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Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Shames Apple in This Metric

By Jamal Carnette, CFA - Feb 16, 2016 at 7:40PM

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FCC documents show Samsung's new phone continues to increase the battery-life gap, but will it matter to consumers?

Source: Samsung.

In the worst-kept secret in tech right now, it's rumored that Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) will announce its newest Galaxy iteration -- the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge -- on Feb. 21 in the lead-up to the Mobile World Congress. Samsung has a history of announcing its high-end smartphone model during the world's largest mobile-industry convention and this year appears likely to continue that tradition.

More recently, pictures purportedly of the new Galaxy line have started to surface. Overall, the design appears to be in line with the current-gen Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge phones, which many faulted as being similar to Apple's (AAPL -2.98%) form factor. At this point, most of the Galaxy S7's features and specifications are still undisclosed, leaving investors to wonder what new features/improvements the South Korean conglomerate is bringing to market.

However, documents from the FCC disclose that the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge trounces Apple in one metric -- battery life.

My, Samsung, what a large battery you have
In documents submitted to the FCC, Samsung's Galaxy S7 Edge boasts a 3,600 mAh battery. This is much larger than the 2,600 mAh battery the prior-gen Galaxy S6 Edge model was equipped with. The Galaxy S6 Edge already topped Apple in battery life with Samsung's posted times of 26 hours of talk, 58 hours of music playback, and 13 hours of Wi-Fi Internet browsing. The iPhone 6s posted times of 14 hours (3G), 50 hours, and 11 hours, respectively.

The reason is Apple's iPhone 6s sports a smaller 1715 mAh battery -- a higher number means the battery can store more energy. With an upgrade to a 3,600 mAh battery, Samsung would have a battery with double the capacity of its Apple counterpart, and the differences between those battery life estimates would only further increase in Samsung's favor. If you are shopping for a high-end phone simply on the basis of battery life, Samsung is the clear winner.

Samsung's conundrum
When it comes to battery life, Samsung has always presented a clear contrast to Apple. In 2014, Samsung released a commercial titled "Wall Huggers" highlighting the Galaxy S5's power-friendly features like swappable-batteries and ultra-power-saving mode versus Apple's lack thereof. Apple later added a low-power mode to future models, but Samsung's next Galaxy offering, the current-gen Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, lost the battery-swapping ability to embrace a unibody design.

But as frustrating as limited battery life is, it isn't what consumers base their buying decisions on. The same goes for fancy octa-core chipsets or any other processor advantages. In the end, potential consumers evaluate smartphones on ecosystem/operating system, features, and design more than on benchmark metrics. In J.D. Power's latest smartphone satisfaction survey, "nearly one-third (31%) of customers select their phone based on its features, followed by price at 22 percent; operating system at 17 percent; and style/design at 15 percent. Satisfaction is highest among customers who choose their phone based on operating system, with 79 percent of these customers saying they 'strongly agree' or 'somewhat agree' that they feel loyal to the smartphone brand."    

The way for Samsung to slow the number of "Android Switchers" -- a term Apple CEO Tim Cook uses for former Android users who have converted to iPhone subscribers -- is not by improving device specifications, but rather to present an intuitive, user-focused experience with continuous refinement. This is complicated by the fragmented nature of Android, as upgrades and updates require action by Alphabet, the handset maker, and even the phone carrier. If Samsung's new model doesn't improve upon the user experience, the battery's performance will not move the needle and reverse the flow of Android users shifting to Apple's iPhone.

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