Newly leaked details about Samsung’s Galaxy S6 suggest that the company is pulling out all the stops for its next-generation flagship smartphone. While Samsung’s flagship devices usually feature higher technical specifications than its rivals when it comes to display resolution or the amount of RAM, the Korea-based company appears to be boosting the capabilities of its upcoming smartphone to an especially high level this year, according to insider sources cited by BGR. Samsung is also rumored to be continuing the metal-based design that was most recently seen on its Galaxy A7.
However, before we get into the details of the Galaxy S6’s technical specifications, we should note the importance of the next smartphone launch to Samsung’s overall business in light of recent challenges from old and new competitors. While Samsung is still the world’s leading smartphone vendor by market share, the company is increasingly feeling pressure from new low-end rivals like China’s Xiaomi, as well as longtime archrival Apple.
Xiaomi became the world’s third largest smartphone vendor in the third quarter of 2014, according to IDC data. Most of Xiaomi’s growth came at the expense of Samsung, which was the only company among the top five vendors to post negative year-over-year growth. According to Gartner, sales of Samsung phones in China (Xiaomi’s primary market) declined by 28.6% in the third quarter of 2014.
Meanwhile, Apple launched a phablet-sized iPhone model during the same quarter that appears to be challenging Samsung’s longtime dominance of this market segment. Samsung first popularized the phablet category with its line of Galaxy Note devices that debuted in 2011. However, the release of a similarly sized iOS-based device appears to be increasing the pressure on Samsung’s high-end phablet sales. According to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech’s smartphone sales data, for the three months ending in November 2014, Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models boosted the company’s iOS market share in every country except for Japan. “The longer the new iPhone models are on the market the more their appeal will extend beyond Apple’s loyal customers,” noted Kantar’s Dominic Sunnebo.
The popularity of Apple’s larger-screen iPhone models has even challenged Samsung in its home base of Korea, according to recent Counterpoint market research. “No foreign brand has gone beyond the 20% market share mark in the history of Korea’s smartphone industry,” noted Counterpoint’s Tom Kang. “It has always been dominated by the global smartphone leader, Samsung. But iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have made a difference here, denting the competition’s phablet sales.”
The twin pressures coming from Xiaomi’s low-end devices and Apple’s high-end phablets also appear to be impacting Samsung’s overall profitability. According to its recently issued earnings guidance, the company expects sales and operating profit to decline for the fourth quarter of 2014. It is against the backdrop of these smartphone market changes that Samsung will be releasing its next-generation Galaxy S6 that is widely expected to be unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in early March.
Here are five major upgrades that Samsung is bringing to the upcoming Galaxy S6 in order to meet the challenge from Apple and Xiaomi.
1. 50% faster CPU
According to a “trusted source” cited by BGR, the Galaxy S6 will feature a 64-bit eight-core 14nm CPU that is 50% faster than the previous generation. The leaked CPU technical specs obtained by BGR follows an earlier report from Bloomberg that revealed that Samsung will not be using Qualcomm’s 810 Snapdragon processor in the Galaxy S6 due to overheating issues. Instead, Samsung will be relying solely on its own Exynos processor.
While the use of a 64-bit CPU will allow Samsung to match the 64-bit architecture that Apple introduced in the iPhone 5S, the rumored overheating issues with Qualcomm’s 810 Snapdragon processor could also benefit Samsung by making other Android-based smartphones that use the problematic processor less appealing. For example, the premium version of Xiaomi’s recently unveiled Note phablet will be powered by Qualcomm’s 810 Snapdragon processor.
2. Quad HD display
Another impressive technical specification for Samsung’s upcoming smartphone is its rumored display resolution. According to BGR’s sources, the Galaxy S6 will feature a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display that will offer 577 pixels-per-inch (ppi). The high-quality display will enable “stunning outdoor visibility,” but also include a dim mode for nighttime usage.
Quad HD is the latest and greatest display resolution standard for smartphones, with 2,560-by-1,440 pixels. In contrast, Apple’s flagship iPhone 6 Plus features a Full HD 1,920-by-1,080-pixel display with 401 ppi. Although Xiaomi’s standard Note device only offers a Full HD 1080p resolution screen, the premium Note version will feature a Quad HD 2,560-by-1,440 resolution screen.
3. 20-megapixel camera
Samsung’s next-generation smartphone will also feature an increased pixel count for its camera sensor, reports BGR. Samsung’s current Galaxy S5 model features a 16MP camera that already far exceeds the iPhone’s 8MP camera. The Galaxy S6 will increase this gap even further with a 20MP camera sensor, as well as an optical image stabilization (OIS) system similar to what Apple offers for the iPhone 6 Plus. The Galaxy S6’s rumored 20MP camera sensor will also surpass the Xiaomi’s 13MP camera. Additionally, the Galaxy S6’s front-facing camera will be upgraded to 5MP and offer real-time high dynamic range (HDR).
Apple’s iPhones have featured 8MP camera sensors ever since it was first introduced in the iPhone 4S model. Rather than boosting its camera pixel count like many other smartphone makers, Apple has traditionally opted to improve image quality in other ways, such as the above mentioned OIS system or new types of flash systems. An insider source recently cited by Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber predicted that the next-generation iPhone might include a new two-lens system that will significantly improve image quality. However, until the next iPhone upgrade, it appears that Samsung will continue to stay ahead of Apple when it comes to smartphone camera specifications.
The 5.1-inch Galaxy S6 will feature a 2,550 mAh battery that is slightly smaller than the 2,800 mAh battery used in the Galaxy S5, reports BGR. This suggests that Samsung is responding to the thinner design style that Apple has made a primary selling point of many of its latest products. In comparison, Apple’s 4.7-inch iPhone 6 uses an 1,810 mAh battery and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus uses a 2,915 mAh battery, according to repair firm iFixit. On the other hand, Xiaomi ’s slightly larger 5.7-inch Mi Note features a heftier 3,000 mAh battery.
BGR’s sources also claimed the Galaxy S6 would offer several battery-related enhancements, such as built-in wireless charging, quick connect charging, and the ability to get four hours of usage from a 10-minute charge. These battery-related enhancements may enable Samsung to continue to attack Apple over the iPhone’s supposedly poor battery life, as it did last year in an advertising campaign that featured iPhone users as “wall huggers.”
5. Samsung Pay
In a move that is obviously intended to counter Apple’s recent entry into the mobile payments market, Samsung’s Galaxy S6 will also feature Samsung Pay software, reports BGR. According to BGR’s insider sources, Samsung Pay will work with “90% of existing magnetic stripe payment terminals, and NFC payment terminals.”
A related report from SamMobile claimed that Samsung is collaborating with Visa and computer security company McAfee on the mobile payments system. Like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay will presumably work in conjunction with the device’s fingerprint sensor. SamMobile previously reported that Samsung is planning on implementing a touch-based sensor in the Galaxy S6 that will be more similar to Apple’s Touch ID sensor. Samsung’s current fingerprint sensor uses swipe-based approach that has been criticized as difficult to operate with one hand.
The ability to use Samsung Pay at a majority of existing payment terminals may give Samsung’s mobile payments system an advantage over Apple Pay, which — despite its popularity with users – currently has limited availability due to a consortium of merchants that are blocking its use at many major retailers. On the other hand, consumers may also be wary of Samsung Pay due to Android’s reputation for malware.
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