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Samsung's S7 May Fall Just Shy of Innovation

By Richard Adhikari
Dec 15, 2015 2:20 PM PT

Samsung's forthcoming Galaxy S7 smartphone will have several new features, including a pressure-sensitive display like the one available on the iPhone 6s, according to a report published Monday in The Wall Street Journal.

Samsung's S7 May Fall Just Shy of Innovation

The S7 also will have a USB Type-C port, which will make for faster charging; a camera optimized for low-light photography; and possibly a retina scanner and an external memory card slot in some versions, the report said. The camera lens will be flush with the back of the phone instead of bulging out as the Galaxy S6's lens does.

As it did with the Galaxy S6, Samsung reportedly will offer two versions of the S7, one a premium curved-screen device to be named the "Galaxy S7 Edge."

"The smartphone market is all about keeping up with the Joneses, and Apple has had its fair share of rule-making features," remarked Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC.

"Then again, Samsung did start the phablet craze," he told TechNewsWorld.

The Galaxy S7 series reportedly will be available in the United States in mid-March after being announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in late February.

Galloping to Stay Current

Most of the new features to be included in the S7 are widely available in competitors' devices, and one, the microSD card slot, is returning to the Galaxy family after having been dropped in the Galaxy S6 series.

There have been rumors of a USB Type-C port for the S7 since this fall. It's available already on smartphones from some makers, including LG Electronics and Huawei Technologies. It's one of the technologies Apple reportedly is testing for the iPhone 7.

Fujitsu released a smartphone with a retina scanner earlier this year, as did ZTE. Its Grand S3, available in China, also offers retinal scanning.

"No vendor wants to be left out in the cold as one of the few who didn't adopt a new technology," IDC's Llamas said.

Taking on the Competition

Apple is the only maker that's a threat to Samsung at the high end.

"The S7 is really competing head-on with the iPhone," said David McQueen, a research director at ABI Research. "Most other Android vendors -- such as Motorola/Lenovo, Huawei, ZTE, LG and Sony -- have tried and failed to compete at the high end."

The recently launched US$700 BlackBerry Priv is "an obvious exception," he told TechNewsWorld, but "I'm not so sure that's going to fare well against Apple and Samsung at that price point, despite the obvious security benefits and hard keyboard."

Shoring up Samsung Sales

Sales of the Galaxy S6 reportedly have not hit the 70 million units Samsung predicted at launch. Deutsche Bank pegged sales at about 45 million, according to media reports.

Samsung has offered consumers a $100 Google Play credit to trade in their iPhones for an S6.

It offered a $300 gift bundle of accessories to new purchasers of the Galaxy S6 family or the Galaxy Note 5 to boost holiday sales last month.

The new features for the Galaxy S7 aren't likely to increase sales, Llamas predicted, because they "are incremental at best, and by themselves don't represent reasons for a jump-start. What end users want to see is not what these features can do, per se, but what these features can do for them."

While the new features make the Galaxy S7 even more Apple-like, "the problem Samsung and Apple, to some extent, face is how to make the new iteration of their flagship device different enough from last year's version to entice users to upgrade," ABI's McQueen pointed out.

"This is becoming ever harder to achieve," he said. "All [the flagships] look and feel the same, and are packed with very similar features, so it can ... boil down to brand strength, ecosystem and price."

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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