Posted : 2016-02-22 17:26
Updated : 2016-02-22 21:24

Samsung unveils S7, VR devices

Participants wear Gear VR headsets, virtual reality (VR) devices, provided by Samsung Electronics during an announcement made by the firm at the CCIB center in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, on the eve of the opening of the Mobile World Congress 2016. / Yonhap

Zuckerberg joins Unpacked event

By Kim Yoo-chul

BARCELONA, Spain — Samsung Electronics unveiled the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the latest models in its flagship smartphone lineup, at the CCIB center here, Sunday.

Samsung hopes the new Galaxy series will win back customers lost to Apple and Chinese vendors.

On top of upgraded features and components, the new handsets introduce a virtual reality (VR) ecosystem with new pairing devices the Gear 360 camera and Gear VR headset, Samsung said.

The Gear 360 features two fisheye lenses enabling consumers to film 360 degrees with their cameras.

Ko Dong-jin, president of Samsung's mobile business, said the company seeks to improve people's lives with its smartphones and VR devices.

"I feel deep responsibility to hundreds of millions of people around the world who love our products," Ko said during a presentation. "We can transform our customers' lives."

The two S7s have metal and glass designs. They have improved water resistance, very-fine image sensors for better pixels and upgraded battery life.

"Better pixels equal better picture image," Ko said. "Expanded battery capacity and life is aimed at helping consumers record their daily memorable moments with a clearer image."

The S7 comes with a 5.1-inch super AMOLED display, and the S7 edge with a 5.5-inch.

The new series will be available for pre-order on March 11 globally. Consumers in selected countries will get a free Gear VR headset when they place pre-orders during the promotion.

During the event, Ko stressed the company's move to expand Samsung Pay and its mobile security software Samsung KNOX.

"Samsung Pay will be expanded to Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Singapore, Spain and the United Kingdom by the end of this year," he said.

The new models feature a rear camera with "dual pixel" technology which helps deliver sharper, brighter pictures even in lower lighting.

Samsung Electronics Mobile Business President Ko Dong-jin, right, poses with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the Unpacked event for the new Galaxy smartphones at the Congress Center Barcelona (CCIB), Spain, Sunday.
/ Courtesy of Samsung Electronics

Mark Zuckerberg

Monday's event also had another surprise, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the podium to talk about VR devices.

He said Samsung Electronics has made significant contributions to introducing VR at affordable prices.

"VR is the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want," Zuckerberg said. "For right now, it's mostly used for gaming. That's quickly evolving."

Zuckerberg said VR will allow people to do lots of things in a wholly different way — from sitting around a virtual campfire with friends any time they want to holding spontaneous meetings.

"That's why Facebook is investing so much in VR, so we can deliver these new social experiences. VR is going to be the next social platform. And that's why we're working with Samsung. Samsung is the only company that can build the OLED screens at the scale needed to deliver the low-persistence rending, which is necessary to make VR a mainstream technology.

"We've been working to make Facebook the best platform for 360 video. 360 videos are even more immersive. You feel like you're actually there," the Facebook CEO said.

He said Facebook has created new teams with Samsung to develop new social applications for VR.

Analysts expect the release of the two Samsung phones to reinforce its position as this year's largest smartphone vendor.

"Mobile games generate over 85 percent of total mobile content and services revenues. Because of this, Samsung should use the S7's gaming capabilities to accelerate partner marketing opportunities. VR is the key tool for smartphone manufacturers to use in 2016 to market flagship smartphone models," said Ian Fogg, head of mobile analysis at IHS Technology, a market research firm.

Fogg said the Gear 360 is critical to help Samsung persuade consumers it is time to upgrade their two- or three-year-old smartphones, which cannot benefit from new VR experiences.

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