As expected, Samsung on Sunday took the wraps off its long-awaited flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge.
Like their predecessors, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, the new Samsung handsets were unveiled ahead of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Sunday with distinct designs. The Galaxy S7 sports a bezel around a 5.1-inch screen boasting a “quad-HD” resolution. The Galaxy S7 Edge, however, nixes the bezel on either side of its 5.5-inch quad-HD display. The curved edges that sweep around the smartphone’s sides can be used to provide quick access to contacts or icons for important apps.
Aside from a slightly larger battery in the Galaxy S7 Edge, there aren’t many differences between the Galaxy S7 devices. Both will come with either an octa-core or quad-core processor, depending on the country, and run on Google’s Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system. The handsets feature wireless charging capabilities and, thanks to their bundled fingerprint sensors, support Samsung’s mobile-payment platform Samsung Pay.
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The Galaxy S7 line was unveiled at Samsung Unpacked, an annual event the technology giant holds each year ahead of Mobile World Congress. In addition to its Galaxy S7, Samsung also announced a new, 360-degree camera, known as the Gear 360. The company has spent its presentation touting virtual reality, complete with a surprise appearance by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Pomp and circumstance aside, Samsung’s smartphone unveiling was critical. The company is still the world’s largest handset maker and shipped nearly 325 million smartphones last year alone, according to research firm IDC. That figure easily topped Apple, which shipped 231.5 million smartphones in 2015.
Still, Samsung is starting to lose its grip on the market. Indeed, over the last several years, Samsung has acknowledged that its smartphone business is troubled. Late last year, the company announced that it would offer fewer devices in 2016 and focus its resources in hopes of improving its business.
If total shipments were the benchmark by which Samsung judged its business, it would suggest it’s somewhat healthy: its nearly 325 million shipments were up 2.1% compared to the 318.2 million smartphones shipped in 2014.
However, further investigation reveals why Samsung is concerned. The company owned 22.7% of the worldwide smartphone market in 2015, down from 24.4% in 2014. Meanwhile, all of its competitors grew their smartphone shipments far more robustly. Huawei, for instance, led the field with 44.3% year-over-year growth.
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Huawei’s success is especially troubling for Samsung, which has long relied upon China’s booming middle class to boost smartphone shipments. Research firm Canalys said last month that Samsung’s Chinese market share fell from nearly 12% to less than 8% by the end of the fourth quarter. Huawei and China-based competitor Xiaomi now collectively own approximately a third of the Chinese market, thanks in part to stealing customers from Samsung.
“With continuously increasing pressure in the high end from Apple, and at the low end to midrange from Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, and others, Samsung faces a multi-front battle,” IDC said in a statement last month.
Given that, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 line is even more important. A successful start to the year will help Samsung fend off some of those competitors. But as Huawei continues to succeed internationally, and with the iPhone 7 looming large, it’s possible Samsung may be bloodied in those battles as the year wears on.
Until then, Samsung is touting its Galaxy S7 as the latest and greatest smartphone for those who want a high-end handset. By nearly all measure, it certainly looks like a contender for that crown. In addition to the features outlined above, the handset comes with a slick design, 4GB of onboard memory, and a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera to complement its 5-megapixel front-facing lens.
The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge will start shipping in the middle of March.