Samsung is looking to extend its lead as the world’s number one smartphone brand with the release of its impressive new flagship devices – the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge – on the eve of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Also announced was the Gear 360 – a 360-degree camera that allows users to make their own virtual reality content. Even Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made an appearance at the launch to talk about virtual reality being the next platform.
Facebook actually owns Oculus – the company behind Samsung’s Gear VR – so naturally Zuckerberg was always going to partner with Samsung.
Every one of the roughly 4000 seats in the large exhibition hall where the Samsung launch was held had a Gear VR headset on it so attendees could experience the event in virtual reality.
In fact, that was how the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge were introduced.
The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, which will go on sale on March 11 in Australia, have a range of new features along with functionality that has been returned to the products, making them the company’s strongest offerings in years.
Last year’s Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge fell well short of expectations and, as a result, mny customers looking for a premium device migrated to the iPhone.
Many put this down to the fact that the S6 and S6 Edge were not waterproof like the previous year’s Galaxy S5 and that there was no expandable memory.
Instead, Samsung decided to take a leaf out of Apple’s book and sell three different models with 32GB, 64GB and 128GB memory.
But 2016 is a different story and Samsung has certainly learned its lesson.
The sleek and stylish Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are both dust and waterproof (with an IP68 rating) and also offer a hybrid SIM tray that allows the customer to choose to run either two nano SIM cards or a single nano SIM with a microSD card.
On the design side the devices now have curved ergonomic edges on the rear panel to fit the shape of your hand.
The S7 has a 5.1 Super AMOLED display while the S7 Edge has a 5.5-inch screen with a curved edge on both sides.
They have an Always On Display (AOD) to display important information while the device is locked like the time, unread emails, missed calls, weather and battery status.
And this offers barely a strain on the battery as it only illuminates the pixels required to display your information.
The S7 Edge’s larger display has an improved Edge user interface with shortcuts to your contacts, two row of your favourite apps and information like sport scores.
And, for the first time, Samsung will allow third party app developers to adapt their apps to work on Edge UX.
The Edge UX will also put some useful tools at your fingertips including a ruler, a compass and a torch.
The new Galaxy devices have a 12-megapixel camera that features an F1.7 lens that brings 25 per cent more light onto the improved sensor which now has larger pixels for a 95 per cent improvement in brightness.
This means taking images in low light will be better than ever before.
Also on board is the first dual pixel sensor ever seen on a smartphone which uses phase detection technology – the result is almost instant auto focus.
Performance-wise, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have also had a significant boost with a processor that’s 30 per cent faster than the previous models and with 60 per cent better graphics performance.
This improved performance will appeal to smartphone gamers – 70 per cent of users play games on their devices – and provides an remarkably enhanced experience.
Gamers can now pause their notifications and even relegate incoming calls to a strip at the top of the screen so their gameplay is undisturbed.
Players can also record and share their favourite moments right from the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.
Now with any high performing processor, producing heat is always an issue but Samsung has come up with a unique way of keeping it cool with a small copper pipe filled with water.
This pipe is situated next to the processor and draws off the heat and pushes out of of the device when the water vaporises.
Once it cools down, condensation returns the liquid to its original state in preparation for the next cooling process.
And powering the devices are long-life batteries.
The Galaxy S7 has a 3000mAh battery while the larger S7 Edge has a 3500mAh battery onboard which have the potential to run for two days.
Both feature fast charging that’s twice as fast as the Galaxy S6.
Users will also be able to enjoy wireless charging which will still charge the device faster than an iPhone user charging their device with a cable.
The Samsung Gear 360 is a spherical camera with a 180-degree lens on each side to provide 15 megapixel stills and near full high definition quality videos that capture every angle.
The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge can be paired to the Gear 360 via Bluetooth and be used as a viewfinder and to download the completed footage.
When viewing the videos, users can move the camera’s view as if they were watching it in real time.
The footage can also be viewed in Virtual Reality mode on the smartphones inside Samsung’s Gear VR headset for a true 360-degree experience that makes you feel like you’re there.
The Gear 360 has a removable battery as well as a microSD card slot and has a similar single-button operation to a GoPro camera.
The device is not waterproof but there will be a waterproof housing available to allow users to take it anywhere.
Also included with the Gear 360 is a small tripod which can be used to position the camera and also use it as a handle.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge will be available for pre-order from February 26 and will be available to purchase on March 11. Anyone who pre-orders the S7 or the S7 Edge will receive Samsung’s Gear VR at no extra charge.
They will be priced at $1,149 (Galaxy S7) and $1,249 (S7 Edge).
* Stephen Fenech travelled to Barcelona as a guest of Samsung