I praised Samsung's Galaxy S7 Active in my initial review -- for its beautiful 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution display, speedy processor, excellent 12-megapixel rear camera and the largest battery Samsung has ever put in a smartphone. But the failure of its water-resistant coating threw cold water in my face.
Rated IP68, the S7 Active is supposed to survive submersion in 5 feet of water (1.5 meters) for 30 minutes, but our further testing with the device found that's not consistently true.
When the Active failed waterproof tests conducted by Consumer Reports, we ran several more tests ourselves. Two of CNET's four waterproofing tests with the S7 Active failed, which led to CNET's decision to lower the phone's performance subrating from 9 to 7, and to lower the overall phone rating from 8.8 to 8.0. Since then, Samsung released a statement that it identified and fixed a problem on the manufacturing line. So we retested the S7 Active (alongside the S7 and S7 Edge) and all three phones passed our trial by water.
While still a good phone overall, the inconsistent test results for a major feature concerns us and we can no longer recommend the phone with complete confidence. However, we still expect the Active to hold up under normal usage (e.g., not submerging the phone underwater for 28 minutes). You should still be able to withstand a drop in the toilet for 3 minutes (ew), which is more than most devices can handle.
Despite the phone's questionable behavior when held underwater, we do still recommend it for anyone looking for a durable and high-end phone -- this is the S7 to get if you don't want to use a case and want to avoid cracking your screen like this. (Galaxy fans who put a premium on design should stick to the S7 or S7 Edge.) Check out our existing review of the S7 to see how the camera and processor perform.
Right now, the Active sells only with AT&T in the US, and at $795 (around AU$1,085 and £550, converted) at full retail when it goes on sale on June 10, it isn't cheap. That's the same price as the curved-screen Edge, and $100 more than the S7 and a whole lot of other Android phones.
This review was originally published June 6, 2016, and was updated on July 18, 2016 and July 31, to reflect further testing.
Here's why you'd want the Active instead
I was initially turned off by the Active's cheap look and feel, but it has worked hard to win me over, because it has a few things that the better-looking S7 and S7 Edge don't. (And also a few reasons why you may want to stick with the original S7 or S7 Edge).
The shatter-resistant screen and durable body mean you don't need a case
Samsung put an extra layer of protection on top of the display glass to keep it from cracking, and in general, the phone is rated to withstand falls from up to 5 feet. I've dropped it numerous times on the sidewalk, gravel and hardwood floor, and while the body has scratched slightly, the screen has remained unscathed.