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Samsung Prepares Its Answer to Apple's iPhone 7

By Andrew Tonner - Feb 8, 2016 at 1:13PM

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With speculation already mounting over the iPhone 7, Apple's South Korean smartphone rival just announced the debut of its own flagship smartphone later this month.

The annual calendar for the tech industry is littered with important events, but few garner as much interest as the yearly device releases from Apple (AAPL 2.45%) and Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF).

Each year, enthusiasts, industry veterans, and media outlets go to great lengths to see these events and the billion-dollar devices they introduce. And it appears the first major smartphone launch of the year is now just a few weeks away.

Source: Samsung Mobile YouTube channel.

The event will be on Feb. 21 in Barcelona. It will occur one day before the Mobile World Congress, which is the second of two major tech-related events that occur early each year -- the other being the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

In terms of features, the teaser video suggests that Samsung's Unpacked event will further incorporate the company's virtual-reality efforts, a technology that I maintain is more likely to reach mass adoption through smartphones such as Apple's and Samsung's high-end handsets.

 Looking beyond the teaser video, the rumor mill is uninspired by the Galaxy S7. The device will largely maintain the same form factor as the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, according to reports, though a larger curved-screen edition is also thought to be in the works. Beyond shape and size, the Galaxy S7 is believed to feature increased water resistance, a new microSD card port, a pressure-sensitive touchscreen interface (TouchID, anyone?), and a USB C power port. If that's the extent of Samsung's new device, the electronics giant has indeed left a sizable market opportunity for the forthcoming Apple iPhone 7.

A missed opportunity for Samsung?
Apple and Samsung have competed mostly at the high end of the smartphone market. So each new smartphone launch from either company is analyzed in terms of not only its own strength but also how the new phone will affect the competitive balance between these two powers. And if the rumors pan out for the new Samsung device, Apple could have an opening to distance itself from with the iPhone 7 later this year.

Analysts have some sense for the iPhone 7's likely new features. As is the case with most even-year iPhone upgrades, Apple is expected to revamp the form factor, this time with an emphasis on thinness. The traditional headphone jack may disappear, instead relying on the Lightning charging port to connect to headphones, which will reportedly allow Apple to produce an iPhone as thin as its current 6.1 mm iPod Touch.

There's also talk that Apple will integrate a dual-lens camera, which could enable DSLR-quality images, even in poor lighting conditions. And we might see a new composite material frame that could, like the rumors we've heard about Samsung's Galaxy S6, enable greater water resistance. Wireless charging has surfaced as a topic, too, but that addition makes more sense for the iPhone 7.

All told, the current rumors for both phones don't pack the wow factor we're used to getting from two of the industry's most powerful and innovative companies. However, with neither device having reached the market yet, we'll have to wait to see whether rumor matches reality.

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