LG, Samsung head to market with new Android flagship candidates

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2016
There's just one flagship iPhone running Apple's iOS platform, but a variety of Android licensees are duking it out to define a hardware candidate that can win over premium buyers. One big obstacle: no hardware makers have any ability to materially stray too far from Google's commodity Android software platform.

Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7


Hardware improvements, software stalled



South Korea's component hardware heavyweights Samsung and LG are revealing the next version of their high end smartphones at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, along with a variety of other Android contenders. Apple is a notable holdout at MWC, much the same way that the company doesn't participate in the PC-oriented CES trade show.

What's particularly notable among the latest Android flagships is that despite a variety of new hardware features, none have the ability to radically push forward new capabilities that require Apple's style of tight integration between hardware and software. That's particularly evident in the lack of any equivalent to the standout feature of last winter's iPhone 6s: 3D Touch.

Samsung Galaxy S7 camera



After a disappointing product cycle for the Galaxy S6 last year that occured alongside the company's increasing shift to a low end product mix, falling Average Selling Prices and a mobile division profit slump, Samsung has dusted off its flagship line with an improved camera, faster processor, more RAM, an always-on display, improved water resistance and the reappearance of support for microSD cards.Samsung says its "Dual Pixel" 12 megapixel camera sensor features a larger f/1.7 aperture lens and pixels that are 30 percent larger than those of Apple's iPhone 6s

A report by ArsTechnica noted that the new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge models "look largely identical to their predecessors" apart from a camera that's now flush with the back of the phone--which itself is now curved like the company's Note 5.

Samsung says its "Dual Pixel" 12 megapixel camera sensor features a larger f/1.7 aperture lens and pixels that are 30 percent larger than those of Apple's iPhone 6s, claiming an edge in low light capture and faster focusing, along with a Motion Panorama capture mode.

Samsung Galaxy S7 SoC



The Galaxy S7 also features either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or Samsung Exynos 8890 (which the company claims is 30 percent faster than the one it used last year). That's not enough to propel the chip ahead of the faster peak and better sustained performance of the A9 Apple released last fall, which in real world single core tasks scores 90 percent faster than Samsung's year ago Exynos.

Last year's Galaxy S6 exclusively used Samsung's own Exynos chips due to unacceptable performance issues with Qualcomm's earlier Snapdragon, the company's first mainstream 64-bit offering that it rushed to market to sell in competition with Apple's A7 and A8.

Samsung's return to using a mix of its own Exynos chips along with Qualcomm's latest Snapdragons is an interesting regression. The decision may play into the fact that Qualcomm has moved its chip fab contract from TSMC, the chip industry's leading manufacturer (and Apple's increasingly close chip fab partner) to Samsung's own chip fab.

Both of the new chip alternatives run hot enough to warrant a PC-like heatpipe designed to prevent overheating. Samsung has also introduced support for the new Vulkan graphics API, which like Apple's Metal, is designed to be a more efficient alternative to OpenGL ES.

It remains to be seen how quickly games developers and others will move to adopt Vulkan, given the shrinking size of Android's premium high end versus the standardization of Apple's iPhone among buyers of premium phones priced over $600. After Apple introduced Metal, a variety of iOS game developers worked to add support for Apple's new API before even starting on ports to Android or other platforms, a testament to Apple's platform leverage.

Samsung Galaxy S7 RAM & storage



The Galaxy S7 also now supports 4GB of system RAM, a relatively minor increase for Android phones that typically pack 3GB, but twice that of Apple's iPhone 6s. However, more RAM means a greater drain on battery power, and is only needed if the operating system makes poor use of available memory. Games developers note that Android titles typically demand twice the RAM compared to iOS.

Samsung has also backtracked on the removal of microSD card support after alienating users last year. Ars noted that Google's newest Android 6.0 Marshmallow release now supports formatting an SD card "as internal storage," allowing users to expand their internal usable storage onto an inserted card.

However, users are also warned to not ever remove such an SD card afterward. While offering a cheap way to increase internal storage, SD cards perform much slower (typically topping out at 40MB/sec) than internal Flash memory (the Galaxy S6 used internal storage capable of 200MB/sec) and are far more likely to fail, particularly when put into constant use. SD cards are designed for use in cameras, and may frequently fail within a year when forced into use as always on computer storage. Any SD card failure would result in the user losing all of their photos and other data.

Samsung Galaxy S7 liquid intrusion



After earlier delivering "waterproof" phones using rubber flap port covers that didn't always live up to the claim, Samsung has now rated the Galaxy S7 as IP68, which indicates very high resistance to dust and water, including submersion. Apple has made some improvements to water resistance on its newest iPhones, but does not certify it with a standardized IP rating. Apple has made some improvements to water resistance on its newest iPhones, but does not certify it with a standardized IP rating

Apple Watch has an IPX7 rating, which means it lacks testing for dust resistance (X) but is designed to survive 1 meter immersion for 30 minutes. Apple itself states that "Apple Watch is splash and water resistant but not waterproof. You can, for example, wear and use Apple Watch during exercise, in the rain, and while washing your hands, but submerging Apple Watch is not recommended."

Samsung's IP68 rating indicates the newest model can be submerged in water continuously, although it isn't designed to be used underwater.

Samsung vs. iPhone & Apple Watch



As a component manufacturer, Samsung is sticking to hardware upgrades to embellish its flagship smartphone, but lacks any impressive software differentiators. Most notably, it doesn't attempt to follow Apple's complex and difficult leap into a pressure sensitive user interface with 3D Touch, nor does it integrate into the world of desktop PCs with anything like Continuity.

On the other hand, Samsung's Galaxy S7 extends its lead in a few hardware-only categories, including liquid intrusion resistance, a higher resolution AMOLED screen, "wireless" induction charging, and a built in heart rate monitor.

Interestingly, while Apple hasn't incorporated any of those features on iPhone, it has introduced them on Apple Watch, providing a two-product offering that delivers the flexibility of a fashion-oriented wrist watch wearable with Glance-based notifications paired with a larger screen iPhone.




Apple similarly previously offered users a smaller iPhone combined with a larger iPad, while Samsung took aim at selling a single fablet device. Apple ended up selling more of both devices and making far more money then, and its iPhone 6/6s and Apple Watch pairing today continues to be far more popular than Samsung's Galaxy S6 or Note 5, particularly trouncing Samsung in the watch category.

This fall, Apple is likely to increase the liquid intrusion rating of iPhone 7, and may introduce support for much faster USB 3.0 via its Lightning connector, as it has with iPad Pro. Samsung's Galaxy S7 still only supports USB 2.0, nor has it added support for the new Lightning-like USB Type C connector. Apple is also expected to debut a major advance in its camera sensor and a big leap in processing and graphics power.

LG G5 expansion modules, dual lens camera



Meanwhile, LG's latest G5 flagship aims to differentiate itself from other Android offerings by introducing a "Magic Slot," which is reported to support plugging in expansion devices ranging from a larger battery to enhanced audio (supporting a secondary headphone jack) to physical camera controls.


LG G5 with plugin modules. Source: Matt Burns, TechCrunch


It's not readily apparent how these attachments are offer any improvement over directly attached USB (or wirelessly connected) devices.

The company also promises that its next model with look and feel "nothing like" previous LG phones, in an attempt by the company to stand out from other Android offerings--primarily its domestic rival Samsung but increasingly also a new flood of cheap phones from China's Lenovo, Huawei, Xiaomi and ZTE.

One novel feature is secondary rear camera lens supporting 135 degree wide angle photos alongside the normal lens. The new model also supports an always-on, low power display showing the time and select notifications.

LG is in a tight situation after reporting minimal profits over the past year, as a market storm for Apple's iPhone 6 models has globally syphoned off over 90 percent of the phone industry's profits.

Like Samsung, LG is also constrained from delivering significant software-based advancements due to its focus on hardware components and design, and its dependance upon Google for its Android platform.
lolliver
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    After all of this time the Samsung flagship remains visually similar (both in software and hardware) than the Apple offering. They've squandered all of this time to actually create their own product, instead of me-too'ing from Apple's design.
  • Reply 2 of 51
    After all of this time the Samsung flagship remains visually similar (both in software and hardware) than the Apple offering. They've squandered all of this time to actually create their own product, instead of me-too'ing from Apple's design.
    The S7 looks different from the iPhone 6? It's not a me-too (as the S6 was)? Really. 

    Whatever...
    calicornchip
  • Reply 3 of 51
    How well does it do with encryption of user information?
    cornchip
  • Reply 4 of 51

    (typically topping out at 40MB/sec

     {...} may frequently fail within a year when forced into use as always on computer storage.

    Where the hell do you people find this blatantly false information? Yes, memory cards are slower than internal NAND - but they're not that slow. A modern class 10 will pull more than double that. And besides, the S7 is supporting UHS-II MicroSDX specifically to counter this problem supports speeds far higher still (up to 312MB/s on paper), speeds compatible to onboard NAND. It'all cost you, though - an extra 128GB will cost $120.

    And as for the failure rate, they carry the standard of 100,000 read-writes and wear-leveling to counter longevity being a problem and fall below the 0.17% failure rate of conventional NAND. The biggest killer of SD cards in general (and a reason which puts that number up, admittedly) is god-awful camera OSs that rampantly corrupt the cards, or static electricity discharge through handling abuse.

    Yes, Android isn't the world's slickest OS but it's also not quite bad enough to randomly decide to corrupt a memory card. I'd just be very picky about where I source them, there's been some right stinkers released over the years (Sandisk, I'm looking at you)
    singularitynetmage
  • Reply 5 of 51
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,969member
    After all of this time the Samsung flagship remains visually similar (both in software and hardware) than the Apple offering. They've squandered all of this time to actually create their own product, instead of me-too'ing from Apple's design.
    The S7 looks different from the iPhone 6? It's not a me-too (as the S6 was)? Really. 

    Whatever...
    Did you misread?
  • Reply 6 of 51
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    More iKnockoffs zzz.....

    Peppyhare said:
    This is a classic DED article, he will write about something about a samsung product or google, like how the Galaxy s7 has 4GB of ram, and than say how its bad, and than write how 2GB of ram is better in the iphone 6s. 


    3 posts and you know DED's work? sounds like a stalker. Either way don't EVER get into the tech industry, you don't undertsand it at all. Stick to being a spec 'droid.
    redgeminipapatchythepirate
  • Reply 7 of 51
    The S7 looks different from the iPhone 6? It's not a me-too (as the S6 was)? Really. 

    Whatever...
    Did you misread?
    Perhaps I did. Clarify?
  • Reply 8 of 51
    WSJ panned it:

    Samsung’s S7 Smartphone Lacks Showstopping New Features


    They go on to say:

     "In the last three months of 2015, operating profit for Samsung’s mobile division was down 60% from two years earlier. Analysts expect Samsung’s operating profit to decline 10% this year from 26.4 trillion won ($21.5 billion) last year, and revenue to shrink for the third year in a row. 

    “Samsung really needs to show key carrier partners that the company is capable of bringing in notable changes to the phone in a way that would be acknowledged as innovation,” said Greg Roh, a Seoul-based analyst with HMC Investment & Securities."


    Apparently it was presented to an audience of 5,000 all wearing VR headgear, which is really meta considering they were sitting in front of the live stage showing the demo.  

    cornchip
  • Reply 9 of 51
    "There's just one flagship iPhone running Apple's iOS platform..."

    Which? The 6S or the 6S Plus?
    techlovernetmagecornchip
  • Reply 10 of 51
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,969member
    Did you misread?
    Perhaps I did. Clarify?
    The OP is saying that the S7 looks like the iPhone, and that Samsung squandered an opportunity to make something other than a 'me too' device. 
    yojimbo007
  • Reply 11 of 51
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,371member
    tele1234 said:

    (typically topping out at 40MB/sec

     {...} may frequently fail within a year when forced into use as always on computer storage.

    Where the hell do you people find this blatantly false information? Yes, memory cards are slower than internal NAND - but they're not that slow. A modern class 10 will pull more than double that. And besides, the S7 is supporting UHS-II MicroSDX specifically to counter this problem supports speeds far higher still (up to 312MB/s on paper), speeds compatible to onboard NAND. It'all cost you, though - an extra 128GB will cost $120.

    And as for the failure rate, they carry the standard of 100,000 read-writes and wear-leveling to counter longevity being a problem and fall below the 0.17% failure rate of conventional NAND. The biggest killer of SD cards in general (and a reason which puts that number up, admittedly) is god-awful camera OSs that rampantly corrupt the cards, or static electricity discharge through handling abuse.

    Yes, Android isn't the world's slickest OS but it's also not quite bad enough to randomly decide to corrupt a memory card. I'd just be very picky about where I source them, there's been some right stinkers released over the years (Sandisk, I'm looking at you)
    Actually the only NAND today that has endurance of 100K cycles is SLC which is not used in phone or SD card, they all use the lower cost MLC and it is  more like 1500 cycles and heading to about 300. Also the faster you write to the card the worse the endurance becomes. I spent a lot of time with my job working with the technology and know the downside since we were consider using to for real time video recording, NAND does not hold up and it has nothing to do with the camera or ESD. The point about MircoSD cards is  the fact they are not the same quality of the NAND Apple is using inside the phone. The lowest quality NAND is used in SD and MircoSD cards, that is a fact. Yeah you can get better quality going to Class 10 certify SD cards, but consumer are not going to spend the money they going to use the cheapest memory they can find and expect it to work flawlessly. This was the issue we ran into, could not guaranty the consumer would spend the money and buy the right SD cards to guaranty performance. 

    Lastly, there is no NAND memory support 312 Mbytes/sec do you know how much data that is 2.4Gbits/sec. Most HD video is only streaming at 10 to 20 Mb/s That is Mbits/sec not Bytes. even if you meant bits not Bytes. Also it not the read speed that is the issue it is the write speed, and writing is far slower than reading and it get worse with time as the device is used over and over again the wear leveling algorithm slows things down even further.
    edited February 2016 correctionsRayz2016
  • Reply 12 of 51
    larryalarrya Posts: 533member
    Love my iPhone, but an f/1.7 camera makes me drool. 3D Touch does not. Here's hoping both iPhone 7's get the dual camera setup for low light. 
    1983
  • Reply 13 of 51
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,431member
    So would the iPhone 7 dual camera look like the LG one I wonder?

    must say the Samsung isn't that intesting except for the camera which sounds pretty good. Nice aperture indeed. But I wonder if the LG camera is ultimately better? Allowing for software of course.  

    Wher the LG suffers is that lame attachment system that ultimately is a huge amount of design time for something that will little used, requires attachments specifically designed for a phone tha it's an afterthought in the market. Maybe the thought was extra revenue for LG? Can't see it happening.
  • Reply 14 of 51
    koopkoop Posts: 337member
    Looks like Apple made the smart move giving SD card support to Apple Music. 

    The camera and waterproofing looks legit. Aperture at F1.7? Increasing pixel size? That's likely to be the phone camera to beat for the iPhone 7.

    But it's Samsung so the built in software will stutter and lag after a month of use. 
  • Reply 15 of 51

    It remains to be seen how quickly games developers and others will move to adopt Vulkan, given the shrinking size of Android's premium high end versus the standardization of Apple's iPhone among buyers of premium phones priced over $600. After Apple introduced Metal, a variety of iOS game developers worked to add support for Apple's new API before even starting on ports to Android or other platforms, a testament to Apple's platform leverage.


    Vulkan is essentially a low level successor to OpenGL/OpenGL ES, it's been built using AMD's Mantle as a foundation and supports many equivalent features to DirectX12, the same cannot be said about Metal.  Vulkan is also backwards compatible with any OpenGL ES 3.1 Android device, of course, not all of these devices will not not be able to fully utilize Vulkan's extensive feature set. Devices with hardware such as Qualcomm's Snapdragon 805 (2014 Nexus 6) or after should offer support for the majority of those features. 

    Only Apple's A9 and A9X have the hardware support for many of these features, but Apple, to my knowledge, has not incorporated these into Metal.

    Outside of Android, Vulkan will also function on Steam OS, Linux, Windows XP or newer, and Tizen. AMD and nVidia have already started pushing beta drivers to their cards following the launch of Vulkan 1.0 only a number of days ago.
    edited February 2016 netmage
  • Reply 16 of 51
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    Built in FBI access? Now that would be a differentiator!
    digital_guyRayz2016redgeminipacornchip
  • Reply 17 of 51
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    AI2xxx said:

    It remains to be seen how quickly games developers and others will move to adopt Vulkan, given the shrinking size of Android's premium high end versus the standardization of Apple's iPhone among buyers of premium phones priced over $600. After Apple introduced Metal, a variety of iOS game developers worked to add support for Apple's new API before even starting on ports to Android or other platforms, a testament to Apple's platform leverage.


    Vulkan is essentially a low level successor to OpenGL/OpenGL ES, it's been built using AMD's Mantle as a foundation and supports many equivalent features to DirectX12, the same cannot be said about Metal.  Vulkan is also backwards compatible with any OpenGL ES 3.1 Android device, of course, not all of these devices will not not be able to fully utilize Vulkan's extensive feature set. Devices with hardware such as Qualcomm's Snapdragon 805 (2014 Nexus 6) or after should offer support for the majority of those features. 

    Only Apple's A9 and A9X have the hardware support for many of these features, but Apple, to my knowledge, has not incorporated these into Metal.

    Outside of Android, Vulkan will also function on Steam OS, Linux, Windows XP or newer, and Tizen. AMD and nVidia have already started pushing beta drivers to their cards following the launch of Vulkan 1.0 only a number of days ago.
    As long as the main game engines and API's support metai (which is the case) it doesn't really matter.
    redgeminipapatchythepirate
  • Reply 18 of 51
    mobiusmobius Posts: 376member
    The S7 looks different from the iPhone 6? It's not a me-too (as the S6 was)? Really. 

    Whatever...
    Did you misread?
    To be fair, the original post he was referencing was confusingly written. I've read it 4 times now and I still don't really know what he meant.
    edited February 2016 singularityredgeminipa
  • Reply 19 of 51
    Anandtech already ran a couple benchmarks on the Exynos versions. Very slightly faster than the 6S in the two GPU tests while the 6S is significantly faster in the two browser based CPU tests they ran. But this quote from Anand really sums it up:

    "One observation I made today which was particularly concerning, was that both with the Snapdragon 820 LG G5 as well as the Exynos 8890 Galaxy S7 got considerably warm after running some heavy workloads. The fact that the Galaxy S7 touts having a heat-pipe thermal dissipation system is a quite worrying characteristic of the phone and should in no way be seen as a positive feature as it points to high power draw figures on the part of the SoC."

    No kidding. Seeing all the Android fans thinking a heat pipe is a great high-tech way to dissipate heat is hilarious. You don't need a heat-pipe if you're not generating heat. And these are supposed to be the "next big thing" in custom (or more likely, semi-custom based on A57 ARM) 64bit cores from Samsung and Qualcomm?

    And the LG G5 not having a backup supply so you can hot-swap your batteries (seriously, the device restarts when you swap the battery)? Which also means it will restart when you "swap" the camera module or the DAC. What's the point?

    Speaking of the G5 DAC, again, what's the point? Much better to just get a set of headphones with their own DAC that connect digitally to your phone or an external DAC/amplifier (if you're serious about the quality you'll probably already have these and don't need a quality DAC on your phone).


    The only thing I see that Samsung did that was smart is to lower the MP count on the camera, but make the pixels larger for better low-light performance. That's a worthwhile upgrade.
    redgeminipacornchip
  • Reply 20 of 51
    foggyhill said:

    As long as the main game engines and API's support metai (which is the case) it doesn't really matter. 
    Metal is an API, I don't understand what you think Metal is.

    Metal was Apple choosing a different fork in the road, they pushed towards a low level API, while Android pushed towards expanding its feature set (as Vulkan was still a work in progress). Now Android has both a low level API and a modern feature set that has support from major game companies and industry in ways Metal does not.



    edited February 2016 Dexternightstechlovercnocbui
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