More Next Big Things From Samsung

Ahead of Apple's Event, Samsung Introduces Virtual Reality Device, Two Big Phones

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Samsung's new wearable device.
Samsung's new wearable device.

Samsung Electronics, the world's largest seller of smartphones, now has two more phones in its arsenal, along with a futuristic virtual reality headset.

At a launch event on Wednesday, held simultaneously in New York, Berlin and Beijing, the Korean manufacturer introduced two products in its large-screen smartphone line, the Galaxy Note. The company also unveiled its latest wearable device in partnership with Oculus, a technology firm Facebook acquired in March.

Samsung marched out its first three Note devices with similar launches. Only this time, a shadow looms. Next week, Apple is widely expected to introduce the iPhone 6 in two different sizes -- one with a bigger screen, a smartphone trait that Samsung has seized. Several analysts have suggested that a larger iPhone could take market share from Samsung globally. It would follow a rough second quarter for Samsung, in which slumping mobile sales dragged operating profits down 24%.

Apple does not comment on its products before they launch.

An attendee tests the Samsung Gear VR.
An attendee tests the Samsung Gear VR.

On Wednesday in New York, Samsung executives did not mention Apple by name, but hinted at their biggest rival in introducing the two smartphones, the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge. (The screens are 5.7" and 5.6", respectively.) Gregory Lee, the president and CEO of Samsung North America, inaugurated the event praising "two incredible big-screen phones," describing the screen size as "a form-factor we at Samsung invented."

With the new products, the company behind the slogan 'The Next Big Thing' also reiterated its reputation for heaving innovation at the wall and seeing what sticks. In the past year, Samsung has introduced six smartwatches. And the Galaxy Note Edge has a unique curved side, where a load of apps can sit.

"It's elegant. It's intuitive," Ryan Bidan, Samsung America's senior director of strategy, said introducing the handheld device. "And it's going to change everything. Again."

The most forward-leaning product of the day, however, attaches to the face. The Gear VR is a large headset, sleeker than previous incarnations of Oculus' product and features a Samsung logo stamped on top. Powered via the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung said the device is designed for users to "fully immerse themselves in a cinematic virtual reality environment."

Samsung said the device would arrive on the market "this fall" with select retailers but offered no additional information, including its potential price. Several marketers are placing significant resources in a wager that virtual reality will be the next advertising frontier, as Ad Age has reported.

Milk Music, the company's digital streaming service, will now be available on the company's televisions and wearable devices, the company also announced.

Globally, Samsung reported $11.3 billion in advertising and promotional spending in 2013, according to the Ad Age DataCenter.

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