The competition among Samsung, LG, Apple and other smartwatch makers is expected to intensify this year, industry watchers and analysts said Sunday. Samsung Electronics plans to unveil a new, round smartwatch, codenamed “Orbis,” at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015 which takes place in Barcelona, Spain, next month. Consumers have already applauded the circular displays of the Moto 360 from Motorola and the G Watch R from LG Electronics, so it is no surprise that Samsung has been working on its own round watch, industry insiders said.
So far, Samsung’s 3 wrist watches ― the Gear, Gear 2, and Gear S ― were square-shaped, under the strict concept of smart device rather than traditional wrist watch. Orbis is a Latin word that has many meanings including circle. The project name gives a hint that the company’s next model will be circular.
Samsung Electronics, the world’s leading memory chip producer, plans to invest 13.5 trillion won ($12 billion) in semiconductor facilities next year, up from the 13 trillion won spent this year. “Samsung doesn’t expect a drastic change in the overall level of spending on chip facilities,” said a source Monday. He said the small increase in chips is because its strategy is all about maintaining market equilibrium and price stabilization.
The global memory chip industry is being controlled by “top-three” players including Samsung, SK hynix and Micron Technologies of the United States. They produce more than 93 percent of global chips, according to research firms. Samsung invested 12.6 trillion on chip plants in 2013, 13.85 trillion won in 2012 and 13.03 trillion won in 2011. Samsung plans to build a new NAND flash type memory chip line in Xian, China, where Samsung already operates its massive facilities.
Samsung Electronics has emerged as a global corporation commensurate with U.S. technology giant Apple but a weakness in software is still the Korean firm’s Achilles heel. The world’s largest electronics maker by revenue is now first in market share and annual shipments of smartphones and total handsets, thanks to the popularity of its Galaxy series. Now it hopes to expand to software with its own operating system (OS), Tizen.
The firm will showcase a high-end phone running on the OS to clients at the Mobile World Congress to be held in Barcelona from Feb. 25 to 28, though the event won’t be open to the public. Samsung is beating Apple on the hardware front, backed by smartphones with high-quality, large-sized screens, which are its most valuable asset, according to mobile chief Shin Jong-kyun. But its software ecosystem is, to put it mildly, meager compared to its California rival.
It remains to be seen whether Future generations of the iPhone could have flexible organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays that can bend and twist.
LG Display, a major supplier of flat-screens to Apple, confirmed Thursday it would be able to mass produce flexible OLED displays from the second-half of next year.
Han Sang-beom, LG Display’s CEO, didn’t reveal any names when talking about the orders the company has been receiving. However, it’s difficult to presume LG Display attempting such a big jump in technologies without commitment from Apple, its largest customer for screens.
It’s hard to predict when smartphones with rubbery touch screens will ever be commercialized, but Han says at least LG Display’s screens will be there by the end of 2013.
Smartphone users are well aware of Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows operating systems, but Samsung Electronics’ Bada platform has maintained a low profile since it debuted in February 2010 on the company’s lower-end Wave smartphone.
Sooner or later, the still-obscure platform, which means “ocean” in Korean, may further widen its territory in the smartphone ecosystem, given that Samsung is seen to be readying to open it to outside developers.
Kang Tae-jin, senior vice president of Samsung’s contents planning team, told the press at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in late February that Samsung will release the Bada source code under an open-source license.
“We developed Bada with the aim of opening it up from the beginning,” Kang said. “We will consolidate it with another platform and open it at an appropriate time.” He did not elaborate on the exact date.
The mass introduction of smart gadgets in the country has not only changed the lifestyles of many Koreans, but also impacted the way people do their jobs here.
A recent consumer study conducted by U.S.-based firm VMware found that at least eight out of every 10 employed Koreans could be dubbed “smart workers,” indicating that they have somehow adopted a flexible working style ― mobile offices, virtual meetings and working in remote areas ― into their workplaces.
According to the report unveiled at a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday, about 82 percent of “smart workers” said they worked outside of the office at least some of the time, with 76 percent working at home and 64 percent working on the road.
Global smartphone manufacturers such as South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and US-based Apple are on track to develop next-generation smartphones such as foldable mobile phones, according to an online report of US-based business magazine Forbes.
Samsung Electronics is developing a plastic-backed mobile phone model equipped with AMOLED (active matrix organic light-emitting diode), according to a senior researcher of Nomura Group in the article.
The model that Samsung is currently developing will be much lighter and thinner than the previous ones, and Samsung Electronics is expected to market the plastic-backed smartphone model with foldable screen by the second quarter (Q2) this year, the researcher noted.