During MWC, friends and acquaintances kept asking which phone I thought was the most innovative of the lot on the show. This time, it was easy for me to give an answer: yes, I thought the LG G5 was the most interesting. And most people would nod in agreement.
The LG G5 shows us a glimpse into what the world of smartphones will be a few years from now. Swapping a better camera module because you are out on a picnic, or an extra battery because you won’t be near a charging port for days. Yes, the modular phone concept is finally here. This might not be exactly what Google and others are working on, but the fact that it has hit the bullet with a flagship shows LG has shown the guts to be innovative.
Just across the aisle in Hall 3, Samsung is getting a lot of attention as always. However, this time people are more intrigued by the VR showcase and are queuing up for a chance to try the headset on. They like the Samsung Galaxy S7 too, but most think it is almost the same as the S6. The same is the case with the S7 edge too. If the cards said S6 and S6 edge, it would have taken everyone some time to call it a bluff.
Samsung has for some years now had this tendency to hold the awe factor back every alternate year and 2016 seems to be one of those years. This means the Samsung Galaxy S7, and S7 edge are natural progressions of their predecessors and don’t try and change the game on their own. Of course, the edge has become better, of course the camera is one of the best in the world, of course this is among the best Android phones money can buy… but haven’t we come to expect that out of Samsung? Where is the surprise element, the one thing that makes you the best Android flagship? I guess we will have to wait for that till the Note 6 arrives later this year.
By being averse to taking risks with its flagships, Samsung might be letting go of a large opportunity and leaving the door ajar for players like Xiaomi to make a bigger impact. Three days after the gala Samsung launch, this Chinese startup had a relatively small event a bit far from the main MWC venue. But all of the world’s press was there at what was Xiaomi’s first big event in Europe. The Mi 5 has some innovative features like the camera with four-axis image stabilisation, but it also has a price that is half that of Samsung’s flagship.
The innovation for companies like Xiaomi and LeEco is in offering the same stuff as Samsung or LG at much lower price points. Let’s not miss the point here that the Mi 5 runs the same top-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor as the S7 and G5.
Yes, Samsung is not in the same game as these Chinese challengers, but with the market getting more competitive every passing quarter the Korean giant has to start overwhelming its competition. That sense of purpose is the only thing that will win it new markets and users.