Samsung doubles down on new Galaxy Note phones

Samsung has released two new versions of its Galaxy Note smart phone in addition to a virtual reality headset that promises to give video game fans and viewers a 360-degree viewing experience. 

Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters
A visitor holds a new Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone at the Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event ahead of the IFA Electronics show in Berlin, September 3, 2014.

Coming less than a week before the expected announcement of competitor Apple's iPhone 6, Samsung released a new versions of its Galaxy Note smart phone on Wednesday at the IFA trade show in Berlin: the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge. 

The Note 4 will go on sale next month while the Note Edge will go on sale later this year. Without going into pricing details, Samsung says the higher-end Note Edge will be more expensive than the Note 4. The Note Edge notably sports a 5.6-inch curved display while the Note 4 comes with a 5.7-inch display, an upgraded 16-megapixel camera, and a metal frame.

These phone announcements join Samsung's release of a virtual reality headset called the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition. The virtual-reality software is made by Oculus VR, the California-based company recently purchased by Facebook for $2 billion. Retailing for less than $1,000, Samsung has stated that it aims to give users a 360-degree viewing experience for watching TV shows and for play video games. 

These announcements come at a time when Samsung has been losing market share in the smart phone arena, though it remains the largest smart phone vendor worldwide. For example, it recently ceded its top spot in China to a local upstart called Xiaomi. And as smaller competitors gain momentum, Samsung investors have taken note. Its shares fell to their lowest point in two years Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

For these reasons, analysts note, Samsung needs these new devices to revamp its business, especially when buzz continues to gather for Apple's anticipated release of an iPhone in two sizes – a 4.7-inch version and a 5.5-inch "phablet" version, or a smart phone with a larger screen. Should that be the case, it could put a dent in Samsung's cachet as the pre-eminent phablet maker.

"Samsung is the creator of the bigger-sized smartphone market in the high-end space, and it did pretty well until now because there were no players who can possibly compete against it," Lee Jae Yun, a Seoul-based analyst at TongYang Securities Inc., told Bloomberg. "The prolonged concerns over the new iPhones are finally about to be realized." 

Samsung last week also released a new wearable device called the Gear S, marketed as the first smart watch that can make and receive calls without a mobile phone close by. While the smart phone market has become increasingly saturated, tech companies view wearables as the new frontier frontier for consumers; the number of wearable devices is predicted to more than triple by the end of 2014.     

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