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5G networks

Samsung links with Netflix to vie with Apple's in-house entertainment

World's top smartphone maker looks beyond hardware as 5G dawns

Samsung Electronics unveils the Z Flip foldable phone at San Francisco on Feb. 11. The world's leading smartphone maker is looking beyond hardware for the 5G era.   © Reuters

PALO ALTO, U.S./SEOUL -- As the fight for smartphone domination expands beyond the handsets themselves and into auxiliary services, Samsung Electronics is forging an alliance with leading content distributors like Netflix, Microsoft and Spotify.

Samsung announced the tie-up at an event in San Francisco on Tuesday. Unlike rival Apple, which is building an in-house entertainment ecosystem, the South Korean company is tapping outside partners for the 5G era.

"It begins with our vision to be the innovator of new mobile experiences," said TM Roh, Samsung's president and head of mobile communications business.

With Netflix, Samsung will prepare exclusive bonus content for Galaxy phone users and allow them to search for videos easily without opening the Netflix app.

"The mission of this partnership: to make the Netflix viewing experience on Samsung mobile the absolute best it can be," said Netflix Chief Marketing Officer Jackie Lee-Joe.

Samsung will also work on a smoother experience for its users when playing Microsoft's cloud-based games.

The South Korean giant's 5G strategy so far has focused on expanding its smartphone lineup. Meanwhile, Apple began news, video and game streaming last year in preparation for launching a 5G-compatible smartphone as early as this fall.

Ultrafast fifth-generation networks are expected to boost demand for streaming services. Samsung hopes that working with existing content distributors will expand its world-leading market share in smartphones.

TM Roh, president and head of mobile communications business at Samsung Electronics, unveils the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G smartphone during Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2020 in San Francisco on Feb. 11.   © Reuters

Streaming services can also expect greater rewards from pairing up with Samsung than with Apple, especially as they look to expand in non-U. S. markets where the South Korean company has a high market share.

In addition to the content tie-up, Samsung is bolstering its lineup of 5G phones. The Galaxy Z Flip, a new model that folds crosswise to fit in the palm of the hand, will launch in South Korea on Friday and eventually in the rest of the world.

The Z Flip is 30% lighter than the Galaxy Fold, another foldable model launched last year, and is priced 30% lower at $1,380.

The company plans to continue developing foldable smartphones, drawing on its ability to mass-produce flexible OLED panels in-house. "Galaxy Z Flip is an important next step as we look to build the foldable category by bringing to consumers a new form factor, new display and most importantly, a new kind of mobile experience," Roh said.

All new models for Samsung's flagship S series will have the ability to connect to 5G networks. The top-of-the-line S20 Ultra will be equipped with a camera that can zoom up to 100 times, and artificial intelligence-powered video editing so clips can quickly be posted on social media.

Apple is not Samsung's only competition. Samsung shipped about 296 million smartphones globally in 2019, according to International Data Corp., maintaining its top share in the industry. But China's Huawei Technologies is quickly closing in, coming in second with a 17% jump to about 241 million. Huawei now offers a wide variety of in-house apps through its app store, especially with U.S. sanctions expected to block Google products from its handsets.

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