BARCELONA (Web Desk) – Samsung has officially launched the new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phone at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – with a little help from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
The S7 Edge has a 5.5-inch (14cm) screen, while the S7 has a smaller 5.1-inch display, with both handsets boasting water resistant features that were missing on the S6 and S6 Edge.
Both phones also accept MicroSD cards, allowing their storage to be expanded.
In addition, they feature new gaming tech and a rear camera that should cope better in low-light conditions. Their overall design, however, is similar to the Galaxy S6 line-up.
The phones feature an ‘always-on’ display so users can see basic phone information, such as time, date and notifications, without having to wake it up and use up battery life.
While the technology is new to Samsung handsets, the Nexus 6P and Motorola Moto X both use always-on ambient displays.
The ambient display works by only showing the pixels that are needed to display a particular notification at the top of the screen.
For instance, when a notification arrives, it appears in black and white on a small portion on the S7 and S7 Edge’s screen, meaning the phone doesn’t have to use its battery’s energy powering up all of its pixels.
“We know that people check their phones on average 85 times a day,” said Samsung’s Vice president of brand and product marketing, Europe, Rory O’Neill.
A new feature that will excite more accident-prone users is the reintroduction of a water resistant finish.
Both devices are waterproof up to a depth of 5ft (1.5 metres) for as long as 30 minutes, with an IP68 Ingress Protection rating alongside what Samsung says is ‘a zero compromise on design’.
The waterproof feature was first introduced in the Galaxy S5 two years ago but disappeared when Samsung ushered in the Galaxy S6.
Dual Pixel Autofocus
The new rear camera introduces two innovations: Firstly, it has a bigger aperture of f/1.7 rather than f/1.9. This means the lens lets in nearly double the amount of light than before. The pixels are also slightly bigger, which should mean the phones are more capable at taking low-light photos without the need for flash.
Secondly, its sensor is the first on a smartphone to feature “dual pixel autofocus”.
This means each pixel can be used to both record the image and determine focus rather than just one or the other. This enables the phone to lock focus to an object more quickly for stills, and deliver smoother focus tracking in video mode.
The technology was first developed by Canon, and until now was limited to the Japanese firm’s DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) and Cinema cameras.
On the inside, the S7 and S7 Edge tout more powerful central and graphics processors than the S6 versions.
Samsung wouldn’t confirm the make of these chips but said they’d be joined by 4GB of RAM, making them ‘the most powerful processors in an ‘S range’ ever’.
To keep them cool, the handsets have got internal air conditioning thanks to technology first used for cooling rockets.
As for storage, Samsung has extended its SIM tray to include an SD card slot to be used for expandable memory up to 200GB, meaning users can store hundreds or even thousands more photos, videos or music locally on the handset.
Samsung also showed off a ‘motion panorama’ mode and optional clip-on fish eye and wide angle lenses for budding photographers.
The camera in the Galaxy S6 had a slightly protracted lens that stuck out of the back, but it is less noticeable in the new handset.
Samsung said it has shrunk this a little in the S7 and S7 Edge, making it more in line with the shell of the device.
Both of the new handsets have larger batteries than their predecessors.
The S7 now features a 3,000mAh and the S7 Edge a 3600mAh battery, which promises longer battery life.
Free Gear VR headset
Samsung said the S7 Edge will be able to perform for 13 hours while playing non-stop video content – for example, a whole series of Game of Thrones.
The firm said those who pre-order the handsets in Europe will receive a free Gear VR headset.
Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage to talk about the phones, virtual reality and Facebook, saying his company is committed to VR for the long-term.
“Going back about 10 years, most of what we shared and experienced was text,” he said.
“And then it was photos. And now we’re entering into a world where that’s video. But pretty soon we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re right there in person.
Zuckerberg said virtual reality films can be easily shared on Facebook and technology is being rolled out in the coming weeks to make the process easier.
The Gear VR is already on sale and the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge handsets will go on sale on 11 March, with pre-orders open in ‘a matter of days’. They will be available in onyx black, gold platinum, silver titanium and white pearl.