Now that the primary Galaxy S7 series has regained its water-resistant powers, one might wonder why we need a ruggedized "active" version. And the answer is that, while the S7 and S7 Edge are some damn fine phones, all that delicately curved and exposed glass isn't exactly what you'd call durable. If the general tank-like construction of the Galaxy S7 Active isn't enough to turn your head, consider that it has almost exactly the same capabilities as its more mainstream brother (which is fairly unusual for rugged phones), plus an even bigger 4000mAh battery
After playing around with the AT&T-branded phone for a day, I can say that actually using it is more or less the same as having a Galaxy S7 in one of those tough shells. Compared to a naked S7 it feels a bit chunky and heavy, but not unreasonably so - in the hand it only feels a little bigger than, say, the Nexus 5. Considering all the extra toughness that's built into the phone, not to mention that enormous battery, it's some remarkably compact engineering. It probably helps that Samsung has switched to non-removable batteries, so mistakes like an idiot blogger accidentally soaking the internals of his "water resistant" review device aren't going to happen anymore. Stylistically, the S7 Active is an improvement on the previous models. That's about as much as you can say in its favor: while it gets rid of some of the superfluous grooves and oh-so-tough faux rivets, it's still a phone with a gigantic rubbery bumper stretched to all four corners. The sides are full metal and the single speaker has been intelligently moved to the bottom edge of the device, but the physical nav buttons nonsensically remain. Why make these separate moving parts? Aren't they just one more thing that can break? The central home button gets a fingerprint reader (something the S6 Active omitted), so that makes sense, but the two flanking buttons are just kind of awkward. Like the last Active model, the combined camera flash and pulse oximeter for heart rate monitoring sit next to the camera on the back.