Late Wednesday, Samsung finally gave us news three months in the making: the revised launch date for its Galaxy Fold foldable smartphone. But there's another product with an even more complicated and prolonged timeline: the Galaxy Home.
Samsung started talking about the smart speaker in early 2018, and it showed off the device during its Galaxy Note 9 unveiling last August. The cauldron-esque speaker is powered by the company's Bixby digital assistant, which was initially geared as an interface to control 2017's Galaxy S8. Samsung has expanded the technology into its various appliances and televisions. The Galaxy Home would be Bixby's first appearance in a smart speaker. We don't yet know exactly what the speaker will do or how much it'll cost.
When Samsung officially announced the Galaxy Home a year ago, it said it'd go on sale in the second half of 2018. It showed the smart speaker again during its developer conference in November but didn't specify the launch date. 2018 turned into 2019 with no sign of the Galaxy Home.
Then at the Galaxy S10 launch in February, Samsung co-CEO DJ Koh told CNET the device would go on sale by April. (Samsung PR said it would launch in the first half of 2019.) But it's now late July, and there's still no sign of the Galaxy Home. The latest update from Samsung was in the form of comments by another co-CEO -- Hyun-suk Kim, the head of the consumer electronics division -- who told the Korea Herald in early June that the Galaxy Home would launch in the third quarter.
For those of you keeping score, that's at least three missed launch dates. If the third-quarter timing is true, it could make sense for Samsung to unveil the launch date at the Galaxy Note 10 event in two weeks. It also could wait for the IFA electronics show in Berlin the first week of September.
Samsung on Thursday said it didn't have anything to add at this time.
While a smart speaker may not be as flashy or as novel as a phone with a folding screen, it's a device that has more universal appeal. People would be more likely to buy the Galaxy Home this year than the soon to be the first like it on the market -- is more experimental and expensive than other phones, limiting its appeal largely to early adopters. Smart speakers are becoming so common even children know how to use them. Amazon in June said it's launching an Echo Dot aimed at kids. The company, with its Alexa voice assistant, dominates the smart speaker market in the US, followed by Google.. The foldable device --
Global smart speaker sales should reach 147.7 million units this year, up 71% from 2018, Strategy Analytics predicted in May. Amazon and Google will each control nearly a third of the market, while the rest will be split between more than a dozen other voice OS platforms, including Apple's Siri, Alibaba's Ali Genie, Baidu's Duer OS and Xiaomi's Xiao AI, the research firm said. There was no mention of Bixby.
When Samsung announced its first smart speaker a year ago, there were already. Even Apple has struggled in smart speakers. Its has regularly been placed on sale, and Apple in April even , an unusual move for the company. So far, consumers haven't been willing to shell out more money for better sounding smart speakers.
"I struggle to see Samsung really succeeding in bringing an alternative," Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said. The situation might have been different a year ago, she said, "but seeing how little progress they've made from a Bixby perspective makes me really doubt that they will ever be able to compete with Alexa in the US."
Samsung may be starting to develop a reputation for delayed products. Even my un-tech-savvy parents in Iowa know about the Galaxy Fold's delay.
The company worked on foldable displays for years before showing anything to the public. It demonstrated a flexible OLED screen at CES 2013 and gave the first glimpse of the Galaxy Fold at its developer conference late last year. It officially unveiled the Galaxy Fold at the beginning of its Unpacked Galaxy 10 launch in February.
The Galaxy Fold has a 4.6-inch display when folded, and a separate 7.3-inch display when unfolded into a tablet. It starts at $1,980 (about £1,500 or AU$2,800) and comes in four colors: cosmos black, space silver, martian green and astro blue. Users can start using apps like Flipboard on the small, front display and then pick up where they left off when moving to the big, inside display.
Samsung originally said the Galaxy Fold would launch April 26. Now it will hit the market in September.
Waiting to release a product until it's essentially perfect is the right move for customers and for Samsung. In times in the past, the company rushed to sell devices before the bugs had been worked out, all in a quest to be first. It has taken a more measured approach in recent years, but Samsung still gets ahead of itself. The.
After using the device for only days -- or, in some cases, hours -- during a short review period in mid-April, several technology journalists had issues with their devices. Some peeled off a thin top layer on the display, which was an essential protective coating, not a removable screen protector. Others had detritus get under the screen itself, causing bumps and bulges. Samsung canceled the release date to explore what happened.
"It was embarrassing," Koh told reporters in Korea. "I pushed it through before it was ready."
On Wednesday, 89 days after the Galaxy Fold was to go on sale, Samsung said it has addressed the issues experienced by those reporters. It extended the screen's protective top layer beyond the bezel, "making it apparent that it is an integral part of the display structure." It added "reinforcements" to keep debris from getting under the screen, while new "protection caps" strengthen the top and bottom of the hinge area. Samsung also added reinforcements beneath the Infinity Flex Display, likely to make the plastic screen stiffer, and it reduced the air gap between the Fold's body and hinge.
Samsung doesn't need another big delay or more problems with the Galaxy Fold. It said it took "the time to fully evaluate the product design, make necessary improvements and run rigorous tests to validate the changes we made."
But this wouldn't be the first time Samsung's had multiple problems with a new device. Remember the Galaxy Note 7? Shortly after the phablet went on sale in August 2016, users started reporting overheating problems. Samsung originally tied the issues to a battery flaw and recalled all the Note 7 phones on the market. That didn't fix the problem, however, and the replacement devices also overheated. Samsung launched a rare second recall in October 2016 and stopped manufacturing the Note 7.
Samsung has repeatedly said that it's learned from that experience. Presumably the tests it's conducting on the Galaxy Fold, which are ongoing, will head off any issues people could see with the device. We won't know, though, until reviewers and consumers get their hands on the revamped phone.
Then the focus turns to the Galaxy Home. We hope.