Samsung bets on generative AI to drive smartphone growth as it unveils Galaxy S24 series

High-end S24 Ultra now has a titanium frame

Sneak peek into the all-new Galaxy 24's lineup at Samsung Unpacked

Sneak peek into the all-new Galaxy 24's lineup at Samsung Unpacked
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Samsung Electronics has unveiled the next generation of its Galaxy S flagships loaded with generative artificial intelligence features, betting on the technology's uptake during a period of uncertainty for the global smartphone sector.

The South Korean tech giant introduced the Galaxy S24 series, powered by the new Galaxy AI platform, at its first Unpacked event for 2024 on Wednesday.

For the fifth straight year, three devices were revealed – the entry-level Galaxy S24, the Galaxy S24+ and the premium Galaxy S24 Ultra.

The S24 and S24+ have been redesigned, and now sport flat edges, which is a departure from their signature curved shape.

Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

The high-end Galaxy S24 Ultra, which basically inherits its predecessor's form, now has a frame made of titanium – a stronger yet lighter material that was also used by Apple in its iPhone 15 Pro models released last September.

Galaxy AI, meanwhile, is underpinned by Samsung's Gauss machine learning platform, which it launched in November – signalling its official entry into the generative AI race and intent to challenge ChatGPT.

One of its features, Circle to Search, was announced by Google this week, allowing users to search for information on their Android smartphones without switching apps.

This can be done by using intuitive gestures such as circling, highlighting, scribbling or just tapping, the company said. It will also be available on Google's own Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro smartphones.

Samsung will showcase more details about Galaxy AI through experience zones at select cities across the world – Dubai included – which will be opened after the Unpacked event.

Galaxy AI is aimed at helping users with certain tasks, such as live translations, transcriptions in chats and calls, and editing images and searching with them.

Samsung is keen to "open a new era and transformative force ... to create and elevate the things we do and allow for greater aspirations", T.M. Roh, the president of Samsung's mobile division, said in his keynote.

"AI will bring a out great change ... we believe the Galaxy devices will democratise this change [as] mobile devices become the primary access point for AI."

Mr Roh also announced that starting with the Galaxy S24, users will be able to avail of seven years of security updates.

The global smartphone market, after years of steady growth, is in a tepid phase as consumers hold back on purchases, mainly because of inflationary concerns.

However, the industry is showing initial indications of a marginal rebound in 2024 following two consecutive years of decline.

Global smartphone shipments, which declined 12 per cent yearly in 2022, are expected to have dropped 5 per cent in 2023 before returning to a 4 per cent year-on-year growth in 2024, according to new forecasts from researcher Canalys.

Industry players are hoping that generative AI will lead to a revival of interest from consumers.

Smartphones powered by generative AI are expected to have taken a 4 per cent share of the total market in 2023, or about 47 million shipments, and this is likely to double this year, according to Counterpoint Research.

Samsung would capture half of this market this year followed by Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi, Vivo, Honor and Oppo, it added.

That would support Seoul-based Samsung's position in the overall smartphone industry, which it had led since 2010 – until it was knocked off by Apple in 2023, the International Data Corporation reported this week.

Samsung 'very serious' with generative AI

Generative AI shot into the limelight in 2023 with the introduction of GPT, developed by Microsoft-backed OpenAI. Initially a method for conversation and creating content such as images and videos, the technology is now being incorporated into more devices.

As a result, major technology names joined the fray, including Oracle, Amazon and X owner Elon Musk, who created his own generative AI company xAI.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook, meanwhile, acknowledged that the company was already working on generative AI.

There are no solid indications, however, that the next iPhones, expected to be unveiled in September, will feature this capability – although in April last year it was reported that Apple was working on improvements to its long-time digital assistant Siri to catch up with ChatGPT.

“We have AI not only for mobile devices, but across our ecosystem … how we collaborate as an open ecosystem with the rest of the big players in technology [and] make sure that the consumer has the best experience [is] something that we can offer,” Omar Saheb, chief marketing officer of Samsung Middle East and North Africa, told The National in San Jose.

“Samsung is very adamant about AI. Galaxy AI is going to enable all the communication between devices and smart things. We are very serious about AI.”

Mr Saheb also made Samsung's position clear on the debate on regulating generative AI. Authorities have been scrambling to gain hold of the technology that has sparked concerns ranging from misinformation to copyright infringement.

For instance, images edited using Galaxy AI are given watermarks to indicate the originals have been manipulated.

Samsung supports the responsible development of AI and will actively participate in ongoing global conversations about regulatory needs as the technology evolves,” Mr Saheb said.

“We are committed to collaborating with other industry leaders and organisations to ensure AI technology in ways that deliver the best outcomes for our users and for society at large.”

Live translation and other similar actions are solely done on Samsung's phones, so “nothing goes to the cloud and all privacy is contained on the device”, he said.

“The open collaboration with all the other big players about how to make sure that infringement and copyright are being taken care of through this.”

Prices of the Galaxy S24, Galaxy S24+ and Galaxy S24 Ultra will start at $799, $999 and $1,299.

Updated: January 18, 2024, 7:46 AM