As Samsung prepares for its next Unpacked event ahead of Mobile World Congress in a few weeks, rumors abound about what the company will announce. Almost certainly, it will be the new Galaxy S6 smartphone, the much-rumored flagship that may be Samsung’s best chance at a comeback for its mobile business.
The latest rumor, courtesy of Bloomberg, has the Galaxy maker readying two versions: one standard 5-inch model and another with multiple screens flanking the device on three sides. Noting how the 5.7-inch Note 4 won high marks for ditching cheap plastic with fake metal trim and going with real aluminum, now Samsung will reportedly build its new pair of S6 devices with all-metal bodies.
If true, these could be what Jin Young Park, Samsung’s vice president of mobile communications, was talking about last month when he addressed investors. “We are preparing innovative and differentiated products with new features,” the executive said, according to Recode. In other words, these changes could be Samsung’s “hail mary” play to inject new life into its foundering mobility business.
Forget Bigger Displays— How About Multiples?
Samsung was once the leading maker of smartphones. Now the South Korean company is scrambling to salvage its troubled mobile division—which is somewhat embarrassing, considering it popularized the hot mobile product category of phablets to begin with.
As Samsung flails, Apple rides high on the success of its largest iPhones yet, which rocketed it to the top as the first company with a market value topping $700 billion. That’s not all. Even more competition looms on the horizon, as Chinese tech giant Xiaomi prepares to spread its dominance in Asia to other regions, including North America.
In other words, the South Korean company needs to pull off a smash hit—and fast.
Samsung’s Unpacked invitations, which prominently showed off a curve of some sort, fueled expectations for a S6 Edge, like a 5-inch variation of the 5.7-inch original released last year.
A smaller version of an existing phone hardly seems exciting. Now, with the notion of a dual-edged flagship phone with a primary display and two edge-mounted ticker screens, things get a little more interesting, if a bit wacky.
For instance, the actual usefulness of this design is still not very clear. How, exactly, are you supposed to hold this phone without setting off various actions? But developers found the original Edge kind of intriguing, and that seems to prompt Samsung into gambling that more of the same—more edges!—can drive adoption by app makers and potential customers.
The move might make more sense for Samsung than it seems. The company is a major player in display technology, and it made the first Edge and its curved-glass ticker. Now it may literally double down on that experience and expertise. Bloomberg reports that the secondary and tertiary displays would sit on the right and left sides of the phone.
Rumors And Facts
Previous rumors include a thinner body, a bigger 3,000 mAh battery and a change in processor, from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon—a popular choice among Android phones and a staple in Galaxy devices—to Samsung’s own chip, likely its Exynos eight-core processor. Hardware aficionados may salivate over potentially faster, smoother performance, but everyday users may simply like sidestepping the overheating problems from the Snapdragon 810 quad-core chip. (An analyst with ties to Qualcomm, reporting on the Chinese Weibo network, claims that the company fixed the overheating issues.)
Another story described the S6 as a very different-looking phone than its predecessor, the S5, with a unibody design that’s practically a dead ringer for the iPhone 6. That rumor isn’t completely dead yet, even in light of Bloomberg’s report, which includes some sort of “standard” version with a single display.
Meanwhile CNET Korea posted a leaked image from “sources at a South Korean electronics distributor” that show, not one or two, but as many as five different variations of the smartphone. Notably, the S6 Edge pictured shows only a single ticker screen on the right side, like the original Note Edge. The dual-ticker version is nowhere to be seen.
Throwing a slew of variations at the market seems to fit into Samsung’s typical M.O. Perhaps desperation to stop the bleed from its smartphone business is fueling even more frenzied experimentation.
If Samsung can make a hit out of the new S6 Edge, whether with one or two extra displays, that could help reverse its flagging fortunes, particularly since the device would likely fetch a higher price, too. The first Note Edge launched with a base price of $400 on contract.
With luck, Samsung will shave some of that price down this time around. Otherwise, the high cost could render this phone dead on arrival, and its sibling may not help matters. Based on what we know (or think we know) so far, the traditional single-screen device just doesn’t offer any stand-out features to set it apart.
A better and more “intelligent” camera sounds nice, especially if it really can “do all the thinking for users, allowing them to take amazing pictures under any conditions,” as Samsung’s Senior Vice President Dong Hoon Jang wrote in an official blog post. But it’s not clear that could deliver the major hit the tech company needs.
At the close of the last quarter ending in December, iPhone shipments rose to 74.5 million units, for a 46% increase year-over-year. Samsung, which offers numerous variations of its Galaxy devices, shipped roughly the same number of smartphones. But the figure amounts to a drop-off of 13% year-over-year. This follows a third quarter that saw the company’s profits plunge a harrowing 60%.
There’s only one certainty now: All eyes will be on the Unpacked event in Barcelona. It will either be remembered as the kick-off to the mother of all comeback stories, or a footnote in the sad, ongoing tale of the tech giant’s mobile decline.
Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Unpacked invitation graphic courtesy of Samsung; screenshot of Samsung press event and all other photos by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite