As we count down to Mobile World Congress, the biggest smartphone show of the year, the pace of leaks surrounding the next wave of Android phones is quickening. The show's biggest announcement is likely to be a new flagship phone from Samsung — a successor to the almost year-old Galaxy S6. Last year the GS6 came in two flavors, a regular flat version, and the curvy s6 edge. And as Galaxy S7 time rolls around, there are whispers that we might see at least three S7 variants.
Multiple variants of a new Galaxy S phone aren't a new phenomenon. But launching the regular, curved edge and bigger curved edge+ models all at the same time would be a big deal for a number of reasons.
What we think we know
First, let's recap some of the main theories and rumors circulating online. According to the usually reliable @evleaks, Samsung will indeed launch the S7 in at least two screen sizes, as evidenced by an image showing branding for a Galaxy S7, S7 edge and S7 edge+. That broadly fits with earlier reports that two screen sizes would be offered — a regular GS7 at 5.2 inches and an edge+ at 5.5 inches.
Snapdragon 820, 3,000mAh battery, and the return of the SD card.
Other rumblings? A Snapdragon 820 processor in some markets, mixed with Exynos in others — no surprises there, but a notable endorsement for Qualcomm's new chip after its predecessor was passed up for the GS6. That's said to be paired with the triumphant return of the microSD slot and beefier 3,000mAh batteries for the regular-sized GS7s. The camera, it's reported, will bump down to 12 megapixels, but will be behind a bright ƒ/1.7 lens. (And it's likely the reason for that resolution drop will be a move to larger pixels on the sensor for better low-light performance.)
In other words, a solid upgrade over the GS6 and Note 5. And nothing too unexpected, aside from one of the wilder rumors of a pressure-sensitive touchscreen. (And Huawei has proved that Apple doesn't have a monopoly on that technology.)
What it means for Samsung's portfolio
The arrival of three Galaxy S7 SKUs all at once present carriers with a large number of SKUs to sell — a tough ask when you consider each Galaxy S7 size and screen variant then has its own set of storage configurations and color options. (Fewer is better, as far as the carriers are concerned.) And for branding reasons alone it'd probably kill off the Galaxy S6 edge+ entirely, after just six months or so on store shelves in some territories.
Can the Galaxy Note series stay relevant?
The larger GS7 might even step on the toes of the Galaxy Note 5 in some markets — particularly in Europe, where the Note 5 hasn't yet launched, but is rumored to land by the end of January.
In other words, it complicates matters if Samsung wants to keep the 5.7-inch Note 5 relevant. (Which it surely does if a belated European launch in January is in the cards.) Perhaps this has something to do with the apparent decision to stick a 5.5-inch display in the Galaxy S7 edge+.
Why three Galaxy S7s makes sense
By now things are probably starting to look a bit cluttered. It's just half a year from Samsung's last round of big-screen phone launches. Three models of GS7 launching concurrently could make for a less coherent marketing message — especially if the new edge+ is smaller than the old edge+.
Samsung has to offer an upgrade path for the GS6 and GS6 edge. And it also can't lean on the GS6 edge+ until the fall.
But in a lot of ways it actually makes sense.
Samsung has to offer an upgrade path for the GS6 and GS6 edge. Not everyone wants an edge screen, but the surprising success of the GS6 edge in 2015 means that size and form factor is here to stay.
And now that the edge+ family exists, Samsung can't keep fans of larger phones hanging until the fall. Assuming the GS7 edge+ will use the same internals as the other GS7s — as was the case with the GS6 edge+ and its siblings — there's no obvious technological reason to hold this model back.
What's more, a 5.5-inch Galaxy S7 edge+ could live in relative harmony alongside the Note 5 and Note 6, when that eventually lands. Samsung could reserve the 5.7-inch size for the Note line, and return to the standard tick-tock rhythm of Galaxy S and Galaxy Note in 2016.
Will that happen? Who knows. The smartphone market is unpredictable, and manufacturers and operators don't always do the thing that makes sense. But we'll find out before long, and you'll be able to cover all the announcements from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona right here on Android Central.