introduced AOD themes that let you customize the design on your AOD, Samsung’s secondary display on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge shouldn’t be sidelined.

This feature would work in the same capacity as it does on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, and we hope to see the Galaxy S7 Active get AOD. On my S7 edge, the AOD has proven to be a battery-sipper, which is a definite win for Samsung’s promise that it would drain no more than about 1% per hour. We’d still love to see Samsung bring third-party app support for the AOD to its 2016 lineup, but we can at least dream.

We hope that the Galaxy S7 Active has Samsung’s CPU cooling system

snapdragon-820

One component we hope will make its way to the Galaxy S7 Active, alongside of the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 12MP back camera with f/1.7 camera aperture and Dual Pixel phase detection autofocus (PDAF) is Samsung’s CPU cooling system that debuted with the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge. The CPU cooling system is an innovative feat that is designed to keep your phone cool while still allowing you to game in virtual reality via Samsung’s Gear VR headset. Some have said that the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge are iterations, but anyone who says this has underestimated the changes in these two handsets – the CPU cooling system included.

We do hope to see the CPU cooling system in the Galaxy S7 Active because, to be honest, the Snapdragon 820 still has instances of overheating (despite the fact that the 820 isn’t a hot potato like the Snapdragon 810 was). While the cooling system wasn’t necessarily designed to keep the 820 processor in check, I’m afraid that’s one purpose it serves in the Korean giant’s latest.

 Conclusion 

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active Colors

These are our seven hopes in the Galaxy S7 Active. Yes, we wish Samsung would bring the Galaxy S7 Active worldwide to all major carriers, but we’ve seen enough AT&T logos on the backs of the leaked smartphone to know that this is a pipe dream that won’t see the light of day this year.