The Galaxy S7 active takes everything great about the Galaxy S7 and puts it in a tougher and beefier body for outdoors enthusiasts or for the consumer that demands more from a smartphone than looks. Whether you are in construction, or you are a hiker, or you're just a clumsy person, the added grip and durability will surely give you that extra peace of mind.
The Galaxy S7 active is about never having to worry about putting your phone in a case. Never having to worry about your screen shattering from sliding off a table. And there's the bigger battery as well.
The Galaxy S7 active is a worthy successor to the Galaxy S6 active. You get all the benefits of the newer hardware that the vanilla S7 introduced including the fingerprint scanner this time around.
That being said, Samsung is the only major phone maker out in the US market, selling through a major carrier with flagship level hardware AND military-spec build quality, easily making it the most accessible rugged device in the US by the average consumer. That leaves customers who really want this phone only one option - you need to buy the phone through AT&T.
Still, if you really wanted to, you could probably find a way to purchase the phone outright and use it on your own GSM network, though we don't recommend it. Even so, it will probably burn a hole in your wallet for the price that it's currently going for. AT&T and Samsung are asking for $795 to buy this guy outright.
Here are some worthy alternatives to the Galaxy S7 active, we are sticking to devices available in the US as this is an AT&T exclusive device and would only be available as such. Sadly, none of the other alternatives are available with MIL-spec'd certification.
The Galaxy S7 is the most obvious alternative to the Galaxy S7 active. There is a $100 premium for the active model if purchasing through AT&T. Those extra $100 could be worthwhile, especially with the same exact internal hardware, the larger battery, military-spec toughness, and overall sturdier build when compared to the glass and metal slab of the Galaxy S7.
The next logical alternative to the S7 active is the S6 active. You would be able to score one for a much lower price than the S7 active. Given that it's already a year old, you'll be able to find one for about half the price if you opt for a new one. Just remember you won't get expandable storage or a fingerprint scanner, but you'd get a reasonably performing device with excellent battery life for about half the cost of a new S7 active.
Because the S7 active is still a flagship device, we have to toss the other flagships of the year into the mix. The LG G5 offers the same CPU/GPU combo and yields comparable performance to the Galaxy S7 active. But the G5 offers a hot-swappable battery, although it is a smaller 2,800mAH battery. On software, though, Samsung's TouchWiz offers more value-added features. The LG G5 does offer a dual camera setup, one of which is a wide-angle camera.
The HTC 10 offers the best of HTC's hardware design, minimally obtrusive software experience, identical silicon setup, and competitive camera experience. Again, it's hard to compare the two when the S7 active offers the ultra-rugged hardware designed to take a beating. Otherwise, the HTC 10 gets you an immersive audio experience sure to wow your friends thanks to its Boom Sound speakers and an impressive listening experience through its 24-bit audio jack.
Another competitor would be the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. Seeing as both devices carry the same $100 premium over the S7, you could find yourself deciding between the sleek and attractive look of the dual-edged displays with a large 3,600mAh battery and larger 5.5-inch display, or the uber-strong Galaxy S7 active with an even larger 4,000mAh battery, and never needing to get a case. If you go with the S7 edge, the first thing you'll want to do is throw it in a case.
The Sony Xperia X Performance is a new contender in the US, next to the Z5, this is the first time Sony is officially selling a North American variant for the US market, although it's only available unlocked so you can rule out paying for it in installments through a carrier. While they offer similar performance, unfortunately, the price tag of $750 along with the lack of fingerprint scanner and 4K video recording capability doesn't justify the price compared to what the Galaxy S7 active offers for just about $100 more.
Finally, we had to include the Droid Turbo 2 here. Both phones offer a shatterproof display so you don't have to worry about breaking yours accidentally. Unfortunately, the Turbo 2 is exclusive to another carrier, Verizon. Still, it has last year's Snapdragon 810 and it likely won't be a device captivating enough to get you to switch to Verizon.
The Galaxy S7 active is a refined version of the Galaxy S6 active in every aspect possible: performance, ergonomics, aesthetics, camera, and design - all without sacrificing any of the features found in the standard S7 model (with the exception of Gear VR as this phone is not compatible, and it doesn't even fit in the viewer).
We truly wished that Samsung would release the Galaxy S7 active to a proper audience outside of the US and in other markets worldwide as it's such a perfect balance of raw performance, aesthetic, and durability. Unfortunately, it looks like whatever exclusive deal AT&T has with Samsung for the Active series isn't going to end anytime soon.