This story originally appeared in Open Source, our weekly newsletter on emerging technology. To get stories like this in your inbox first, subscribe here.
This week’s story
The world is an uncertain place, but there are a few constants: the changing of seasons, the sunrise in the east, and the annual release of a new smartphone series by industry titans like Apple and Samsung.
On January 18, Samsung introduced the Galaxy S24 series—a routine step up from the preceding S23 series in terms of technical specifications, with one key difference: advanced artificial intelligence capabilities collectively known as Galaxy AI. Five AI-centric features can be found in the new Galaxy phones:
- Circle to search: Users can long press the home screen button and then circle, highlight, or tap any piece of information within applications to run a Google search, without needing to leave the current app.
- Generative edit: Users will be able to make complex edits to images without requiring professional editing skills. The new phones are equipped with various generative AI-powered editing tools, enabling users, for example, to long tap on a subject and move, resize, or remove it.
- Live translate: The new Galaxy phones can perform two-way translations in real-time. This feature will work within voice calls and text translations.
- Transcript assist: The phones can help users to transcribe, translate, and summarize voice memos. Users can also customize how the summaries are presented, and all of this is done on-device, meaning an internet connection is not required.
- Chat assist: Users who struggle with phrasing messages appropriately can use the new phones to automatically generate the corresponding content. This feature will be available when users are using a text-based service such as email, social media, or messaging apps, offering different tonalities depending on the content to be written.
Why the buzz?
Samsung’s focus on AI with the Galaxy S24 series may signify a strategic shift in the smartphone industry. While competitors like Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Honor, and even Apple are investing heavily in large language models (LLMs) and AI, none have yet to commit to integrating them as extensively as Samsung has in its latest launch.
This move signifies Samsung’s ambition to advance beyond mere support for and compatibility with off-the-shelf AI tools, like ChatGPT, by incorporating them into phones at the software level.
The main effect of this is a shift in emphasis from hardware specifications, such as phone cameras and screen brightness, to software, thereby diversifying the competitive landscape in the industry.
The days when smartphone purchase decisions were influenced by marginal differences in technical specifications and dichotomic stereotypes—such as choosing the iPhone for its simpler interface and Android phones for greater customization—may soon be behind us.
The big picture
The mobile industry is grappling with a slowdown in smartphone shipments and a dearth of major innovations. Samsung’s decision to integrate AI into the S24 series reflects a potential industry-wide turn toward AI as the next frontier.
The effectiveness of this strategy, however, remains uncertain. AI faces infrastructural challenges that need overcoming, and while the potential is vast, the cost-effectiveness of AI, given its resource-intensive nature, remains unclear—whether as entirely new solutions, like AI-powered art and image generators, or as supplementary elements to existing verticals, like smartphones.
Critics may argue that this is still in its nascent stage and that tech-driven changes in user habits will take time to cultivate. While true, caution is necessary when relying too heavily on past adoption cycles to predict the future pace of adoption. The young generation, primarily composed of digital natives who are tech-savvy and have a penchant for identifying and adapting to new trends, has shown that they can pick up new ideas quickly. TikTok, for instance, achieved a billion active users in a much shorter period than its predecessors like Facebook and YouTube.
If anything, warming up to AI-embedded smartphones may prove to be a more seamless process than with social media.
If you enjoyed reading this, you might also be interested in:
- Magnum opus: What you should know about Gemini, Google’s new AI model (by Open Source)
- Xiaomi faces challenges in the consumer electronics market amid revenue decline (by KrASIA Writers)
- Apple’s shift away from China: implications for China’s manufacturing industry (by KrASIA Connection)