Under pressure from Chinese manufacturers and an iPhone that is now snatching away phablet sales, Samsung needs a home run with its new flagship smartphone. Instead, the refreshed Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge devices deliver a solid base hit. The new flagship line won't stoke consumer excitement, but does support a range of security and productivity features that make the phones easier to use and more versatile for enterprise and corporate customers.
Unveiled on Sunday at Mobile World Congress, the 5.1-inch S7 and 5.5-inch S7 Edge will be released on March 11, and pre-orders start at 8:00 am EST on February 23. Both models sport crisp Quad HD Super AMOLED 2560 x 1440 screens, powered by 4GB RAM, and run a quad core 2.15GHz processor. Each device ships with 32GB onboard storage, expandable up to 200 GB thanks to the return of the dual-use SIM and microSD card slot, a feature missing from the S6.
For mobile business and enterprise users, security is the the S7's most significant update. New to the S7 line is a security feature for corporate users called the Enterprise Device Program (EDP), a framework that gives business customers more flexibility in terms of device availability and software updates.
The two-year Device Purchase Program establishes device-purchase framework for business-class customers that guarantees availability for two years after release. Samsung will also support the phone through it's lifecycle with security updates. The updates will cover both the core Android operating system, and Samsung-specific patches.
SEE: Mobile Device Policy Template (Tech Pro Research)
Samsung is betting that IT departments will see better control over apps as a better experience for team members. Samsung is also rolling out significant updates to the KNOX security platform targeted at corporate IT departments. Enterprise apps can be stored in secure, discrete containers, and remotely administrated. The new KNOX should give IT workers granular control over hardware and applications. In theory, this feature could allow more business users to consolidate work and personal devices.
Device availability and reliability updates, said Samsung, are intended to give business buyers and IT managers more flexible and reliable purchase options.
The S7 sports an upgraded 3,000mAh battery, and the Edge lugs a 3,600mAh-rated battery—anticipated upgrades that will be welcomed by professionals. Both devices charge wirelessly. The battery life is not quite all-day, said a Samsung spokesperson at the preview briefing, but it will reliably get you through the work day.
The new user experience could enhance productivity in subtle ways. The Always On home screen is, well, always on and displays user-customizable information items like email and calendar notifications.
SEE: Guidelines for building security policies (Tech Pro Research)
Task Edge (for the S7 Edge) is a method of managing shortcuts for common tasks. With one tap, for example, a user could set a shortcut to launch Slack and send a group-message, or open the front-facing camera, take a selfie, apply a favorite filter, and send to a friend. This "macro action" feature has been long-offered by third-party apps, but works smoothly as a part of Samsung's custom Android operating system.
This spring Samsung will also release a new camera called the Gear 360, a two-lens device that shoots photos and video in 360-degrees.
The camera is fitted with USB and microSD ports, and can controlled remotely using the S7 and S7 Edge. Media shot on the Gear 360 can be transferred to a PC or a mobile device using microUSB. At a recent demo in Manhattan, it was clear how content shot on the Gear 360, controlled by and edited using an S7, and viewed in the Gear VR headset could be used as a presentation and training tool.
Samsung refers to both devices as "lifeproof." The S7 and S7 Edge are rated IP68, and while you wouldn't want to dunk the phone in a bucket of water, they are resistant to rain, spills, and dust.
The company expects the Gear 360 and Gear VR, both optimized for the S7, to be adopted first by a few business verticals, including the healthcare industry, real estate, and hospitality as a cost-effective "professional simulation machine," with an emphasis on productivity and entertainment. Wellness, health, and medical training, said Samsung, could also be breakout industries for the Gear 360 and Gear VR.
The S7, the S7 Edge, and the Gear 360, are solid but uninspiring devices. With the refreshed models the company prioritized versatility and stability features that should excite business users. Consumers hungry for innovation should admire Samsung's ambition, but safely avoid the hype and wait for the next generation.
Dan Patterson has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.