The news of the day may be all Windows Phone, but that didn’t stop Samsung from having a launch event for the US Samsung Galaxy S 3. If you haven’t read our review, head on over there for a great look at what Samsung’s new flagship looks like in the US. Today’s event was designed primarily to discuss some new features that are premiering with the Galaxy S 3 and that may show up in some earlier devices. And at today’s event, the name of the game was sharing.
Brian covered most of these, so we won't spend too long fleshing them out. As interesting as these features are, what really struck me about today's event was the tone this establishes for Samsung's US marketing campaign. But first, let's dig into the features a bit.
AllShare branding has shown up in several different TouchWiz iterations, and up until now has leveraged the features of the DLNA spec to offer media sharing services. The latest iteration includes AllShare Play which is a DLNA screen sharing feature that mirrors AirPlay, and works with DLNA capable displays on the same network as the source. The new sharing features take advantage of WiFi Direct to enable specific sharing use cases.
AllShare Group Cast was mentioned in the review and is a collaboration tool for meetings where you don’t necessarily need to look at each other. A host user enables Group Cast from their device and creates a PIN so other users can access the session. A document open on the host device can be shared on the other devices and users can annotate the shared document, or simply view the document at their leisure. This feature obviates the need for a large shared display or “smart screen” for group collaboration. For office types this could be a great tool for pick-up meetings and ad hoc collaboration amongst a group of users. The rep demonstrating the feature wasn’t aware of any user maximum, though sharing a document with hundreds of users could get a little ungainly. Users must be within about 200 feet of the host device; and, indeed, the demo was perfectly stable from about 100 feet away, even in the spectrum crowded confines of a NYC tech event space.
ShareShot is born from the preponderance of the public who now reach first for their smartphone when taking pictures at a party or other event. Like Group Cast, a user opens up a ShareShot session which is viewable by other devices. Once activated on the devices, photos taken by the users are distributed via WiFi Direct with all of the users in the session. This really is perfect a wedding or similar event, where eschewing social network photo sharing could create a more intimate experience.
When you don’t want to share with more than just one person, there’s S Beam. Brian mentioned the effectiveness of S Beam to provide quick point to point transfer of files over WiFi Direct using NFC to simplify the set-up. This supplants the Android Beam which used NFC for the data transmission component, and is a much slower experience.
S Beam, demonstrated here as a way to place orders at a bar.
PopUp Play was a feature that, though neat, fell between stools with regards to the event's “sharing” theme. The feature provides access to your video content while within other applications. So, if a text message comes in while watching a video, it can be replied to without interrupting playback. The video content becomes a floating panel above the app. Playback was smooth and the transition wasn’t terribly jarring. Like the Mini Apps in the tablet TouchWiz generation, the video overlay can be moved around the screen and since it is at the OS level is app agnostic. On a smaller device the feature might crowd the app upon which it’s overlaid and create usability issues, but with 4.8” to work with you'll be able to livetweet Call Me, Maybe
without switching apps.
This launch event was as much about plugging the device as plugging the marketing push that Samsung is preparing for the Galaxy S 3. Like the Galaxy Note
and Galaxy S II
ads that preceded it, this marketing campaign will be a little cheeky in its derision for Apple and its diehards. Fair or not, the campaign sports a personality that can be appreciated when taken with a grain or two of salt. What’s clear from the marketing, though, is that Samsung doesn’t see their competition as the rest of the Android market. Apple’s iPhone is their target, and with a commanding marketshare there’s good reason for them to act like the Android front-runner.
And so, Samsung is focusing on what the iPhone doesn’t do, and that’s why we’re talking about the various sharing capabilities and not S Voice or pure hardware performance. Like the PC space before it, once hardware parity has been achieved (or as much as necessary for a mass consumer device) then features become the marketing linchpin. A strong component of this marketing will focus on NFC, including kiosks and posters that distribute exclusive content to Galaxy S 3 users. The kiosks serve to highlight not just the NFC features of the device, but the extensibility of the TecTile NFC tags that they’ll be selling alongside the phones at carrier stores.
And then there’s the 3D Interactive Experience. One feature briefly mentioned in the review are the various gestures that can be used through the front facing camera to control the phone. The most highlighted one is the ability to take a screen capture by simply waving your hand across the device. User and gesture recognition through cameras has become a fairly common way to draw attention to a device, and though battery life might be a concern, I can envision some gesture based controls to be pretty handy; even more so than voice control. This is the same technology behind their SmartStay feature which keeps the screen on so long as the user’s eyes remain on the display. The 3D Interactive Experience takes things to a bigger scale.
Movie goers at 3D theaters throughout the country will be treated to an interactive game that supposes to leverage the motion tracking features of two Galaxy S 3 devices. Ostensibly, the game tracks the hand motions of audiences to control a paddle in a simple game reminiscent of the early Kinect demos. Reps at the event were coy about whether the sequence is actually just a plain old non-interactive demo, but insisted that this sort of motion control was perfectly within the reach of the Galaxy S 3. If the devices are so capable, then we’re left to wonder whether the feature will be made accessible to 3rd party devs for integration into games or other applications.
Samsung is reporting that this will be their largest marketing campaign in the US ever, and for a device that has already broken new ground by being the first Android device launched on the big four major carriers unblemished by bespoke bodies, ridiculous names or feature restrictions. Even without a marketing blitz, the Galaxy S 3 has inspired a lot of excitement amongst tech savvy consumers. But it takes more than our readers to become the top selling smartphone.