In the cut-throat battle for smartphone buyers in increasingly saturated global markets it’s become a game of clones for device makers.
To wit: Samsung is set to take a leaf out of Apple’s playbook for the next iteration of its flagship Galaxy smartphone. According to the WSJ — quoting “people familiar with the matter” — the Galaxy S7 will have a pressure sensitive display when it launches next spring.
This follows Apple rolling out its own pressure sensitive 3D Touch tech on the iPhone 6S, its current flagship, this fall. The tech brings an additional interaction layer to the iPhone, allowing users to press down harder to preview and view content — i.e. without having to tap multiple times.
Apple’s new, more sensitive touchscreen tech didn’t emerge out of a vacuum; rather Cupertino tested a similar tech on its Apple Watch wearable first, although the smartphone incarnation of the technology is billed as more sophisticated (hence having a fancier moniker; 3D Touch vs Force Touch).
The 3D Touch advantage represents a pretty marginal hardware gap right now vs Android devices, with relatively few iOS apps having had chance to make especially interesting use of the tech. Even so Samsung clearly can’t rest on its laurels.
Indeed, we’ve seen the exact same hardware feature catch-up race played out when Apple added a fingerprint reader to the iPhone 5S, back in September 2013 — with Samsung going on to put a fingerprint scanner on its flagship device the following spring.
Albeit, on the software side, Apple is frequently accused of appropriating features from Android and adding them years later to iOS. See: Game of clones.
The WSJ’s sources also reckon Samsung will be adding a new high-speed charging USB Type-C port to the forthcoming flagship line, set to be added to both the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the S7 Edge (aka Samsung’s curved screen variant). This port will apparently support delivering a full day’s charge in under 30 minutes — or even significantly less. So even faster than the current fast-charging feature offered by Samsung devices such as the S6.
If true that’s a pretty significant addition. Apple just launched a $99 battery case — a not-so-tacit admission that people struggle with smartphone battery life as it stands. The S7 offering a very fast charge could therefore be a very popular feature — and one which steals a march on current iPhone hardware.
The S7 is also set to include an improved camera optimized for low light photography and with hardware that is flush with the back of the phone, rather than a lens that bulges out, according to the WSJ’s sources. Camera tweaks are pretty much a given with smartphone flagships since they are most people’s daily shooter nowadays, and photo sharing continues to be massively popular.
Other possible additions for the S7 line include a retina scanner, and the return of an external memory card slot (in the S7, not the S7 Edge), according to the newspaper’s sources. Samsung ditched the micro SD card slot when it redesigned the flagships last year — a decision that earned it plenty of blowback from the Android community, as did its decision to ditch removable batteries. So again adding a faster charging feature may help throw those disgruntled folk a bone.
The S7 is slated to launch in the U.S. in mid March, with its unveiling, like last year, due around the Mobile World Congress tradeshow — at the end of February.
We’ve reached out to Samsung for comment and will update this article with any response. The company recently reshuffled the leader of its mobile division — the first significant management change since Lee Jae Yong assumed the vice chairmanship of Samsung Group from his father last year.
In recent times Samsung’s mobile business has struggled to compete with Apple at the high end while also being squeezed on profits by fierce competition at the lower end from the likes of China’s Xiaomi.