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[samsung] Soul-Searching at Samsung (and Korea Inc.)

Whaaat?

Samsung has a main culprit in its combustible battery fiasco, and the problem is among the hardest to fix. It is Samsung itself.

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The real difficulty appears to be the hard-charging nature of Samsung itself, and a culture of continuous-cutting and expediency over quality. That is a recipe for wrecking a brand.

There have been similar problems in tech before. Eleven years ago, the batteries in Dell laptops caught fire. Dell’s culture was considered stingy to the point of error at times.

For years, big companies, in particular Samsung, have been closely identified with the national character and industrial policy of South Korea, as well as how individuals might succeed within the culture. .

My 2 cents:

A die-hard work ethic has historically been the cement between the inherently contradictory Samsung strengths: innovation and frugality. This work ethic has been the competitive advantage that has kept the company united in opposing pursuits and allowed Samsung to fight the high spending “surprising and delightful” Apple and similarly pragmatic giants LG, Phillips and Sony (to name a few).

But the wear and tear from keeping tabs on two quickly specializing industries is finally taking its toll on Samsung and it looks like hard work alone won’t cut it this time. Samsung’s combustible battery episode is dramatic proof that no level of innovation can cover lacking quality. What’s worse, no amount of quality and affordability can cover lacking innovation.

Samsung, a microcosm of Korean industrial culture, stands at a crossroads and decisions beyond prioritization will be made. Methods and priorities need to be revised before more Samsung products and practices go up in flame.

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[samsung] Samsung May have Resolved the Biggest Smartwatch Problem

Whaaat?

If your smartwatch’s teeny tiny face makes it tough to navigate the device, a futuristic tool reportedly in the works could put more control into your hands. A new Samsung patent filing shows a projector integrated into the smartwatch that expands the interactive area you can use to control your watch onto your body.

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Specifically, the technology would project interfaces such as a dialpad, keyboard or menu options onto the back of your hand or forearm, and you can touch those areas to input numbers, words or selections. Based on drawings accompanying the patent, the watch may even be able to project onto surfaces such as walls or doors to enlarge the virtual user interface.

The patent states that the wearable device would include an omnidirectional camera to detect a target area to use as a canvas along with an image projector. Samsung also indicated in the filing that this technology could also be used for head mounted displays, such as virtual reality headsets, to let the wearer display what they’re seeing on an object in their surroundings.

The projector would display “the virtual UI screen that is formed by reconfiguring the UI screen of the HMD device to correspond to a shape of at least one of the preset space,” according to patent filing.

My 2 cents:

Ok, hologram keyboards (albeit AMAZING) might not be the next smartwatch fix, but this is nonetheless important as it sheds light into where we are with smartwatches now, and where we could be down the line. Samsung and Apple are at strange crossroads in what one of the hotter categories that have popped up recently (along with autocars and vr/ar). Apple has a fashion statement of a watch but runs into the same iPad type issues: its an awesome piece of tech, but it isn’t all that useful and is prohibitively exclusive in that it requires buy into iOS. Samsung’s gear was more “watch-like” from the get go but that momentum is dying down. What’s worse though is the dozens of developers working on their smartwatches for Android. Yet necessity is the mother of invention and diagnosing current pain point and proposing a 10x solution is the type of invention that could be the turning point for the Gear: a watch that could put the phone and tablet to rest.

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[samsung] How VR at Retail Stores Is Reshaping the Consumer Experience

Whaaat?

Just as magic mirrors, beacons and even mobile payments once seemed futuristic, VR at retail stores has progressed from science fiction to the next disruptive retail computing platform. Retailers bent on distinguishing themselves with immersive, wow-factor customer experiences ― and enhancing store operations by requiring less space to merchandise more products ― are charging ahead with this revolutionary shopping technology.

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Goldman Sachs envisions VR retail software becoming a $500 million revenue opportunity by 2020, and ballooning to $1.6 billion by 2025. In its recent report, the company says VR is one of the technologies “retailers will have to invest in to serve their customers and keep ahead of their competition.” The investment firm notes that it is “less focused on the software revenue opportunity [than] the disruption potentially caused in the retail markets the technology can serve.”

Shoppers equipped with a smartphone and a VR headset can fully immerse themselves in a cinematic virtual reality shopping environment. As they traverse store aisles and fixate on a product, more information about that item is delivered in panoramic 3D ― including related options such as cross-sells and up-sells not necessarily stocked in-store. Shoppers can learn more about how to use the product, which products it complements, how it might fit, where and how it was made, view demonstrations, conduct tests and then tap their headsets to place items in their virtual shopping carts.

As consumers interact with products and within shopping aisles, retailers can interpret shopping preferences and patterns to streamline their retail strategies. Retailers even can test displays and layouts, all in virtual reality, before physically building them out.

My 2 cents:

Goldman Sachs says it best as it pinpoints the current state of VR adoption: the bet is on VR’s disruptive potential than the actual sell-ability of each model. For VR players as Samsung, the big win will be getting retailers to envision the shopping experience that can be delivered to customers (an interactive space without sacrificing the fundamental sell space retailers are so bent over monetizing) or better yet, to envision not delivering this shopping experience while your competition does. VR for retail can increase sales, help push new category adoption, deliver a relatively cheaper customized shopping experience and generate crazy levels of individual shopping data. Of all the VR angles, enhancing customer understanding of and interaction with the product seems most ripe to go and Samsung is ready to be the go-to model to Minority Report, retail style.

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[samsung] India: The New Apple v. Samsung Battleground

Whaaat?

Samsung Electronics is regaining smartphone share in India with a revamped line-up packed with special features including a safety mode for motorcyclists, as rival Apple readies a renewed push into the world’s fastest-growing market.

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Though still squeezed by Apple in the premium segment and by Chinese rivals such as Huawei Technologies at the lower end, analysts say Samsung is righting itself by launching more attractive products and shaving production costs to compete better on price.

Samsung mid-level smartphones, especially the J series, have been doing quite well in emerging countries, especially in India. Such efforts, and better-than-anticipated sales for its flagship Galaxy S7 devices, are expected to lift Samsung’s earnings.

Since mid-2014, Samsung has been overhauling its product design, particularly in the mid-to-low tier segments, phasing out old and unpopular models and launching new devices including the A, E and J series.

The newer devices incorporate parts and features traditionally found only in high-end phones, such as metal frames and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens. As well as giving the phones a premium feel, that also enables Samsung to increase the number components common across its products, cutting costs and enabling more aggressive pricing, analysts said.

In addition to trying to secure permission to sell used, or refurbished, phones in India, Apple is betting its new 4-inch iPhone SE can help it gain new customers in the country. Despite the price gap, Apple’s emerging market-focused phone could pose a threat to Samsung, some analysts say, particularly if it wins approval to import refurbished iPhones.

My 2 cents:

The two most popular smartphones clash in India in pursuit of a decisive victory over the other but for very distinct reasons. Samsung is on a perceived upward trend in the high-end market, coming off a very successful campaign around the new S7, but pressured on the home front to fend off low-cost alternatives poaching their broad international markets. Apple is yet to prove the iPhone is plateauing so it has been resorting to entering new markets where re-editing their success story can bring additional revenues and quell negative voices and buys time to work on the proverbial “next iPhone.” India for its volumous and untapped potential has the added benefit of being cost-efficient. In a contest between affordability and prestige, India might find Samsung and Apple playing opposing roles than what the US market is accustomed to: here the S7 is the object of desire (hence the importance of product line variety) and the iPhone is the affordable alternative (hence Apple’s push for refurbished unit importation).

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[samsung] Three new videos focus on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Whaaat?

By now, you should know that the way to resolve all of these “Why?” questions is to buy the Samsung Galaxy S7 or Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. And we won’t even bother to give away the surprise ending with William Macy, who wants to know why he can’t be the official spokesman for the Galaxy S7 edge. After all, the phone is “the only water resistant, best wireless charging, best camera having memory expandable pay almost anywhere” phone,” Macy says.

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My 2 cents:

The S7 takes pictures in the dark, is water resistant, has more memory, charges wirelessly and quickly and is a VR component; clear and concise, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 comes to market after a bit of obscurity ready to take on the functional shortcomings of your average smartphone and makes its VR play clear to the entire world.

[samsung] Samsung To Add More Gear S2 Options, iPhone Compatibility

Whaaat?

Samsung’s strategy for achieving domination with its smartwatches: options. All kinds of options. Will that help sell more smart watches?

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Samsung said that its Gear S2 Classic watch will now be available in new finishes and more aesthetic options, Samsung said it’s adding not only new band options, but also new watch faces that will feature artwork from artists now, it only had half a dozen of fairly basic face designs.

It’s also adding more apps, the company said, and that the upcoming models will be equipped with near-field communication technology, the underlying tech for its mobile payment technology, Samsung Pay.

But perhaps Samsung’s boldest move to becoming a bigger smartwatch maker: compatibility with the iPhone, which it says will come later this year. The Gear S2 watches will be able to connect online through a Bluetooth signal from the phone so users can manage their settings instead of having to use an Android phone, it won’t have all the features it would with an Android phone however, such as Samsung Pay.

In September, Samsung added compatibility with the newer versions of Android on certain phones, showing that it’s opening its mind to more mobile devices. Android Wear, Google’s smartwatch operating system, also added iPhone compatibility last summer.

My 2 cents:

Wearables are in, but what the market has demonstrated is a gap in features and perceived benefits on the developer side and interests on the consumer side. Unlike the smartphone, tablet and music player revolutions, smart wearables, specifically watches, wander into the fashion and accessorizing world that tech giants are catching up to. On one hand, Samsung’s cross-compatibility play minimizes the importance of ecosystems in a customar’s choice of smartwatch, on the other, it embraces the watch as a fashion piece on par with a functionality piece.

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[samsung] Samsung Plans To Change How It Does Business, Shifting Focus From Hardware To Software

Whaaat?

A change in leadership happened recently at Samsung, which might mean that the South Korean company will concentrate more on building software rather than hardware products.

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Some voices in the media assume that the move follows sinking hardware sales, a result of Samsung’s market share being chipped away by Apple at the premium end and Asian brands such as Xiaomi and Huawei at the lower end.

Before replacing Shin Jong-Kyun, new president Koh Dong Jin took care of the R & D department of Samsung Mobile and worked closely to develop Samsung Pay and Knox.

“Based on Koh’s career background, it suggests Samsung will put more weight on its software focus instead of hardware,” said analyst Greg Roh, according to Bloomberg.

Sources familiar with Samsung’s mobile strategies stated that the company’s potential lies more in software power and new innovations than in its hardware offerings.

Jin’s leadership is expected to orient the OEM towards better software services and products, some of which will increase the revenue by using subscription-like mechanisms.

A good example to follow is Apple’s business model. The Cupertino-based company not only earns around $200 per iPhone, but also increases its profit through iTunes, App Store and Apple Pay. In the last quarter of 2015, Apple’s software and services division banked $5 billion in revenue.

The biggest threat to Samsung is might be the competition on the lower end though.

Analysts point out that new players entered local markets with a fair degree of success, and it is safer for Samsung to retreat from these niches and focus on places that could give it an edge again.

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[samsung] Hurts So Good: 12 hours with the New Samsung Gear VR

Whaaat?

So it was with a lot of excitement and a little bit of dread that I volunteered to write about the new Gear VR — a mobile VR headset from Samsung and Oculus.

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I started out with 360-degree videos, since I had recently experienced those with the The New York Times and Google Cardboard. The quality of the image was abysmal when streaming. It improved once I downloaded the videos, but still looked like a 720p YouTube clip at best. Despite the sometimes pixelated and blurry visual, I had to catch my breath while flying over New York City, or splashing in waves next to emerald blue ice floes, or bathing beside an elephant in a reedy swamp.

Of course, to get that experience, I had to download the film. While it’s easy enough to navigate and browse inside the Gear VR, there is something incredibly dehumanizing about watching a download bar tick by while trapped in a virtual living room, or worse, an endless black void.

I knew the “presence” it produced was strong when, standing on the edge of a cliff, I found myself unable to move my feet toward the edge — the lizard part of my brain insisting that the drop was real.

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