How + Why Samsung Leads Innovation in Electronic Devices

Samsung leads the Smartphone Market in the US taking over from Apple. But Samsung has leading or near leading positions in the appliances, TV, compact camera, and other electronic device markets. They, not GE nor Phillips nor Sony are currently  the first innovators in bring the Moores Law powered electronic chip revolution to  consumer products. The following is an example of that innovation wave in the camera market.

For the past 5-6 years Samsung has been knocking on the door in the camera market – digital SLRs, compact cameras, videocams,  smartphones and tablets with top of the line camera on board are some Samsung entries. But Samsung has not been able to achieve a dominant position except in the  smartphone market. But if there is to a survivor in the compact camera marketplace as laptops, tablets, and smartphones invade the space – Samsung is likely to be that survivor – and there move to WiFi and Android in their cameras tells why.

One of the trends that is effecting camera vendors  is that a wide range of electronic device makers outside the familiar ranks are getting into the camera business. Not just smartphones and tablets but laptops, desktops, and all sorts of industrial appliances. This has inevitably had an impact on traditional camera and videocam sales with downward trends in many categories.

So our argument here has been that camera makers have to match the electronic device offensive by meeting  the needs being filled by  these nouveau camera devices. Compact and SLR cameras are going to have to support 4 things:
1)WiFi for instant delivery of camera images/videos to social media, online seervices, Cloud or local storage;
2) WiFi to support remote control of cameras by specialized device but also by tablets and smartphones;
3)Adopt Android   as the OS to allow for touchscreen operations , overall camera control, and apps to be used for pre- and post image/video processing as well as expediting;
4)Provide 4.5″ diagonal or bigger touchscreens to enable useful apps and operations.

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Samsung WB150f – first WiFi compact with wide optical zoom

Well in  2011 Samsung’s WB150F compact camera boosted the WiFi parade by supporting WiFi for remote control and instant delivery of images to social media and websites. And sitting on a solid compact camera base with a good optical zoom lens this major WiFi compact camera was well positioned despite not having a large touchscreen nor an Android OS. For example,  users could control their WB150F with Android or iOS apps provided by Samsung  on their tablet or smartphone.

But just a little bit more than a year later one can find more than a dozen Samsung cameras, both compact and SLR, sporting not only WiFi but big touch screens and even some Android support. Any guess why Samsung dominates a wide spectrum of electronic gadget markets from TV through smartphones to compact cameras? Meanwhile  announced in late August for delivery in December 2012 was Samsung  Galaxy Camera – an Android+WiFi camera that meets all 4 of our specs.

Samsung Galaxy Camera with Android 4.1, WiFi, and 3G

The Galaxy Camaera meets our basic wish list for an Android camera. it has a 3G cellphone connection but no phone connection[use Skype app]. However, its list of camera technical specs are pretty solid.

  • Lens: 23 mm wide angle lens, aperture F2.8 / F5.9, 21X long Zoom
  • Display: 4.8” HD  (1280 x 720) Super Clear LCD
  • Sensor: 16 MP BSI CMOS , BSI means better image recording
  • Flash: Number 5 Xenon Flash –
  • Wireless Connectivity: AT&T 4G HSDPA or  Verizon 4G LTE  + Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0 plus  HDMI out, micro USB
  • OS: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • Processor : 1.4 Ghz Quad-Core Exynos 4412 with 1GB of RAM
  • Internal Storage: 8GB  with  up to 64 GB more with MicroSD card
  • Max image size (still): 4608 x 3456 with  video at  1920×1080 @ 30 fps
  • Size and weight: 2.79 (H) x 5.07 (W) x .75 (D) inches, 10.76 oz
  • Battery: 1650 mAh – up to 4.5 hours in-use time (AT&T estimate) – up to 2 hours in-use time (Verizon estimate)

The street price at $499 is relatively high as it is  about double the cost of the brand new Samsung WB250F [$250US street price] which has WiFi , similar optical specs but not Android in the camera. Also the Galaxy Camera is almost equivalent to a contract free iPhone 5 with 16GB at $649 [assume $75 -100  for a 8GB microSD card to bring the Galaxy Camera equal in storage to the iPhone 5]. Also the battery life is short when both phone and camera with uploads is used.

However, the photo reviews have been pretty positive.
DPRConnect – sees this camera as positive move despite phone restrictions and some weakness in areas of the zoom
VIR – has a fascinating comparison of the Galaxy Camera vs iPhone 5, Nokia 920, Nexus 4, and Galaxy S3
Ubergizmo – gives high marks for design, image quality and  operation but also has qualms about battery life.

And now at CES2013 Samsung has announced 6 new camera models that are called Smart Camera 2 for their WiFi support plus improved SmartCamera app for Android and iPad devices. The line-up is impressive ranging from the NX300 to the WB250F. In sum, Samsung appears to have built up a corner on the Android+WiFi camera market. Sure vendors like Nikon with the P1  back in 2006 were the first to bring WiFi to compact cameras. But like Canon, Olympus and others, these vendors have been slow to explore and exploit all of the camera benefits of WiFi.

Canon is a good example. It currently has 77 products that are WiFi enabled – but most of those are Pixma and other Canon printers with a few Ixus compact camera, Legria videocams plus top end devices like the 4K  Cxxx cinema cameras or the Canon 6D. In short, no salient commitment to WiFi, Android and the opportunities afforded by the technologies.

As the CES2013 6 camera announcement shows, Samsung are willing and able to explore many of the innovation opportunities presented by electronic devices. And nowhere is this more evident than in their rapid WiFi and Android camera offerings. But equally important is Samsung’s ability to prune their portfolio of offerings quickly – witness the quick exit of Samsung from the Windows 8 RT tablets in US market. It really is quite remarkable how Samsung manages such a wide and diverse portfolio of electronically enhanced products given the rate of change of  the many different underlying technologies.. Worthy of a HBR Case Study.

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