Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge waterproof flagship smartphones launched at MWC

Samsung has unveiled its latest Galaxy S7 flagship smartphones, bringing back favourite features as it aims to close out the top-end of the Android market.

The new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge Android smartphones, unveiled in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress, build on the design of last year’s popular S6 versions but add IP68 waterproofing and a microSD card slot – two features the Korean company had become known for until 2015.

The Galaxy S7 has a flat 5.1in screen but a curved glass back, adding to the ergonomics. The larger Galaxy S7 Edge has a 5.5in screen that is curved at the left and right-hand edges and has minimal bezels either side of the screen making it one of the most narrow phablets available.

The new smartphones have a microSD card slot for expandable storage, something Samsung phones had until last year. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

They both run the latest version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, have 4GB of Ram for improved multitasking and 30% more powerful processors with “thermal spreader” water-cooling technology to avoid the phones overheating.

Both smartphones also have significantly larger batteries, which promise to avoid the need to constantly be in search of a power point. The company has also put in tools to help save battery power while gaming, that also allow users to capture footage of their gaming sessions similar to the way console gamers can.

Samsung Galaxy S7 has an always-on display feature, that displays the time, date or other limited information on the screen at all times. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Samsung is also pushing an always-on display setting that uses the screen’s AMOLED display to light a minimal graphic showing the time, date or other user-configurable information. The company claims the feature will consume less than 1% battery per hour.

The phones also have a new, slimmer 12-megapixel camera designed with low-light photography in mind. It uses larger 1.4um pixels and a lens with an f-stop of 1.7 to let 25% more light into the sensor, as well as a very fast autofocus system, to help prevent grainy or blurred photos.

The camera now only sticks out 0.46mm from the back of the phone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer, is locked in a battle over the floating votes of smartphone buyers with Apple in most developed markets.

The company is betting on battery, waterproofing and camera enhancements to entice buyers, while attempting to expand the larger ecosystem around the smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge with its curved screen. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Rory O’Neill, head of brand and product marketing for Samsung said: “The UK smartphone market has matured. Those under 25 now choose a smartphone with emphasis on its interaction with other services and devices. We have to do more than just produce a smartphone, we have to redefine what a phone can do.”

Part of that push will be Samsung’s Internet of Things system called SmartThings, plus connections to the company’s televisions, home audio systems, cameras and its virtual reality headset made in partnership with Facebook’s Oculus Rift.

Samsung also said it intended to bring its mobile phone contactless payments system currently available in the US and South Korea, Samsung Pay, to six more markets in 2016, including the UK, Spain, Australia, Brazil, China and Singapore.

The Gear 360 is Samsung’s new 360-degree camera, capable of shooting video and photos using two fish-eye lenses and two 15-megapixel sensors. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Samsung also launched a 360-degree camera, the Gear 360, which resembles a small ball only slightly bigger than a golf ball. It has two 180-degree fish-eye lenses, can be remotely controlled by a Samsung phone and can stream video or 30-megapixel photos in real time.

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