They say the year doesn’t truly begin until the first round of smartphones are released. (OK, nobody actually says that, but everyone’s thinking it.) While it may seem like the tech year begins with January’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES), things don’t really get rolling until Mobile World Congress, where the industry’s heaviest hitters not named Apple or Google showcase all of the latest tricks and innovations that can fit inside a five-and-a-half-inch rectangle.
And this year’s conference didn’t disappoint. Samsung, LG, Sony, Xiaomi, even Caterpillar took their best shot at creating the smartphone of the year, each trying to best the iPhone with the right combination of form, features, and function. But while many of the handsets released this week might look a heck of a lot like Apple’s iconic device, they’re far from straight-up copycats. The truth is, while its competitors may have given up on trying to out-innovate Apple when it comes to design, these phones still pack a few things that iPhone users would love to have.
Back in 2014, Samsung made a splash by adding water-resistance to the Galaxy S5, but inexplicably last year’s model—the Galaxy S6—did away with it. Samsung brought it back in a big way with the Galaxy S7, packing it with an IP68-rated resistance to dust and liquid (which means it can withstand immersion in about five feet of water for up to a half hour). iPhone users have long wished for Apple to waterproof its handsets, and it starting to look a little passé that they’re not. Besides, we’re getting a little tired of freaking out whenever someone knocks over a glass of water in the vicinity of our iPhones.
The biggest advantage Android phones have always had over the iPhone has been the ability to expand and customize. Galaxy fans were surely happy to learn that Samsung brought back its MicroSD card slot for extra storage, but LG took expansion to a whole new level with this year’s G5. Instead of a tiny tray, the entire bottom of the phone slides out and can be replaced with swappable add-on modules, including a bigger battery, professional camera controls, and high-fi audio controller, with more surely on the way.
Now, it’ll be a cold day in hell before Apple does anything quite so drastic with the iPhone, but Apple has shown some willingness to open the iPhone up to add-on features—the iPad Camera Connection Kit and Smart Battery Case come to mind—so on-device expansion might not be so far off.
Battery life has long been a thorn in the side of iOS and Android users alike, but Samsung has made some great strides in that department. It’s not just the massive 3,000mAh and 3,600mAh batteries inside the S7 and S7 Edge, respectively—both phones also include a few convenient features to maximize convenience and charging. The first is fast cable charging, which, as its name suggests, charges the battery as quickly as possible. And the S7 includes both standard and fast wireless charging as well, via an optional stand charger. Either or both of these features would be very welcome in the iPhone 7.
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