Yesterday, the heads of Samsung took to the stage at Lincoln Center in New York to announce its latest devices – the S6 edge+ and the Note 5, as well as the release of its new payment system, Samsung Pay. With the advent of the iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung has had to work harder to differentiate its product beyond being the default Android counterpart to Apple. The Note 5 manages to accomplish this handily with the newest iteration of the S-Pen, which provides substantive enterprise functionality. The Edge +, on the other hand, relies more on aesthetics diversity, as the functionality of the edge, while somewhat improved over the original S6 with the introduction of app shortcuts, remains limited and somewhat uninspiring. Although many reviewers have focused on the incremental nature of the developments of the devices and how they fare compared to the iPhone 6 Plus, the larger, more compelling story for VDC is the potential for Samsung Pay to dominate the mobile payment market and the continued evolution of Samsung into a much more enterprise-focused OEM.
The potential for Samsung Pay’s “Universal Availability”
Originally announced at Mobile World Congress, Samsung Pay emerged once again to take a prominent role in yesterday’s Unpacked event, complete with launch dates for the US and Korea. While Apple Pay succeeded in raising the general public’s awareness to NFC payment capabilities, its impact on retail has been limited to date. Despite steadily growing numbers, access to NFC-enabled payment terminals has been limited to a select group of partners and has encountered considerable opposition from major retailers, notably the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), which includes major chains like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Dunkin’ Donuts – forcing retailers like CVS to back down from unofficial support of Apple Pay following its announcement. In the aftermath of the initial dust-up, NFC payments have gained ground, but are far from mainstream at this point. Samsung Pay, on the other hand, nimbly sidesteps many of these issues from through technology it gained from its acquisition of Loop Pay in February of this year, which can be used with both NFC and traditional mag-stripe devices. As a result, Samsung Pay can be used with nearly all devices capable of taking credit card payments (including smaller peripheral devices like Square), giving the payment system tremendous reach and potential for widespread adoption. Samsung has further upped the ante by partnering not only with major credit card providers, but also enabling store-branded credit card, membership cards and gift cards, bringing the idea of a truly digital wallet that much closer to reality. With its backwards-compatibility to traditional payment systems, Samsung Pay is poised to leapfrog Apple Pay to dominate the growing digital payment market, providing Samsung’s flagship devices a much-need element of differentiation.
Balancing enterprise-readiness with consumer appeal
The delicate act of balancing a much more enterprise-focused device with consumer desires was clearly visible at the Unpacked event, where much of the attention centered on the new devices’ media capabilities, like its improved VDIS for video stabilization, and the introduction of Live Broadcast, which competes with real-time video streaming companies like Periscope and Meerkat. Although both devices feature enterprise-ready capabilities (like the integration of KNOX on all flagship devices) and the use of SideSync 4.0, it is the Note 5 that stands out as Samsung’s Flagship enterprise device. The Note series, more than other series, is designed with enterprise at the forefront, given its emphasis on multitasking and the use of stylus with the integration of the S-Pen. In addition to the ability to sign and print documents on the Note 5, BlackBerry’s aesthetics appear to have rubbed off on Samsung, as the company unveiled its first-ever physical keyboard accessory, which attaches to the screen to facilitate data entry.
Following the showmanship of the main event, it was the later, smaller B2B event that revealed the extent to which Samsung has devoted its attention to the enterprise. Despite the relative lack of fanfare, EVPs Injon Rhee (Enterprise Business Team) and Joe Stinziano (Samsung Business) discussed the strides made with the integration of KNOX 2.5, which further enhances the security elements of 2.0 from a carrier and IT management standpoint, to the Edge+ and the Note 5. KNOX, as Stinziano emphasized, remains their dedicated brand and its identity is built squarely around the enterprise and, when used in conjunction with Samsung Business seeks to provide end-to-end mobility solutions and security. As he aptly noted, having a smartphone is increasingly an indispensible element of mobility. Samsung also emphasized its partnership with Red Hat, which helps to provide industry-specific applications and mobile solutions. The latter is an important step for Samsung as it looks to counter the much-touted partnership between Apple and IBM’s MobileFirst which was announced last summer. With demand for consumer devices cooling, the pressure is on – not just for Samsung, but for the entire smartphone market to provide enterprise-grade, IT-friendly devices that also have consumer appeal.
The potential for Samsung to go from enterprise-grade to mission critical
With the rugged handheld market only now emerging from a protracted period of uncertainty, there is considerable opportunity for consumer-grade devices, particularly when complemented by a full suite of enterprise services and industry-specific know-how. The lack of success from the launch of Windows Embedded 8.1 Handheld as the next generation Windows OS opened the door for Android and Apple alike, as many decision makers have opted to postpone refresh cycles and are evaluating less traditional options, including consumer grade devices. Most rugged OEMs have been quick to fill the gap with smartphone-like handheld devices that feature Android, but there has been a notable degree of erosion in favor of consumer devices. This, when paired with the green field opportunities of smaller organizations mobilizing for the first time presents a tremendous opportunity for companies like Samsung and Apple, which can capitalize on decision-makers’ and end-users’ familiarity with the devices and UI. To do so successfully, however, requires a level of dedication to the enterprise that goes beyond hardware to include services and industry-specific expertise and applications. VDC will be taking a more in-depth look at what this means for Samsung in our upcoming VDC View.