On Sunday at MWC 2016 we watched Samsung unveil the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge and both phones look nice, and have – as expected – a killer set of specifications. But at a time when smartphones appear to have plateaued, is that good enough?
The Samsung Galaxy S7 features a 5.1-inch QHD Super Amoled display while the Galaxy S7 Edge packs a 5.5-inch QHD Super Amoled display. As rumoured previously, both phones now sport an Always-On display which will let users check notifications, time, and date without having to wake up the device. Both will be available in two storage variants: 32GB and 64GB.
The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are powered by an Exynos 8890 octa-core (2.3GHz quad-core + 1.6GHz quad-core) SoC or Qualcomm Snadragon 820 quad-core (2.15GHz dual-core + 1.6GHz dual-core) SoC, depending on the regions – India is getting the Exynos variant. Both will feature 4GB of RAM.
Samsung also has an ecosystem of accessories that offer all sorts of new functionality. It finallylaunched the Gear S2 smartwatch and the Gear VR headset in India, and at MWC, the company alsodebuted the Gear 360 spherical camera. All these accessories are important parts of the ecosystem and can make the company’s phones stand out – but the way they’re introduced and talked about makes them seem more like an afterthought.
In contrast, you only need to look at fellow Korean company LG – its communication for the launch of the LG G5 put a lot more focus on the new ‘modular’ design that can enhance the phone. This means that when you buy an LG G5, you can choose from different modules that shape your experience. A busy executive who travels a lot will want a battery pack, while an audiophile might want to buy the module that works like a DAC, and can be used with other devices as well. Since it’s a multipurpose add-on for your LG G5, the purchase makes even more sense as you’re not just spending money on your phone.
That’s not to say that LG skimped on the specification updates; the smartphone uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 coupled with 4GB RAM, and has an 5.3-inch ‘Always-On’ QHD IPS display. But instead of focusing on just hardware, LG expanded the conversation and put a lot of focus on the modules which will allow you to customise the phone you buy, even down the line, and on the companion devices that the company will be selling.
These include the LG 360 Cam, a spherical camera that could be used to create VR content, and the LG 360 VR, which is slimmer and lighter than any VR headsts we’ve seen so far, since it does not use your phone as a display. The headset will support images and videos captured by the LG 360 Cam, along with Google Cardboard content. The company also rolled out a spherical bot that resembles Star Wars’ BB8, and can roll and capture pictures with an 8-megapixel camera.
Ultimately, not everyone is going to be interested in all these accessories, or in LG’s modular approach. But while both companies are building out a wider mobile ecosystem beyond just phones, that’s not the impression you get when you’re listening to Samsung. And that’s a worrying peek into how the company is thinking, at a time when mobile companies really need to innovate.