Mobile World Congress isn’t technically over until Thursday, but the biggest announcements from this year’s show are already behind us. We’ve seen some fantastic innovations across the board at MWC 2016, from smartphones and laptops to accessories and a whole new category of mobile companion devices.
But the most interesting development at the show might be the start of the next chapter in the smartphone industry, as Apple’s rivals no longer appear to be relying on the iPhone for “inspiration” when developing their own devices.
In 2007, Apple released a smartphone that would go on to turn the entire industry on its head.
It’s easy to read those words, but stop for a moment to fully consider them. The biggest smartphone company in the world at the time was Nokia. Today, Nokia doesn’t even make smartphones anymore. BlackBerry, Motorola, Sony and Microsoft were also major players in the global smartphone market, and now they’re each barely a blip on the radar.
Beyond the players involved, Apple also dramatically improved the touch experience, in effect killing off physical keyboards and completely changing the way we interact with mobile devices.
Since then, the industry has been all about back and forth between Apple and iPhone vendors. The iPhone introduces new features, Android companies copy them and add a few unique features for good measure. Android phones introduce new features, Apple copies them and adds a few unique features for good measure. But at Mobile World Congress this year, we saw what could be the start of a major shift in the market.
Among the three biggest new smartphone announcements made at the show, not one of them focused on features that were copied from Apple’s latest iPhone. Let’s take a look:
Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung has historically been the worst offender when it comes to copying Apple’s iPhone. It’s impossible to argue otherwise. But in 2016, the company’s flagship phones paint a much different picture.
Rumors leading up to the Galaxy S7 launch suggested that Samsung might ape the iPhone 6s’ new 3D Touch feature, but that didn’t end up happening. There is functionality that’s similar to the iPhone’s Live Photos, but it’s not a key feature of the new phones. In fact, Samsung didn’t even mention it during briefings ahead of Sunday’s announcements.
Let’s look at the most important new features on the Galaxy S7: the best quad HD Super AMOLED display in the world, a killer camera that introduces new tech that is never before seen on a smartphone, IP68 water and dust resistance, and expandable memory. None of those things can be found on the iPhone 6s.
Don’t miss our hands-on Galaxy S7 and S7 edge preview.
While the Galaxy S7 sports a design similar to last year’s Galaxy S6 so it still bears a bit of a resemblance to the iPhone 6, there’s no question at all that LG took a completely different path with the G5.
LG has become the first smartphone maker in the world to build a modular flagship smartphone that will be widely available. Using a special connector mechanism, users can instantly transform the G5 into a camera with point and shoot quality, or into a killer high-quality audio player. There are also a wide range of companion devices that LG showed off alongside the G5, such as a little robot ball that rolls around snapping pictures.
The LG G5 is nothing at all like the iPhone, and you’ll find our in-depth preview here.
HP Elite x3
HP’s return to the smartphone market is aimed squarely at enterprise users, and it might be the polar opposite of Apple’s iPhones.
The Elite x3 is a premium phablet with build quality and battery life that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. But it’s also much more than that. HP designed the x3 to be a phablet, a laptop and a desktop PC in one — single device for IT managers to worry about instead of three separate devices.
Windows 10 affords HP the flexibility to pull off the impressive feat, though Microsoft’s platform is also the device’s biggest barrier to success. We covered all that and more in our hands-on HP Elite x3 preview.
Dollars and Sense is a recurring column by BGR Executive Editor Zach Epstein. It offers insights on subtle changes in and around consumer electronics with the potential to have a broad impact on companies that drive the industry. Contact the author at email@example.com.