So far, MWC 2016 has been a tale of two smartphones. Though the conference only officially kicked off this morning, yesterday was the the most significant day of the show. Whatever happens between now and Thursday, nothing’s going to top a pair of flagship launches.
Yet, while the G5 and S7 shows were similar in so many ways, the new products represent completely different mindsets and strategies.
Though a deluge of leaks revealed practically about the LG G5 ahead of launch, it said everything that the majority of people at the showpiece were still stunned by what was announced. The G5 is refreshingly odd and thrillingly bold.
True, it feels like more of a prototype than a finished product, but the fact that LG has decided to go so deliberately against the grain deserves a lot more than condescending recognition. Before now, modular smartphones stood for a vague vision of the future, with Google’s Project Ara seemingly destined to be ‘coming soon’ forever. LG has genuinely innovated.
It’s not all about modular attachments either. The company also plumped to include USB Type-C and a removable battery, and build an ecosystem of ‘LG Friends’, which could prove tasty little additions if, of course, the company gets its pricing right. These are the features we were hoping for, but assumed we'd never get.
Meanwhile, the biggest ‘oooooh’ at the Samsung Galaxy S7 launch -- apart from when Mark Zuckerberg appeared -- came when it was revealed that the phone’s rear camera sensor would sit almost completely flush with the back panel. Good news, for sure, but that shouldn’t be a primary source of excitement.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m damn taken with the S7 and S7 Edge. For me, they represent two of the most polished handsets on the market, and Samsung’s done supremely well to refine them to this level. What saddens me is that the company had to take a couple of steps back in order to impress.
After all, the Galaxy S5 of 2014 featured water-resistance and a microSD slot -- both were notable by their absence when last year’s flagships arrived. This shows just how clinical not just Samsung, but all of the big players, have become. Major firms know that taking certain features away, or delaying their introduction (ahem, Apple), can be just as effective in securing sales as giving consumers what they actually want.
Now, you could argue that LG has less to lose than Samsung, and therefore has the freedom to play with the formula to a greater degree. You’d be right, but remember that Samsung’s mobile division is going through a rough patch right now. Customers just aren’t as interested in the firm’s high-end handsets as they have been in the past. In other words, this was an opportunity lost.
Now I’m not expecting the S7 and S7 Edge to flop when they hit the market -- in fact, I expect them to sell rather well -- but Samsung had the chance to create something truly exciting, and it decided not to. It's one thing to listen to your consumers, and another to take them by surprise.