Samsung misses their S7 Vulkan Deadline, but Finally adds Support
Back in February, Samsung made a big deal about the gaming performance of their new Galaxy S7 smartphone. One of the key features of the S7 that they were showcasing was that it would be the first smartphone to support the Vulkan API.
Samsung representatives talked extensively at the time about how Vulkan support would allow the S7 to outperform other devices with similar chipsets like the HTC 10 and the LG G5. They quoted numbers like “67% Higher GPU Performance” and “80% More Efficient CPU”. Samsung felt that being the first to support Vulkan would help them get more games into their store, providing value added for the S7 compared to other phones, specifically mentioning upcoming mobile specific games from Nintendo and Konami and integration with Gear VR and Oculus. It was almost surprising how heavily Samsung was pushing Vulkan as a killer feature.
It appears that Samsung ran into some difficulties getting it ready in time for launch, and had to delay support of Vulkan. Despite the delays, they continued with their media campaign promoting Vulkan. The S7 shipped with everything required for Vulkan other than the VK_KHR_swapchain extension. Vulkan support is now finally rolling out to the S7 alongside the August security patch.
Unfortunately, that means that their claim that the “Galaxy S7 and S7 edge are the first smartphones to support the Vulkan API” just isn’t true.
Developers and users alike were left disappointed by Samsung failing to follow through on their promise. Developers were forced to look elsewhere for their Vulkan testbeds, and users were left without the gaming performance improvements and “console quality gaming” that they were sold on.
The Nvidia Shield TV was the first available production option, adding support for Vulkan back in February, the day after the S7 announced, and the Shield Tablet K1 and the Shield Tablet received updates to support Vulkan on 13 April 2016 and 12 May 2016 respectively. But that’s OK, Samsung’s claim didn’t really include Android TV boxes and tablets.
The Samsung Note 7 was up next, launching on 19 August 2016 with Vulkan support (with the same processor as the Galaxy S7). Samsung followed through on their claims of having the first phone with stock software supporting Vulkan, it just wasn’t on the S7. Then Nougat came out. Vulkan support was added to the Nexus 6P, the Nexus 5X, and the Pixel C with the second Developer Preview on 13 April 2016, and then launched officially on 22 August 2016.
Now, that’s not very long between when the Note 7 launched and when the S7 received the update, but it is 6 months of Samsung claiming that the S7 supports Vulkan, without actually implementing it. It’s 6 months of devs waiting for their phone to receive a feature that was advertised as being ready on day one. We’ve had over four months of other phones having support (and even longer for tablets), allowing devs that purchased Nexus devices to get a head start on preparing their games for Vulkan.
Even worse, the Vulkan driver was registered and ready for them to roll out earlier this month (it had to be for the Note 7 launch). If they had pushed their August security patch out just a couple days earlier (let alone near the beginning of the month like they ideally should be), they would have beaten the Nexus devices and the Note 7 to an official stable release with Vulkan support. They could have kept (part of) their advertising accurate to the letter by releasing just a couple days earlier than they did.
But that’s beside the point. Having truth in advertising to the letter is important, but being accurate in spirit is critical. Any developer that bought the S7 intending to spend the last half a year preparing for Vulkan games on mobile was mislead. Users that bought an S7 because they thought that they would have immediate access to Vulkan games instead of buying a different phone could have justifiable buyer’s remorse.
For those that reached out to Samsung about the lack of Vulkan in the S7, how did they respond? How do you think they should have responded to people who bought the phone? How should Samsung have adjusted product advertising when Vulkan was delayed? Could Samsung have released a public beta version with Vulkan support to the developer community? Sound off below!