Day one of Mobile World Congress was all about the newest flagships from LG and Samsung. The last couple of weeks have been full of speculation but now it’s official let’s check the special that matter.
Galaxy S7 and S7 edge
The big predictions all came true with Samsung announcing the return of expandable memory through microSD support, water resistance and microUSB charger. In addition Samsung has listened to consumers and sacrificed weight for better battery life with a 3000mAh powering the 5.1 inch S7 and a 3600mAh in the 5.5inch edge. This is a large improvement from the 2550mAh in the S6 and miles ahead of the 1750mAh in the iPhone 6s and will hopefully translate to better life. Unsurprising the rest of the internals have been upgraded with a 2.3ghz 64 bit octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM which translates to a 30% improvement on its predecessor.
The key to a good phone isn’t just the hardware and Samsung hasn’t forgotten to upgrade it’s version of Android bringing Marshmallow out of the box. It also comes with a new always on feature like the LG G4 which allows uses to check the time without waking the phone and therefore saving battery life. The other major change is the duel pixel technology which allows the camera to operate better in low light conditions and focuses faster to get the most out of the camera. The edge also brings with it a few new features in the ‘tasks edge’ to pin specific tasks and ‘edge panel’ for widgets. Over the next few days at MWC every one will be putting these through their paces so check back for a hands on.
I have never really paid much attention to LG as a phone maker since it took them a little while to move passed cheap Android phones. The main point of difference with the S7 is that the G5 is a modular phone with the ability to swap out components. These modules can be used to added extra battery life, physical camera buttons and an amp with 32 bit audio output.
The internals are comparable to the S7 with a 5.3 inch display, 4 GB of RAM, a 2800mAh battery upgradeable to 3000mAh, microSD support and a 64 bit Snapdragon 820 processor. Beside the module upgrade slot the other point of difference is the inclusion of a double rear camera with a 16mp and a 8mp ‘wide angle’ which captures 135 degrees compared to 75 for the main shooter. Based on the early first impressions it sounds like this is something uses will have to get use but should hopefully decrease the appearance of the selfie stick. Not having used an LG before I’m not sure how their particular flavour of Android compares to the TouchWiz UI found on Samsung phones but for many this may be the deciding factor.
Not to be Forgotten
Some what overshadowed by the other announcements HTC revealed four new handsets including the One X9 with an octal-core processor, 3GB of RAM and a 3000mAh battery which makes it a decent middle to top range handset but nothing to get excited about. The Desire 825 and Desire 630 share the same date snapdragon 400 and 2GB of RAM but the larger Desire 825 has a slightly bigger battery to power the 5.5 inch screen. HTC’s final device the Desire 530 is obviously aimed at the budget market with a snapdragon 210 and only 1.5 GB of RAM it’s hardly a device to really get much attention.
Not to be left out Sony announced a whole new Xperia line of handsets. The midrange XA offers an edge to edge slightly curved display which is left out from its more powerful siblings but gives it a unique selling point. An upgrade to the flagship the Xperia X packs a snapdragon 610 processor and 3 GB of RAM alongside a 23 megapixel camera, an upgrade to that found on the Z5. Finally, the X Performance is equipped to fight with the big boys as it pairs the same impressive camera with a snapdragon 820 and includes water and dust resistance. Although it has created a little confusion with Sony’s existing line up of Xperia phones the X line up gained plenty of admires at MWC and seems to have faired better than HTC less inspiring announcements.
Stay tune for more from MWC including a wrap of the other major phone announcements, tablets and virtual reality.
I think Mike from Tom’s guide is spot on with this one. He raises some of the same points I made about Microsoft’s out performance of Sony at E3 last week. Especially focusing on the potential growth of the Xbox One in the backend of 2015.
Mike’s article highlights the strength of Microsoft’s exclusive titles which includes franchise favourites Halo 5, Gears of War ultimate edition and Forza 6. Others have been raving about the offerings from Sony but Mike has recognised the long wait for these titles will likely lose Sony the momentum during the end of this year. Additionally, he points out the up coming software updates including backwards compatibility and Windows 10 that will make the Xbox One far superior come Spring/Fall. Finally he touches on the Elite Controller as an added extra but with a focus on this year Mike doesn’t discuss the future potential of HoloLens or VR for either system.
E3 2015 has unleashed a wave of surprises and exciting new games for Xbox One and PS4 fans alike but with all the announcements done, it’s time to reflect and see who won this heavy weight fight. To give a detailed comparison I thought I would break this down into three categories; System, Games and Peripheries.
Xbox One: Possibly the biggest surprise of E3 was the announcement of backwards compatibility coming to Xbox One this spring (Fall for my friends in the Northern Hemisphere) but currently only available to those lucky enough to be invited to the Xbox Preview. So far the list of Games is very short but it will grow quickly before the app goes live and personally I can’t wait to start playing Mass Effect on my Xbox One. Not only has this caught Sony by surprise but they have since disappointed fans by quickly killing any rumours that they might be doing the same any time soon. In addition Microsoft gave us a look at the new Xbox dashboard complete with Cortana that we will see later this year with the Windows 10 update.
PlayStation 4: Compared to the Xbox event Sony was much more game focused but they did talk about some exciting changers to PlayStation Vue. The live streaming TV service is being released in new regions and with a chose your own channel service. Notably this sees Sony move further towards the all in one entertainment system that was the original goal of the Xbox One.
Verdict: Got to give this one to the Xbox One as backwards compatibility has the potential to be a game changer as any one needing to replace their 360 can simply upgrade and still play all their old games. Some people like myself may have even put off the decision to upgrade because of this limitation. In contrast the upgrade to PlayStation Vue will benefit existing owners but probably won’t be that nudge to jump on board.
Before getting stuck into the exclusive titles it is important to recognise that comparing games is always going to be very subjective based on your past experience and your existing emotional attachment. This year that perhaps is more important than usual as most of the big titles from both our contenders have a touch of nostalgia and are the newest games to pre existing game series. Personally that means for me any new Halo is ultimately a kill all since I have been hocked from the very beginning but as always I will try to keep a critical mind.
Xbox One: The line up from Microsoft’s conference didn’t hold to many surprises as they emphasised the favourites; Halo 5 Guardians, Forza 6, Fable Legends, Rise of the Tomb Raider the official conformation of Gears of War ultimate edition and the 4th instalment in the successful shooter. However, there are a few completely new titles like the action RPG Ashen, run and gun Cuphead, free to play Gigantic, adventurous Sea of Thieves and the action adventure ReCore. In addition to all these new titles the Rare Replay a collection of 30 classic Rare games for $30 including Banjo Kazooie and Prefect Dark is an absolute steal for a quick hit of nostalgia dating back 30 years.
PlayStation 4: Games was defiantly the focus of Sony’s conference and they had done well to keep the biggest announcements secret before the expo. Leading with the long awaited The Last Guardian was always going to be a hit with fans and that was only the beginning then came the remake of Final Fantasy VII and the kickstarter Shenmue 3 which completed fans wish list. New titles like the borderless No Man’s Sky and the stunning looking RPG Horizon Zero Dawn as well as other exclusives including Street Fighter 5 and Uncharted 4 helped demonstrated Sony’s focus on hard core gaming fans. The steal however was Call of Duty as the lucrative franchise departs from its recent partnership with Microsoft to release exclusive content
Verdict: Despite my preference for Xbox i’m going to give this one to the PS4 due to execution, since Sony had been able to keep things quite in the lead up to E3 and pulled off the steal of the year by getting Call of Duty to jump ship.
Finally … Peripherals
Xbox One: Microsoft got the ball rolling here before the conference with the announcement of a partnership with Oculus Rift to take advantage of VR gaming. Extending this strategy Microsoft committed to a similar partnership with one of the other major developers in this exciting new avenue for gaming in Valve VR. The real star of the show was HoloLens as Microsoft showed off 3D Minecraft to a captivated audience but it doesn’t stop with the obvious applications as reviewers got the opportunity to test out the augmented reality headset with Halo 5’s new Warzone mode. If that wasn’t enough Microsoft have given us the Elite controller which is fully customisable with adjustable parts and settings to let users play their way.
PlayStation 4: Leading up to E3 every one was hoping for more information about Project Morpheus, Sony’s own VR headset. Unfortunately, I felt this was a bit of a let down since Sony spoke about the headset and showed an interesting trailer for RIGS a VR game that allows multiple players to enter the same virtual world the information and WOW factor was limited with only some vague assertions of a 2016 release. Thankfully reviews got to test drive the headset during the expo and it seems like it is going to offer a rich VR gaming experience.
Verdict: This one was a clear win to Phil Spencer and his Xbox team, not only did they bring the mind blowing demo but they also made sure they didn’t forget hardcore gamers with the elite.
It might not surprise anyone but i have to give 2015 to Microsoft as they seam to have finally learn’t and brought their A game. Overall Microsoft have taken more into account and listened to feedback with backwards compatibility, a real demonstration of HoloLens and a new controller. In addition the only category where Sony have out performed Microsoft this year is highly subjective as personally I’m looking foward to adding at least 6 of those exclusive Xbox titles to my collection ASAP. Meanwhile there are a couple of caveats to some of those surprises, firstly No Man’s Sky will release on PC at the same time as PS4 and most games will not be released until 2016 with Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue 3 without even that level of guidance.
But don’t take my opinion for it, check out the links and make up your own mind and leave your thoughts.
A pre-E3 bombshell! Oculus have announced a partnership with the Xbox for the release of their long awaited virtual reality headset. I’m still not sure yet if virtual reality will take off as it is limited by tethering and the practical application of VR in the everyday world but this arrangement makes sense for Microsoft. It provides an answer to Sony’s development of a VR system for the PlayStation 4 and gives consumers another reason to jump on board Windows 10. The deal further demonstrates Microsoft’s new mindset to open themselves up to different platforms and allows them to still capitalise on any future success in VR while still focusing on the augmented reality with HoloLens. Perhaps we will find out more at E3 about the potential of this new technology to change gaming.