Samsung announced its latest Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus smartphones in Barcelona Sunday at Mobile World Congress, along with updates and partnerships with retailers and brands like Sam’s Club, Nordstrom, Walmart, Sephora and Cover Girl. Altogether, the changes could accelerate the world of mobile shopping.
The lynchpin is the South Korean tech giant’s new camera system and its Bixby smart assistant. On the outside, the phones look very similar to last year’s well-received S8 models, but inside, they boast new cameras with mechanical apertures that can better handle bright conditions or low light, make mode-switching more accessible and offer faster focusing. In other words, the S9’s single rear camera and the S9 Plus’ dual lenses are even more capable of capturing real-world products in more detail.
The changes would have benefited the old version of Bixby Vision, just by being better able to identify and display Amazon purchasing options. But the updated version goes a step beyond: In addition to faster real-time translations and currency conversions, the smart assistant improved its calorie-counting estimates and allows shoppers to buy items, such as cosmetics and clothes.
Beauty fans can also virtually try on makeup and buy them through Sephora and Cover Girl, thanks to Samsung’s licensing deal with Modiface, which developed the feature. Nutrition-minded users can point the camera at food and get a calorie estimate that goes right into Samsung’s S-Health app.
Over the past year or so, the major smartphone makers have increasingly beefed up their cameras and processors to handle augmented reality — such as Samsung’s new augmented reality emoji — and take some of the load in artificial intelligence and computer vision features. While numerous third-party developers and e-commerce players are taking advantage of that to develop features, the quality of those efforts can vary and usually require consumers to download apps to try them out.
The impact on shopping, which is already heavily influenced by mobile technology, could make for another sea change in how consumers purchase products — especially if no downloads are even necessary for a user base as large as Samsung’s.
According to IDC, the tech company accounts for 22 percent of the world’s smartphone market in 2017. In comparison, Apple’s iPhone represents 15 percent.
The S9 and S9 Plus will be available for preorder in the U.S. on March 2 and launch in stores on March 16. Unlocked versions of the two models will cost $720 and $840.