Mobile World Congress 2016

Un-Apple: The Samsung Galaxy S7 announcement in one word

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Credit: Samsung

Parodying Tim Cook’s virally shared quote:

“Our whole role in life is to give you something you didn't know you wanted. And then once you get it, you can't imagine your life without it.”

Samsung mobile chief D.J. Koh launched the Galaxy S7 announcement yesterday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona saying: “We will never assume we know everything or presume to tell our customers what they should want. I believe we have something better than all knowing.”

Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphone sales cycle restarted yesterday with the announcement of the Galaxy S7 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Last year’s Galaxy S6 becomes Samsung’s mid-priced phone and the one from two years ago becomes an entry-level phone sold in developing markets and with a prepaid plan. Big premium sales revenue must be kick started with this announcement to carry Samsung through Apple’s iPhone 7 announcement in September until it returns to Barcelona to announce the Galaxy S8 at Mobile World Congress 2017, starting the cycle all over again.

+ MORE FROM MWC: See all the news from the mobile conference +

This year Samsung has more than competition from Apple to overcome. All things being equal, without something new the Galaxy S6 could be the S7’s greatest competition. Smartphones are so fast consumers will be hard pressed to perceive a difference in the performance of the Galaxy S6 compared to the Galaxy S7’s 30% faster processor and 60% faster GPU. The conundrum is just like the older iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s introduced last September. A time and motion study proved that although the iPhone 6s has superior hardware performance, consumers’ perception of increased performance is limited to just a few apps.

Like the iPhone 6 and 6s models the Galaxy S6 and S7 look and feel are very similar. The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have very similar glass and metal construction and come in very similar colors as the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. The S7 devices have slightly thicker housings to accommodate larger batteries. Both phone families have the same high quality screen specifications. To give consumers a reason to buy the S7, Samsung added features, fixed some short-comings and brought virtual reality into the consumer foreground. All which set it apart from not just the S6 but Apple too.

An even better camera: The camera specifications announced are an improvement over the S6 camera that is the gold standard for mobile photography. It has a larger aperture at f/1.7 that focuses more light on the camera sensor. The 12 megapixel sensor also has larger 1.4 µmpixels that absorb more light. Compared to the S6 with a f/1.7 apperature and 1.12 µm pixel size, the S7 can potentially capture about 50% more light to apply its industry leading image processing algorithms to convert into photos. Samsung added phase-detection focus, a feature found only in top-end DSLRs like the Cannon EOS.

Phase-detection focus uses dual pixel technology to sharpen and bring the shot into focus more quickly. If the camera works as advertised, the S7 will automatically take better photos in all conditions but especially in lower light conditions outperforming the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6s by a wide margin.  

Always-on display: In its dual role as AMOLED display manufacturer and a smartphone maker Samsung engineered the always-on display. The S7 continuously displays a clock, notifications and calendar on the screen with a power-efficient monochromatic illumination alleviating consumers from unlocking their smartphones.

Waterproof: The S7 is waterproof. It adheres to the IP68 standard that means that the S7 will continue to work after 30 minutes in a meter and a half of water.

New cooling system: A liquid cooling system has been added. The S6 experienced some overheating when used in the Galaxy Gear VR virtual reality headset for extended periods of intense gaming. Engineering better cooling is an important addition for increased gaming and virtual reality apps.

Battery: size has increased substantially. If there was a criticism of the S6 it was battery performance. Samsung has increased the S7 battery to 3000 mAh compared to the S6’s 2550 mAh battery. The S7 Edge has a beefy 3600 mAh battery compared to the S6 Edge’s 2600 mAh battery. Battery life is an enabler for extended virtual reality use.

MicroSD: Samsung disappointed many customers when it removed the MicroSD from the S6. The S7 supports expansion up to 128GB.

Virtual reality: Photos and videos drove the growth of the consumer mobile ecosystem. VR is anticipated to be the next big development in social media and sharing. Samsung began quietly shipping its Gear VR headset last September. The headset is powered by a Samsung smartphone inserted into the headset. The S7 with extended battery life and improved cooling looks like it was designed for the Gear VY. Compared to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive that costs thousands of dollars, the Gear VR headset costs just $99. Though not as powerful as the high-end Rift and Vive gives consumers early experience to 360 degree videos and VR games at an affordable price.

The Gear VR is the product of a partnership with Facebook’s Oculus group. Oculus software delivers head tracking, fast graphic rendering, 360 degree sound and about 200 apps from the Oculus store. For a limited time Samsung will bundle a headset with Galaxy S7s for free. The bundle will help Facebook to reach millions of users letting them share virtual experiences and games on Facebook that would otherwise have taken years to reach with its expensive Oculus Rift. The bundle will also prime Samsung’s VR sales.

+ MORE FROM MWC: HTC ushering in the era of high-end virtual reality +

Virtual reality is Samsung’s lead to position itself as the un-Apple. VR, a significantly improved camera, waterproof, a big battery and MicroSD storage all help sell the S7 and tell a different story compared to Apple and set it apart from the S6.

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