Samsung's Latest Galaxy Handsets Are Variations on a Tired Theme

NEWS ANALYSIS: The smartphone features war continues to stack up casualties while mobile handset makers struggle to achieve relevance, but mostly fail.

Samsung Troubles 2

A few days from now, on Aug. 20, Samsung will launch two of the latest smartphones that it plans to use in its relentless Android competition with Apple.

At first, the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ will be released in Korea, then in the U.S. late in September. These two phablets will support Samsung's phone-based payment system, Samsung Pay.

Samsung is making a big deal of its new payment technology, announced earlier this year, which is said to work with a much broader choice of credit card terminals than either Apple Pay or Google Pay, both of which use Near Field Communication (NFC).

The phones that support Samsung Pay will be able to use NFC, but also something called Magnetic Secure Transmission, which simulates the magnetic field produced by the stripe on the back of a credit card.

At some point, Samsung Pay will become available to Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones in the U.S. through a software upgrade. These phones already have the ability to read fingerprints and that will be used for identity verification with Samsung Pay. Like Apple Pay and Google's Android Pay, Samsung's payment system will tokenize the credit card information to keep actual card numbers from being transmitted in the open.

Apple, meanwhile, will be announcing the next version of the iPhone, which may be known as the iPhone 6s or perhaps the iPhone 7, in early September, assuming all of the many media reports on the subject are right. Apple's next big thing will probably be something called "Force Touch," which means that you can make different things happen depending on how hard you press on the screen.

The new iPhone will certainly have a new processor that will make things run faster, and presumably so will the new Samsung Galaxy. Both phones will have cool features that relatively few users will actually use. At this point, there don't appear to be any real ground-breaking changes on the horizon.

There are reasons for the lack of breath-taking changes. Apple, despite its reputation for being on the cutting edge and being astonishingly cool, tends to be fairly conservative in its release of new features.

This is why it took so long for an iPhone with a bigger screen to make an appearance. To its credit, Apple seems to want to make sure that any new features actually work before releasing them on to an unsuspecting public.

Samsung has its own set of problems that stem from the company's attempts to be all things to all people, which forces it to support a vast array of products, some of which don't make much money.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...