Some thoughts on what a water-resistant Galaxy S7 could mean for Samsung and its competitors.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 rumor mill is now fully up and running, with leaked images claiming to reveal Samsung's 2016 flagship in all its glory ahead of the Feb. 21 launch event. We're expecting two variants — a smaller flat GS7 and a larger "edge" model, with bigger batteries, improved cameras and speedier performance. However one of the most intriguing features coming to the GS7 is water resistance, according to VentureBeat's Evan Blass. If true, you might be able to dunk your GS7 in the bath or use it in the rain without worrying about water damage.
So what might this mean for the Korean firm's next big thing? Let's take a look.
For starters, we've been here before. Water resistance was a big tentpole feature for the Galaxy S5 back in 2014. The only problem was that the GS5 implemented this in kind of a terrible way. The phone was considerably bulkier than its predecessor, and used a rubber gasket on its battery door combined with a fiddly plastic flap over its jumbo-sized USB port. If either of these wasn't sealed properly, the phone was just as vulnerable to water damage as any other smartphone. What's more, the much-maligned USB flap added a frustrating extra step to the daily chore of charging the phone.
The Galaxy S5 did water resistance, albeit in kind of a terrible way.
Basically, the engineering trade-offs just weren't worth it. Presumably that's why water resistance was set aside in the Galaxy S6 series, which instead prioritized a sleek glass-and-metal design. It's also likely money was an important factor, and that Samsung believed it could reasonably drop water resistance without too much blowback from consumers.
So why, if the rumors are to be believed, would Samsung bring back water resistance in 2016? The answer is likely part technology, part marketing.
Firstly, Samsung's current design language might actually lend itself to water resistance — at least more so than the Galaxy S5.
As much as water resistance may have negatively impacted the GS5's design, a sealed chassis could make life easier for a waterproof Galaxy S7. Rather than relying on a large, exposed and unwieldy rubber gasket on a battery door, Samsung would instead take after Sony. The Japanese firm, which has been shipping mainstream water-resistant phones for the past several years, uses two permanent internal gaskets in its devices. One joins the screen to the body, the other fits between the body and the rear glass. These are glued into place, protecting the phone's internals from water damage. Because they're part of the phone's internal construction, it's possible to make them incredibly thin. (And because it's on the inside, this whole setup should also be much less prone to failure than a rubber gasket on a battery door.)
Samsung's current design language might actually lend itself to water resistance.
As for that exposed USB port, superhydrophobic nano-coatings have been used on ports in several smartphones in recent years, including Sony's Xperia Z3+ and Xperia Z5, and the third-generation Moto G. This forms an invisible microscopic seal around the connector, preventing electrical damage when it's exposed to water.
Then all you need to worry about is your SIM or SD slot. Sony hides these behind plastic flaps. But it's also possible to just stick a rubber gasket around it and be done with it, as Samsung itself did with the Galaxy S6 Active. Assuming your tolerances are tight enough to form a firm seal around the port, you're all good.
When you've already got everything sealed inside your device, making the whole package water-resistant isn't that difficult.
So that's the technology — onto the marketing. With the Galaxy S6 looking radically different to previous Samsung devices, there was plenty of new stuff to attract consumers' attention. This year's Samsung flagships, if the leaks are to be believed, look pretty much the same as before. That means the company will need to look elsewhere to differentiate itself from the flood of high-end Android phones to come, not to mention whatever Apple's got coming later in the year. A water-resistant iPhone has long been rumored, and so Samsung would be well served in getting out ahead of its major rival with a truly waterproof GS7. For its part, Apple's been making steps towards that by beefing up its use of internal silicone seals in the iPhone 6s
Waterproofing in a smartphone is a gift to advertisers.
Smartphone technology has plateauing for some time. This year pretty much everyone will have a great screen, decent battery life and a great camera. Water resistance, on the other hand, is a box that very few of the major phone makers have checked — at least in their mainstream high-end offerings. And if the Galaxy S7 is indeed water-resistant, we can expect this to feature heavily in Samsung's ads for the next few months — waterproofing in a smartphone is a gift to advertisers.
Water resistance in the Galaxy S7 is both a big deal and kind of a no-brainer. Technically, it's not difficult to do — especially given the way Samsung's making its phones these days. But it could give the company a badly needed edge over rivals in the coming 2016 smartphone showdown.
Do you want to see a water-resistant Galaxy S7? Shout out in the comments!
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