Samsung's answer to Apple Vision Pro is on track to be announced soon

While folding phones were the main topic at Samsung's summer Unpacked event, TM Roh teased that a headset announcement is 'not too far off.'
Written by Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief
Samsung's TM Roh at Unpacked, July 2023, Seoul, South Korea

Samsung's TM Roh at its Unpacked event on July 26, 2023 in Seoul, South Korea.

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

We didn't get any updates on the Samsung/Google/Qualcomm headset during the summer Unpacked event in Seoul, South Korea. But, as several hundred journalists converged on Seoul for the event, Samsung's president of mobile experience, TM Roh indicated that the plan for a new XR headset and ecosystem is on track, and an announcement is coming soon.

Six months ago at Samsung's February Unpacked event in San Francisco, Roh was joined on stage by Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon and Google senior vice president Hiroshi Lockheimer as the three announced a strategic partnership to build next generation AR/VR products

Also: Every product announced at Samsung Unpacked (and what wasn't unveiled)

In Seoul this week, ZDNET's Cho Mu-Hyun quoted Roh as he addressed the AR/VR partnership saying, "We are not looking to be happy about launching a single product or creating an ecosystem for one company. Like smartphones, what we are doing is opening an XR ecosystem. We are expecting an announcement in the not-too-far-off future."

Roh also added, "Predictions on the XR market are polarized. But we do believe it will become a next growth engine much in the vein of smartphones." 

Clearly, that matches Apple's long-term ambitions for its AR headset as a platform that could eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones and computers. 

While Roh's proclamation this week makes it sound like an event or an announcement is imminent, let's not forget that Roh also told The Washington Post in February that an announcement was "not too far away." 

Samsung TM Roy Unpacked Stage Ultra

Samsung's TM Roh taking centerstage during the February 2023 Unpacked event.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Getting different teams inside Apple to collaborate was hard enough for the world's largest tech company and it reportedly took seven years to get to the announcement of the Vision Pro in June. Samsung has the challenge of getting Qualcomm's chip team and Google's Android software experts to come together on a joint venture that's likely only been in place for a year or two. 

Of course, Samsung and Google have roots in VR and AR that go back a decade. But Apple has now raised the bar considerably with the Vision Pro, which has a level of display quality that so far has not been seen in a consumer device. Apple also has the advantage of deep content relationships with software developers to create apps and Hollywood to bring popular content to its new device. 

Also: I tried Apple Vision Pro and it's far ahead of where I expected

For Samsung, Google, and Qualcomm, it may be wise to make a start on a smaller and less ambitious path. And there are indications that that's exactly what's in the works. In an interview with CNET's Lisa Eadicicco this week in Seoul, Roh said, "For the short term, perhaps many features or experiences [in] mixed reality would be in connection with [the] smartphone."

In that interview, Roh further elaborated that Samsung sees two paths for XR -- one that's based on the smartphone and another one that will be an "ecosystem that can be generated independently by mixed reality."

If we do see a Samsung product announcement in the second half of 2023, it's reasonable to expect an ecosystem announcement that will first make an appearance on high-end smartphones while also sharing a vision for the kind of headset hardware Samsung views as the future of next-gen XR experiences.

Disclosure: The cost of Jason Hiner's travel to South Korea for Unpacked was covered by Samsung, a common industry practice for long distance trips. The judgments and opinions of ZDNET's writers and editors are always independent of the companies we cover.

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