back to article Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge: Betting on VR with a dash of Vulkan

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg appeared on stage at Samsung's launch for the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, proclaiming VR the new social platform; but is that enough to make S7 more than just this year's slightly faster Galaxy? Facebook acquired Oculus VR in 2014, and its technology is used in Samsung's Gear VR, a headset which works in …

  1. LDS Silver badge

    VR headsets need proper design, especially when it comes to weight distribution.

    Putting the heaviest thing far away from from the head just makes them more uncomfortable in the long run. It's the cheapest solution, but far from being the optimal one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: VR headsets need proper design, especially when it comes to weight distribution.

      Yes, maybe they should put the phone (and the display) at the back of the head to balance it out.

  2. Ian K

    Never mind VR

    For me the most important change is that they've added SD card expansion back in.

    That's not enough to guarantee a purchase when my phone contract's next up for renewal, but at least they're back on the list of possibles.

    1. JustNiz

      Re: Never mind VR

      Its good that they put the SD slot back in. Now all they need to do is reinstate the removeable battery again before Samsung appear back on my list of possible phone suppliers.

      Until then, I'm looking at the new LG G5.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never mind VR

      Doesn't mater what they do with the hardware...does the browser reflow on zoom.... if not they can forget it. I know that's an Android issue, but they are big enough to tell Google/Alphabet to fix it).

      1. Big_Baldy_Bloke

        Text reflow in Dolphin Browser

        Dolphin Browser does text reflow on zoom on Android. It is the main reason I use Dolphin (with whom I have no relationship, other than that as a user of their browser on Android.)

        http://dolphin.com/download-mobile/

  3. 2460 Something

    In the Rain

    Ah waterproofing! I would consider upgrading my s6 purely for this reason alone. However, I will have to make do for another 12 months till the s8 comes out as I'm still under contract :(

    I was already quite impressed the the quality of the s6 pictures over my previous phone (still lacking against a proper camera but so much more convenient) so it will be interesting to see how discernible any differences are. Think the wife may be getting a new phone in a couple months.. and you say they look nearly identical? :P Maybe I won't need to wait 12 months after all ....

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Widespread VR Adoption.

    Doubt even Facebook has the muscle, Samsung should really have brought the porn industry to the meeting. (Web chat, picture libraries, VOIP, Video streaming....)

    Least they waterproofed the phone.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear

    We already have enough problems with people only looking at their phones when they walk along the street.

    Imagine the chaos when (or perhaps if) this VR stuff starts being worn by those addicted to their phones as they try to walk along a busy street.

    Don't think it will happen? Wanna bet? all it will take is a few celebs to be seen with them on and bang, the latest fashion craze would be upon us.

    All I have to say is that there is a time and a place for everything but like IoT it seems more of an solution waiting for a question when it comes to VR and mainstream use. For certain things but for the rest of us... Meh (much like 3D TV then)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh dear

      Agree entirely,

      The Darwin Awards may need an entirely new category.

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear

      Too bad that strapping handsets to you face doesn't take advantage of the rear facing camera to inject some reality back into view. I know that it doesn't appear that the S7 could do that, just, tossing the thought out there.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Oh dear

        Too bad that strapping handsets to you face doesn't take advantage of the rear facing camera to inject some reality back into view.

        Only a matter of time. Augmented Reality. Coming to a phone near you.

      2. Timmay

        Re: Oh dear

        You can already set pass-through video at least, on my S6 anyway - though it doesn't have the cajones for augmented reality itself, I'm hopeful the S7 might.

  6. anttix

    I think the best things going for the S7 is that there are no deal breakers. It's all about what isn't missing. That said, it's possible that some will still want a removable battery, but fast charging should alleviate that.

    1. Wade Burchette

      My desire for a removable battery has nothing to do with fast charging. I sometimes find myself working in a wireless signal-hating metal building. Since my cellular signal is weak, my phone works extra hard to maintain a signal. That means a quick battery drain. Having a spare to insert would help me out a lot. I also frequently take long trips and don't have access to a charger. That means a lot of fiddling with my mobile phone. That means a spare battery sure would be nice when, not if, my battery goes weak.

      1. Triggerfish

        Yep a spare battery is handy for the moments you are not near a charge as well. Found my phone battery running out while on a journey when using it for maps, and was not in a position to get it charged. Bit of a bugger when you are two thirds through a journey and you suddenly realise you only know where you are in a general 30 mile raidus sense.

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        Spare batteries require you to turn the phone off, lose signal, boot it back up, etc.

        Just carry a small portable USB battery. Same capacity (or greater). Same weight (or smaller). Same size (or more holdable). Charges your phone - or anything else - while your phone is still live. Can even piggyback on the phone.

        At first, I was with the "no SD card, no replaceable battery" crowd, and then I sat and thought about it. The SD card - that problem is solved and has no better solution. But actually swapping batteries is a pain in the butt compared to just carrying a small USB charger around. They do them lipstick sized, they do them flat, they do them inside the phone case, they do them piggy-back, they do them huge for inside your laptop case, etc.

        And if you're already carrying a battery, and presumably a case for it, alongside your phone, you've lost nothing but gained the ability to increase your battery life outside of even the maximum daily range without having to open any covers, drop your SIM card, pause your download, turn your phone off or anything else. And you can charge BOTH back up from the same charger (rather than having to swap batteries, charge in-phone, swap batteries, charge in-phone, etc.).

        I have to say, the battery argument is now weak. The only remaining problem would be death of the battery entirely, by which time the phone is obsolete but still a £20 repair at your local phone-repairers would see you right for another few years.

        And you can charge up your friend's phone when theirs dies too. Unless they use a stupid Lightning connector. In which case, stuff them... make them buy their own overpriced adapter cables.

        1. Havin_it

          @Lee D

          I was going to weigh in on the subject of dead batteries, but since you got there first, let me ask: how reliable is your "£20 repair" assertion? I ask because I've always had my phone outlast my battery, but because I've always bought popular models I've never had problems getting an off-brand replacement battery on the 'bay (apart from when I went TOO cheap and found out you get what you pay for).

          I was under the impression that non-user-replaceable batteries were usually soldered in place and non-trivial for a street-corner repairman to deal with, and I'd have imagined that this would impact on the availability of spares as a knock-on (fewer people attempting to replace them = no market for off-brand manufacturing). If this isn't the case, I'd have a lot less opposition to choosing a stuck-battery model.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Battery replacement

            I highly doubt anyone solders the battery in place. That would mean it could NEVER be replaced even by the OEM, so they'd have to give you a new phone!

            Just to compare I looked up the instructions for the iPhone 6S and Galaxy S6. Neither are something the typical person who is afraid to replace a DIMM in their PC would attempt, but would be pretty simple for the typical Reg reader I would imagine.

            The iPhone 6S takes only a few minutes and one special tool (a pentalobe screw driver, which you buy for a few bucks off eBay) The Galaxy S6 looks a little more tetchy since you have to disconnect several tiny ribbon cables and remove a few parts to access the battery, but requires no special tools though possibly a bit more time.

            I think some earlier models of the iPhone glued down the battery which made it more of a pain to remove, but it was never soldered on.

            https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/iPhone+6s+Battery+Replacement/49800

            https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Galaxy+S6+Teardown/38636

          2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: @Lee D

            I was under the impression that non-user-replaceable batteries were usually soldered in place and non-trivial for a street-corner repairman to deal with

            I'm sure it's an impression that the manufacturers would like you to keep. Many of the small shops are pretty well-tooled up by now but you can still expect to pay a premium for certain brands: Apple's approach is very much liked that of car dealerships.

        2. Triggerfish

          @Lee D

          To be fair, never thought of trying the battery packs may have to give them a shot, how long do they take am I sitting by the side of a road for a few hours or is it the 30 seconds or so to swap a battery? Just asking cos when my battery was running out last time I was piss wet through at the side of the road on a bike, not sure it's less convenient than turning the phone off and losing signal for half a minute.

          But your comment "The SD card - that problem is solved and has no better solution." - What? how?

          1. D@v3

            Re: @Triggerfish

            Battery packs.

            Dead easy. It's basically just a portable charger. Say you are at the side of the road on your bike. You plug the cable in your phone, just like you would at home. Then either use it, or stick it back in your bag so it can start charging.

            1. Triggerfish

              Re: @Triggerfish

              Not sure how that is more practical than a removable battery though, phone goes in pocket never in bag, seems like the thin smartphone is suddenly becoming a couple of inches thick and less portable.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Apple has demonstrated that battery packs are what people want and will pay a premium for, if they want to lug additional charge.

      The SD card is very clever because Android 6 allows it to be formatted as part of the system storage. So you can get 200 GB extra storage much cheaper than you can for Apple. Not that Apple minds too much as it deliberately charges a premium for storage but that could make the difference in a couple of headlines.

      There will also be the crowd that just appreciates removable SD together with a much better camera.

      BTW. the report also seems to skip the fact that the S7 actually uses closed loop water-cooling when going at full throttle. Might be interesting to see what people start getting up to with these chips.

      1. inmypjs Silver badge

        "because Android 6 allows it to be formatted as part of the system storage."

        Nope, marshmallow allows it to be used *instead* of system storage. You loose direct access to the relatively very (and in Samsung's case extremely) fast and expensive internal FLASH. You can choose to store some apps on the internal FLASH and that's it, data goes to the SD Card. The slow SD card will hurt performance of the whole phone. SD cards have no trim support either.

        Adopted SD card storage in marshmallow is good for very low end phones which were slow anyway and have little internal FLASH to be wasted.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Nope, marshmallow allows it to be used *instead* of system storage.

          I stand corrected. Thanks for the clarification.

        2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

          maybe then all you need to do is tighten direct access when it comes loose.

          1. inmypjs Silver badge

            "direct access when it comes loose."

            So how much do spelling cops make?

            Shame you didn't chose to ignore it.

      2. Ashley_Pomeroy

        "the S7 actually uses closed loop water-cooling when going at full throttle"

        I'm sure this is perfectly safe, and I imagine that nothing untoward can happen, but the idea of carrying around a water cooling rig in my pocket worries me. How hot does the fluid get? How long will the seals last?

      3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        'Apple has demonstrated that battery packs are what people want and will pay a premium for, if they want to lug additional charge.'

        Really? Really, really? Alternatively, have they demonstrated that because NONE OF THEIR DEVICES have a removable battery, the consumer has zero choice..

        It does not take minutes on a decent phone, on my ancient Xperia Pro I can swap out the battery in under 20s, including shutdown time. It then does, yes, take another minute and a half to boot back up, but that's what you get from running Lollipop on a 2011 phone.

        With my next phone, I'm already planning to mod in a larger capacity battery, and include the ability to swap replacements in.

  7. digthatfish

    fad

    VR = 3D TV

    Awaiting it's commercial demise

  8. Rafael 1

    "VR is the most social platform," insisted Zuckerberg

    I don't know -- it seems a way to avoid meeting people in real life. I am not sure if this is social or antisocial.

    One possible application is to visit places (museums, etc) that are far away without having to leave home, and hopefully, without having to wait in line and bump into other people.

    Also could be useful for real estate companies: I can see the offers without an annoying agent blabbering about how wonderful it is (or at least I can mute it).

    But I bet this will excel beyond the wildest dreams of The Most Social Application Ever (tm): ads. In-your-face, cannot-cancel, cannot-skip, repetitive, annoying ads.

  9. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

    So long, Sony! And thanks for all the glitchy firmware.

    Ordered a Galaxy S7 Edge last night, gets delivered on 8th March apparently. Can't wait to get rid of this unfathomably shite Xperia Z1 once and for all. Never been so excited about the launch of a phone before. I'LL BE ABLE TO CONNECT TO MY VAN WITH BLUETOOTH AND EVERYTHING WOOHOO!!!

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: So long, Sony! And thanks for all the glitchy firmware.

      Apparently, you are not alone:

      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.devmil.xperiabluetoothmediafix

      Sort of thing that Sony should make work by sending an update using this OTA thing.

      Mind you, the Moto thing I am using on a car radio project opens the A2DP connection for every UI operation thus making it useless for an in-car app unless you disable all UI sounds.

      Do they not realise, or care, that users do not want every click and buzz sent to the audio system, especially with a delay?

      Happens on an iDevice too for some of them.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: So long, Sony! And thanks for all the glitchy firmware.

      Unfortunately it's Samsung, the Bluetooth might work but there'll be 1001 other things that won't, distributed across the three copies of every app.

      1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

        Re: So long, Sony! And thanks for all the glitchy firmware.

        I'm not so sure... Loved my Galaxy S2, never had any problems with it. Also, I much prefer TouchWiz to the abomination that is the Z1. I know I am the only one, but it is what it is :/ :/

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: So long, Sony! And thanks for all the glitchy firmware.

      That may be more of a problem with your van.

      My observations (based on Arc, T, J, E3, M2, SP and M4) are that Bluetooth on Xperias usually works. Unless you are running cyanogen of course - that breaks it for 90% of them (the reason why I do not use Cyanogen any more).

      So if the S7 does not like your van - do not be surprised and put a proper stereo in it - this is one of the first things I did when I bought my D-Max "combined harvester" (according to UK insurers it is a van for some reason).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bubble

    It's hard to tell you're in a bubble when you're in it. There are clues such as the walls being a bit stretched, but once its burst and there are entrails everywhere, then the bubble can get a post-mortem.

    All these supply-driven corporation-oriented technologies such as wearables, IoT, and VR are symptoms of overly cautious capital being invested in repackaging largely pre-existing technologies, and what they obviously see as potential future cash cows.

    In conclusion: Capitalism is about to collapse, run for the hills.

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: Bubble

      Phone market may be in trouble unless they find something to persuade people to spend so much on incremental upgrades regularly. But capitalism collapsing? We been on the old dried frog again?

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Bubble

      Er....what? So if VR and IoT fail then capitalism collapses? A lot of technology is "repacking largely pre-existing technologies". That's basically what Apple did with the iPhone, they didn't invent anything new they just put together a combination of technologies that hadn't been put together before, and wrote some new software that integrated it all. Along with Android a huge new market was created from those existing technologies.

      When self driving cars arrive they won't include any technology that doesn't already exist, those cars will be putting together existing technologies. As with smartphones, they'll simply require new software that ties all the existing technologies together to deliver that software that properly integrates it all (which will take longer this time because it is no big deal if a smartphone crashes, it is a big deal if a self driving car does)

      We can do a lot by combining technologies that exist or only require modest refinement, in combination with software that integrates everything towards the desired goal. How many times in human history has "the wheel" been an integral part of a new invention?

      If you look back at history, the only things that drive paradigm shifts for progress are ways to either use more energy or do more work for the same energy. Going from burning wood to burning fossil fuels allowed humanity to use more energy. Moore's Law allowed computers to do more and more work for the same amount of energy. We will need a fundamental breakthrough in fusion or super cheap solar for the next paradigm shift of progress. Until then we will mostly be reinventing what has already been invented, because what we can do is constrained to a large degree by the amount and cost of energy.

      The lengthy gaps between steam power and coal power and oil/gas power and early computers to microprocessors didn't halt progress or growth of capitalism. A long enough gap might, but our great great grandchildren would be dead before we might reach that point - and fusion power will still be 20 years away! :)

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Samsung and Facebook are betting that will change"

    Well I'm betting it won't.

    I've got nothing against the phones, but VR is and always will be a niche product that will appeal only to a few percent points of the population.

    And Glass was a brilliant demonstration of how acceptable it is to walk around with a Borg attachment.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: "Samsung and Facebook are betting that will change"

      Actually, I think gaming is the, errr, "killer app" for VR.

      If they can get a big title like HALO, Destiny, Call of Duty, or the like working with VR, *I* would buy one. Supposedly, an FPS where the left/right "look" is 2x the actual movement (you move your neck only 1/2 the rate the world moves) is "teh shit" according to game-dev friends. They say it really revolutionizes things to actually be able to *quickly* look around, especially behind you.

  12. Christopher Reeve's Horse

    I'd be tempted, if only...

    1. There was guaranteed support for timely Android version updates and patches for at least 4 years

    2. Pre-installed apps are capable of being uninstalled

    3. There was an implementation of permissions privacy control, much like in Cyanogenmod

    4. The battery was replaceable.

    5. Android had a proper user controllable firewall and system level adblocker

    I've had an S3 for 4 years, it's on it's 3rd battery (they degrade over time) and it's running Cyanogenmod 13. Well done Samsung for putting the SD card back in, but I'm still finding it impossible to find a suitable replacement that lives up to my expectations as a consumer.

    There is so much choice in the smartphone markets, why is it none of them can create something I want to buy? I'm a willing customer!

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: I'd be tempted, if only...

      > , why is it none of them can create something I want to buy?

      Because 2, 3 and 5 in your list are things they do not wish you to do/have:

      2: Their apps are designed to move you into/keep you in their ecosystem.

      3. They want app developers to make apps, having users ability to 'limit' the app makes it more difficult to write/maintain and less useful for the app developer/malware author.

      5 .Google is an ad company and they want/need you to have ads etc. as well as want telemetry, click-thrus, tracking et al.

      But you have CM so, as long as they suit your purpose and keep making images for the mainstream models, as well as supplying updates etc., you can buy the latest phone - a bit after launch I presume.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: I'd be tempted, if only...

        4. There seems to be a competition to make kit thinner and thinner, until one day a Scottish Egyptian is going to be telling a French Scotsman, that the sword may have been folded a thousand times for a fine edge, but for a quality beheading you should use the new iphone.

        One mag claimed that a new model dropping from 150g to 140g and making it about 1mm smaller all round means you wont drop it now as its easier to handle. Really?

        I'd happily have it a few more mil thick and a few grams heavier for battery life.*

        *Of course does also mean the phone last longer, dunno why the manufacturers would worry about that though...

    2. Seajay#

      Re: I'd be tempted, if only...

      You can have all that surely? Just buy one and install cyanogen again.

      1. Christopher Reeve's Horse

        Re: I'd be tempted, if only...

        It's a fair point, but the answer is - I shouldn't have to! I was only tempted to do that to an old phone, I wouldn't want to do that on something brand new, in warranty, and that costs many hundreds of pounds.

        Also, I wouldn't particularly care if the phone was 2 or 3 mm thicker and a bit heavier.

        I get the earlier points about google's lockdown on the software too... I just find it all frustrating that none of the major manufacturers are willing to side more with the customer in a bid to generate longer term loyalty. Obsolescence design tricks aren't going to earn my respect or my custom.

        And another thing (the standard opening for a rant)... I'd be much more likely to buy stuff from any company that would promise not to spend on advertising at all. If there was some accreditation of this, a website listing service for companies devoid of PR, marketing and other c*ntery, I'd actively seek them out.

  13. Brenda McViking
    Thumb Down

    Woooaaa we're halfway there....

    So I have £700 burning a flagship sized hole in my pocket for my long-awaited Galaxy S4 upgrade. and I do mean "upgrade." And I have 2 features I will not compromise on. 1 - uSD card slot. 2 - removable battery.

    But this is yet another downgrade due to the fact it has no removable battery. SGS7, you're fired. NEXT!

    ...well hellllooooo LG G5, what do we have here? a manufacturer who actually gets it?

    1. Timmay

      Re: Woooaaa we're halfway there....

      You're welcome.

  14. Matthew 3

    Processor?

    It seems that Samsung are again supporting two processors - either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or one of their own Exynos ones, depending on market.But my understanding is that Cyanogenmod's developers prefer the Qualcomm. Anyone yet know which processor the UK will get?

  15. Tromos
    Joke

    Water resistant?

    I'd like to see Zuckerberg tested to IP68

  16. AbelSoul

    Re: four times faster graphics

    If this turns out to be true and not just hype, I could be interested.

    I have a Gear VR dev edition for the Note 4 and the initial reading of the specs. for these new 'phones was underwhelming (same screen res. as the Note 4, for example). A noticeable graphics bump would help change that impression.

  17. James 51 Silver badge

    Would be interesting for watching netflix and amazon but it's not worth paying that kind of money for.

  18. Jim-234

    We'll I'm about due for a phone upgrade now that they put the SD card back in, I'm back to looking at Samsung, just not sure if I should get the S7 edge, or wait for the Note 6

    1. Down not across

      S7 or Note 6

      Guess that depends how long you want to wait. Especially if they repeat the "No you're not getting Note 5 in UK ...ok maybe now that we need to dump them to make way for new S7" again.

  19. Matt Kimber

    And the software QC?

    Personally? I think Samsung are using VR as a distraction from their far more significant issues of software quality and long-term support. The problem being that their attitude of gradually reducing quality control on updates until anything you receive in the second year of ownership has a good chance of rendering your phone borderline unusable or needing a charge every three hours is great... until you want to sell someone their *second* Samsung phone and find they've been horribly burnt by the experience of their first. (I'm firmly in the "never another" camp after suffering their attempts at both mobiles and televisions)

    I know this is anecdotal, but on a general note I'm starting to hear non-techie friends on Android say they'll tolerate the relative plasticky and cheap feel of a Nexus or OnePlus just to get away from paying a fortune for gimmicks, having a phone loaded with manufacturer bloatware and suffering for the idea that your device should be updated into planned obsolescence shortly after the next model is announced. Whether this is a broad sentiment I don't know, but HTC are well in the doldrums again and Samsung's mobile market share doesn't appear to be going the great guns it was early in the decade (with the balance more toward low-end models than it used to be) - with these phones approaching £600 at launch they cannot be going out there with software quality that's shamed by your typical no-name landfill Android device.

    1. silver fox

      Re: And the software QC?

      Still using my S4 which I was getting tee'd off with but have upgraded to Android 5.0.1, got rid of the facebook app and the phone is now slick and lasts more than a day.

      Agree with what you say about Nexus.OnePlus etc.

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