The new Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge Smartphones finally went on general sale last week, after being sent out a few days earlier to the lucky few customers who pre-ordered including myself. The device was officially unveiled at a flashy event during the Mobile World Congress trade show back in February and early reviews suggest it could be Samsung’s best phone yet.
However, despite the fact that the phone has only just come out, there are already even flashier versions on offer. If you’ve got more money than sense, you can get a 24-karat gold-plated version of the S7 for £1,850, a platinum-covered version for £1,950 and an 18-karat rose gold-plated version for £1,900.
Gold plate aside, the main selling point of the Galaxy S7 is that it is undeniably fast, with early reviews praising its speed and battery life, which should comfortably last throughout a whole day of heavy use.
In my opinion the Samsung Galaxy S7 is just a superb upgrade on an already superb predecessor. Across the board, I think phone makers are becoming victims of their own brilliance in models they have already launched and must now find a way to improve upon.
That said, the press do seem to love the LG G5, which was also launched at Mobile World Congress. In my eyes, what really makes LG stand out is its decision to do something radical and make the G5 modular. What I mean by this is that you can pull out the bottom of the phone and plug in an accessory to enhance the camera, sound or battery. I do, however, wonder if people will want to actually buy these accessories or just admire the idea.
The notion that more and more attention is being paid to the additional features on smartphones is made particularly evident by the recent surge in the use of microphones. I am constantly seeing folks talking to their phones, rather than typing or physically interfacing with the device in the traditional way. You only have to watch programmes like The Apprentice to see this type of usage in its full glory, where contestants are taking full advantage of the most cutting-edge mobile features.
This rise in smartphone microphones is intended to essentially raise convenience. If we consider situations in which you would use the microphone on your smartphone instead of using your hands to physically interact with the device, it is almost always because it is simply more convenient to do so. For example, you might use the microphone while on the move, as looking at the screen to type a message while walking up a busy street might result in bumping into people. Similarly, the use of a microphone while driving, where you simply aren’t allowed to use your hands to interact with a phone, is essential.
That said, the reason we haven’t seen the microphone proving as popular on a PC is because we don’t use a PC in the same way. A PC is more commonly used than a smartphone for longer, more extended pieces of writing or internet searches, which would actually be less convenient to do by dictation. As a result of these increasingly different roles for smartphone and PC microphones, less time is dedicated to improving the PC’s microphone functionality than to developing smartphone programmes such as Google Now, Amazon Echo and Siri. The famous image from Star Trek of Scotty using a microphone to move a PC mouse is still a long way off in my opinion!
The challenge that developers must consider going forward will be making the completion of these functions via a microphone seamless, therefore keeping the use of a microphone more convenient than it would be to physically interact with the phone.
A bigger challenge still for phone developers will always be how to outdo their latest invention. Pouring additional resources into further developing features such as the microphone, or in the case of LG G5 having a modular approach so that you can add on gadgets, may have more ‘sales appeal.’ Or perhaps you may just want to focus on making a device which is attractive purely on the grounds that it runs faster than the competition, like the Samsung Galaxy S7. As a mobile specialist who develops apps for both mobile and enterprise, I always watch this space with great interest. One thing is for sure, the explosion of apps sees no sign of abating as smartphones become increasingly more prominent in both our business and daily lives.