Barcelona is once again playing host to the Mobile World Congress, where tech’s biggest smartphone developers converge to show off their shiny new consumer devices. Generally, MWC is the first stop to catch the upcoming range of flagship phones. This year however, we’ve seen certain manufacturers wander from the consensus and aim their sights at a more cost-friendly user.
The headline from the first day at MWC however, does concern that upper-echelon of consumer. Samsung are a company who desperately need to reclaim some lost ground. Once the market leader at the top end of the market, increased competition and the ever firming grip of Apple have diminished the Samsung pie. Indeed, Samsung’s current flagship, the S5, has sold less than its predecessor, the S4.
Samsung’s New Direction
In an effort to stem the tide, Samsung are trying something new. Their new flagship, the uninspiringly named S6, will come with a curved edge. Somewhat aligning itself with the already announced Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, the S6 Edge’s screen will bend round its sides, thus increasing its functionality. Announced towards the back end of last year, the Note Edge differs from the S6 in that it only curves round one edge of the device, rather than both.
Not wishing to alienate the band of loyal customers they do still have, the S6 will also come in a second, curve-less imagination. For those of us who wish to branch out and try Samsung’s innovative new device, it will come at an (as of yet unknown) extra cost. For that, the S6’s curved edges will sport new features aimed at increasing functionality. For example, one side will house ‘People Edge’, offering an easily accessible panel of texts, calls and other messages from five of your chosen contacts. Even when upside down then, the edges will offer some indication as to who is calling by flashing that contact’s associated colour. The phone’s adjacent edge will become a beacon of information, offering the time, weather and certain notifications.
So, can it be a success? Well, time will tell if Samsung’s new device can capture the public’s imagination. It’s not the first time an arm of consumer tech has looked for flexibility in an attempt to inject some pizzazz into a disengaging concept. TV manufacturers are constantly flapping over a way to maintain consumer interest in their annual sets. From 3D to 4K via curved edges, Samsung have talked it all up, only to see them largely dismissed as a fad.
Given Samsung’s consistent failings, they are in dire need of a positive response to their new flagship devices. The only way to save the smartphone from a similar fate to high-end TVs is to give a genuine enhancement to the phone’s capabilities via the curved screen. Right now, we’re sceptical.
It’s not that Samsung are pioneers of the curved smartphone screen either. LG’s arch shaped phone the LG Flex has recently returned for a second outing. Announced back at CES, the LG Flex 2 takes the original, bendy concept and gets serious, adding a flagship set of specs to the device.
Other Smartphone News
Elsewhere at MWC, and a number of other players in the smartphone market have had their say. Sony and Microsoft have taken the alternative route suggested earlier by unveiling new devices aimed at the swelling mid-range market.
Microsoft are adding two new models to their Lumia range, the 640 and 640 XL. The 640 comes with a 5-inch screen, 4G connectivity and the ability to handle two sim cards. Upgrade to the XL and you’ll get a 5.7-inch screen and a camera with five more megapixels than the standard model. Both handsets come bundled with a one-year subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365 suite and their current Windows OS, 8.1, an OS which will become upgradeable come the launch of Windows 10.
Indeed, the reason behind Microsoft lowering their sights in the market is partly down to the upcoming operating system. The launch of any new flagship device is likely to be postponed until Windows 10 arrives, which is expected in the coming months. And with a current market share of 2.7%, the opportunity to re-launch the brand with new devices and a fresh OS may be the smart move.
Sony, on the other hand, generally like to refresh their flagship devices biannually. The Xperia Z3 was launched back in September, but this time they too have held back their more prestigious devices for a later date. Instead, Sony have announced the Xperia M4. Sporting two camera, an impressive two-day battery life and waterproofs depths of 1.5 metres, Sony are playing their hand for the ever growing middle market.
The news falls in line with a broad change in approach for the Japanese techies. Sony’s 2014 was nothing short of a disaster. From disappointing sales returns to worldwide scandals, Sony’s 2014 was an unprecedented disaster. In an attempt to stem the tide, costs have been cut from their smartphone branch. Generating cost-friendly consumer products may be a sign of the times for a more frugal Sony.
In a market as heavily diluted as smartphones, the three manufacturers on show at the MWC have skipped down alternative paths to try and relive glories of old.
Title Image- Samsung