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Samsung TikTok app for smart TVs coming soon to the US

Most new Samsung TVs in the US will get the app but TikTok's vertical video will be most at home on the rotating Sero.

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Samsung UK

Every TV you can buy these days is oriented for horizontal, "landscape mode" images, but numerous phone apps work best with vertical images, also known as portrait mode. One of the most popular such apps is video-sharing social network TikTok, home of pasta recipes, happy animals and election misinformation

Samsung says most of its 2021 smart TVs will get a TikTok app in the US later this year, as part of the company's global partnership with TikTok announced in its Unbox and Discover event. The app launched on Samsung TVs in the UK last year and the company says it will come to other markets later in 2021.

Every Samsung TV will get the app but two models are uniquely positioned (pun intended) to take advantage of vertical video. The Sero, launched last year in the US, is a TV whose screen can actually rotate from landscape into portrait mode and back, thanks to a built-in motor. Samsung says TikTok's video will "fit perfectly" on the TV in portrait mode. The Sero is available in one size, 43 inches, and costs a hefty $1,700 (£1,299, AU$1,549).

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The Sero has a built-in motor that allows it to flip between horizontal (landscape) and vertical (portrait mode).

Sarah Tew/CNET

The The Frame, Samsung's TV designed to mimic wall art, comes in 32-inch and 43-inch sizes. It can also to be set up in portrait mode, albeit without a built-in motor. The 43-inch version is available for preorder now for $1,000 (£599, AU$1,399), while the 32-inch model will come later this year.

The rest of Samsung's TV lineup has the traditional horizontal orientation. These TVs will display TikTok videos with fill-in bars to either side, as pictured above. Judging from its UK incarnation, the Samsung TikTok app is designed for an in-home experience, organized into 12 categories and surfacing the most popular content. You won't need a TikTok account for viewing. 

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Note that it's possible to watch TikTok videos on a TV today without a dedicated app, for example by mirroring a phone using Apple AirPlay, but the video will typically be displayed vertically with large black bars to either side.

The TikTok app was used as a political football during the 2020 presidential campaign as the Trump administration tried to force a sale of the company and proposed banning it from app stores. That situation has cooled down recently, however. A deal to sell the US operations of TikTok is currently on hold.

Separate from its TikTok announcement, Samsung says the Sero will soon add the ability to work with Apple's AirPlay 2 to control the rotation. Simply rotate your iPhone between portrait and landscape modes and the TV will follow suit automatically. This feature is already available on Android phones aired with the Sero.