Samsung on Wednesday launched its Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge, a curved screen phablet, and Gear VR, a virtual reality headset, but the larger mission for the electronics giant was to claim ownership of large screen mobile devices and to position itself as an innovation leader.
The timing of the launch event, held at the IFA conference in Berlin and New York, was hard to ignore with Apple's iPhone 6 debut next week. Samsung was clearly trying to claim the innovation mantle as Apple finally gets around to offering a larger screen iPhone.
DJ Lee, executive vice president and head of sales and marketing of Samsung's IT & mobile communications unit, said "we will never slow down." Lee positioned Samsung as the innovation leader on everything from the S-Pen stylus to user interface to screen resolution and battery improvements.
Lee also talked up Samsung's wearable moves and noted "our industry is at a very important moment."
The takeaway: Samsung will keep firing and innovating with a rapid cadence of device launches. Apple would counter that Samsung is throwing things up against the wall to see what device will actually stick.
Let's look at Samsung's high level messaging and whether the talk holds up:
Innovation: Samsung has advanced its stylus and the Note 4 handwriting recognition is faster than its predecessor. The Galaxy Note Edge has a curved screen that is part of the user interface. It's unclear whether developers will go for the design, but the Edge is crazy enough to be useful. In addition, no one has tried that Edge design. Samsung also added 3G connectivity to its latest Gear watch. Overall, Samsung unveiled some innovative features and connectivity to a Gear S smartwatch takes care of the biggest complaint with the devices. Samsung also talked up its user interface tweaks.
Verdict: Samsung's innovation is in keeping with previous moves. Some of the features are almost too easy to mock, but many of them are items you didn't know you needed. Samsung certainly keeps throwing things out there to see what sticks.
Samsung owns the big screen: While Apple will get into the large screen device game next week, Samsung was emphatic that it was there first. The Edge has a 5.6 inch screen. Even Samsung's latest smartwatch has a massive screen.
Verdict: Samsung was mocked when it launched large screen devices. Nevertheless, you can find people in New York City holding these massive screens to their heads. Everything Samsung is launching — Note 4, Gear S and Gear VR — has massive screens. At some point, these screens are going to be too large. That point hasn't come yet though.
Samsung has a developer ecosystem. Samsung noted repeatedly that it needed developers to support the company and functionality for the Edge as well as the virtual reality goggles. Samsung also has its own health platform.
Verdict: Samsung can woo developers, but it's unclear whether app makers are loyal to Google and Android or the consumer electronics giant. Samsung can partner well, but lacks the developer loyalty that Apple and Google enjoy. That limitation could ultimately impact how the Note Edge's curved screen works in practice.