When the mobile world meets in Barcelona in February, one thing awaits you from the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer: more. More sharpness on the display, more megapixels in the camera – more memory in the smartphone-and more innovations than last year.
After the presentation of the latest Galaxy S7 smartphones from Samsung on Sunday evening, observers have to realize: They dare something. The display is as sharp as last year, there is also an Edge variant with a curved display on the sides, the camera even has fewer pixels and the internal memory is only 32 gigabytes. However, this time it can be expanded by up to 200 gigabytes through a card slot.
Is this the end of innovation from South Korea? A surrender to the archenemy Apple? Judging by the self-confidence of Samsung managers in Barcelona, the exact opposite is true. Samsung is convinced to have the next big thing.
It seems that the group wants to put everything on one map. Instead of praising the specifications of its new flagship smartphone with superlatives, Samsung presented the Galaxy S7 as a virtual reality machine. “Today we are at the beginning of a new era,” said D. J. Koh, head of the smartphone division at Samsung.
The presentation in Barcelona was also partly virtual: Although several hundred journalists physically gathered at the venue, each of them had to put on VR glasses in the meantime to follow the presentation.
In fact, Samsung is one of the pioneers in the virtual reality market. Although companies such as HTC, Sony and Oculus have been showing their VR glasses at trade fairs and other events for some time, so far only Samsung glasses, which were created in cooperation with Oculus, have been sold. Currently even in the third generation.
Oculus was acquired by Facebook. During the S7 presentation, Samsung surprised with an unexpected guest: Mark Zuckerberg. “VR is the next platform,” said the Facebook founder. Virtual reality is the most social platform ever. “VR will change our lives and work.“
VR is still in an early stage. But soon everyone will have the opportunity to broadcast their surroundings live on the Internet in a 360-degree video. “The best is yet to come,” Zuckerberg said.
Samsung wants to give the market a boost right at the start: Anyone who orders the new Samsung smartphone in the next three weeks will receive VR glasses as a gift.
Samsung recently lowered the price of its glasses to just under 100 euros – and speaks of a great sales success. Users can slide their Samsung smartphone into the glasses and watch games, videos or photos in the all-round view. You immerse yourself in a 360-degree world where you can look to all sides. However, the content offer is still somewhat limited. Anyone who has looked around for a few hours with his VR glasses will hardly find anything new.
Samsung now wants to change that, too. In Barcelona, the group showed a camera that takes photos and videos in all-round view. In the future, users will be able to create their own 360-degree views.
The camera will be sold from April for about 400 euros. It captures your surroundings with two fisheye lenses and then automatically assembles the photos or videos.
Until now, these cameras were mainly available for professional users at significantly higher prices. At the beginning of January at the CES in Las Vegas, the action camera manufacturer Gopro and Nikon, among others, announced such cameras. Samsung knows that a mass market is only possible if enough content is available.
Expectations in virtual reality are high. The market researcher TrendForce from Taiwan expects 6.7 billion dollars to be spent on software and hardware related to virtual reality in the current year. Over the next five years, this sum is expected to increase more than tenfold to $ 70 billion.
Because this market is still young, the predictions are still very different from each other. “But it will become a billion-dollar market,” says Samsung. Apple CEO Tim Cook called virtual reality “pretty cool” in his last balance sheet presentation, it brings many areas of application with it and is by no means a niche product.
Soon there will be a lot of manufacturers. Samsung has so far only offered its VR glasses for some high-priced smartphones, not least because only very high-resolution displays are well suited for this. But Google has already announced that it will produce similar glasses for other Android smartphones, which go beyond the previous cardboard version called Cardboard for a few euros.
Samsung has recently come under pressure in the smartphone market. The manufacturer lost market share last year. According to figures from market researcher IDC, the global share has fallen from 24.4 percent to 22.7 percent within a year.
Apple has increased from 14,8 percent to 16,2 percent in the same period. Recently, Samsung even had to report a drop in profits. 2016 will also be difficult “due to a difficult business environment and weaker IT demand,” it said.
It should be only a small consolation for Samsung that rival Apple is also in trouble and could hardly increase in the number of iPhones sold recently. Because apparently, Apple is already taking a counter-strike. According to media reports, a secret unit of the iPhone group with several hundred employees is experimenting with virtual reality solutions.
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