Mobile world congress 2016
MWC 2016 is on, and that means it's the time of year when the major smartphone players -- except for Apple, that is -- unveil their new offerings. Both LG and Samsung have unveiled new high-end smartphones at MWC 2016, but which company can claim to have the flagship Android smartphone?
Galaxy S7/S7 Edge: Tech specs
Let's start with the Samsung Galaxy S7. As expected, there are two devices -- the Galaxy S7, and the Galaxy S7 Edge, featuring the curved display -- and as expected, the upgrade from the previous release feels more evolutionary than revolutionary. But don't be fooled.
The S7 comes with a 5.1-inch quad HD Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (that's a pixel density of 576 pixels-per-inch for all you pixel-peeping junkies out there). It's powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor (the Samsung Exynos chipset is used in some regions), and has an upgraded 4GB of RAM. The storage options are 32GB and 64GB (which vary on region), and there's a microSD card slot for those who want to upgrade the capacity (it supports microSD cards up to 200GB).
The camera is a 12-megapixel unit -- down from 16-megapixels for the Galaxy S6, although in real terms this shouldn't make much of a difference, a 3,000mAh non-removable battery (an upgrade on the 2,550mAh pack found in its predecessor), and the device is water- and dust-resistant to IP68 (which means it is dust-tight, and waterproof to depths greater than 1 meter).
There's also liquid cooling to keep the handset cool when running demanding apps, and the handset features a micro-USB port for charging and connectivity.
All this is tech wrapped around an Android 6.0 Marshmallow core.
The Galaxy S7 Edge differs by having a 5.5-inch screen with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440-pixels (which gives it a pixel density of only 534 pixels-per-inch), and the battery is a non-removable 3,600mAh unit (an upgrade on the 2,600mAh pack found in the Galaxy S6 Edge, or the 3,000mAh pack in the Galaxy S6 Edge+).
Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge
LG G5: Tech specs
The LG G5 comes equipped with a 5.3-inch quad HD IPS display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution (that's a pixel density of 554 pixels-per-inch). The processor is a Snapdragon 820 with an Adreno 530 GPU, and 4GB of RAM. There's 32GB of storage, and a microSD card slot for those who want to upgrade the capacity (it supports microSD cards up to 2TB).
On the back there are two cameras; a 16-megapixel camera with a 78-degree field of view, and an 8-megapixel camera with a 135-degree field of view. All this is powered by a removable 2,800mAh battery. The handset features a USB-C port for charging and connectivity.
The unique selling point of the LG G5 is that it's modular. What I mean by this is that you can snap off the bottom "chin" piece of the smartphone and not only use this to replace the battery but also swap them out with a camera grip (which adds a shutter button, a zooming wheel, and bumps the battery up to 4,000mAh), and a HiFi module developed in collaboration with Bang & Olufsen that adds a digital-to-audio converter and a 3.5mm headphone jack. These are the only modules planned by LG, and on first blush they feel gimmicky.
Again, all this is tech wrapped around an Android 6.0 Marshmallow core.
So, which is the new flagship Android smartphone?
It's easy to dismiss the Samsung S7/S7 Edge as a mediocre upgrade to the S6 when looking at the tech specs -- and the decrease in camera megapixels might look to some like a step backwards -- but the waterproofing and the reintroduction of the microSD card slot is a big deal. Samsung says it's listening to what customers want, and the S7 is an indication that the company is actually doing this (taking a hit in the sales department surely helped the message get through).
The LG G5 is also a nice smartphone, and on paper sounds similar to the Galaxy S7. But it also feels gimmicky, from the twin rear cameras to the modular add-ons. Even the USB-C port feels like it's more of an item to add to the sales brochure than something that's really essential. Don't get me wrong, the LG G5 has what it takes to be a killer handset, but the modules and twin camera feel like they are there as a distraction from the fact that there's little separating high-end Android devices from one another.
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There's also the issue of price. Neither Samsung nor LG has published prices for any of their devices. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that they are going to be priced similar to their predecessors.
Right now though (and pricing and real-world testing aside), the Galaxy S7/S7 Edge feel like they will be the flagship Android smartphone for 2016. They bring to the table a solid set of features -- and when it comes to the waterproofing and the microSD card, these are features that users have been clamoring for -- in a sleek package. The S7 Edge is likely to come with an eye-watering price tag, but again the waterproofing and the "edge" display (which has proven itself to not be a gimmick) gives it the edge (pardon the pun) over the LG G5.
First look at Samsung's Galaxy S7, S7 edge: Launch day at MWC 2016