In the back-and-forth competition between Samsung and Apple, the Galaxy S7 certainly seems to have notched a few wins over the iPhone 6S. Most reviewers feel the Samsung camera is noticeably superior and the overall look and feel is on a par with or better than the Apple product. I want to focus on just one area where Samsung differs from Apple – in power management (clear advantages) and charging (advantage on paper, less clearly in practice).
Who wins in this area on any given mobile product release comes down to 3 things: battery size, how quickly you drain that battery in normal use and how conveniently you can recharge. The first one is easy to compare – the S7 battery (3000mAh on the S7, 3600 mAh on the S7 Edge) is larger than the 6S battery (1810mAh on the 6S, 2750mAh on the 6S Plus) and is estimated to last even heavy usage throughout the day without needing to recharge.
For how quickly the battery drains, of course if you start with a bigger battery, you have an automatic advantage. Whether that matters to you depends on how you use your phone. If, like me, you use it primarily for calls, quickly checking mail and maybe a little navigation while out of town, the 6S has an edge because it’s reportedly still lower power than the S7 in standby mode. Multiple reviewers point to Samsung bloatware on top of Android as part of this problem.
On the other hand, if your phone is your main portal to the digital world and you’re using it for music, TV, games, browsing and everything else then active-mode battery lifetime is more important and the S7 seems to be comfortably ahead of the 6S.
Either way, you eventually have to charge your phone and that brings me to the seemingly endless guessing game on where solutions to that problem are headed. The default is wires – micro-USB for the S7, Lightning for the 6S. But of course wires are inconvenient and we’d really like to get rid of them – maybe. This has driven a resurgence in wireless charging – primarily around multiple standards: PMA (which you’ll find at Starbucks locations), Rezence (which is supported in a number of semiconductor devices, but I haven’t seen news of uptake in consumer products yet) and Qi (pronounced Chi, which you can find in Ikea furniture). PMA uses inductive charging, Rezence uses magnetic resonance charging – these guys have joined forces under the AirFuel Alliance. Qi is an incompatible standard that now supports both induction and resonance charging.
The S7 (and the S6 before it) makes this a don’t care by supporting both standards with a built-in IDT P9221 power-receiver. (TI had this slot in the S6, showing how fleeting is the glory of winning a slot in a major smart-phone.) So you can charge or top-up your S7 at either Starbucks or on top of an Ikea lamp at home. And you can do that without needing to add any after-market bits. Not so for the Apple phone – you have to use a plug-in induction coil at Starbucks or buy a Qi wireless charger receiver, both of which occupy the port on your phone when charging.
Do built-in wireless-charging options really matter? Starbucks and Ikea support still barely rise past the level of a curiosity – convenient but hardly the end of the world if we lost it tomorrow. The problem seems to be that wireless charging stations are just not at a critical mass to create demand that they should be in even more locations. Until then, this option may remain a nice-to-have and charging through a wire overnight remains no more than slightly inconvenient. Which begs the question of how secure a foothold wireless charging may have in cost-sensitive smartphones.