Samsung this morning distributed invitations to the press for an event scheduled on May 3 in London. The invitation is a stark affair, and the only clue it provides is some text that reads, "Come and meet the next Galaxy." Of course, the Internet is rife with speculation about what this invite portends, so let's look at the possibilities.
Samsung could announce the Galaxy S III, its flagship smartphone for 2012. This is the most obvious guess, as the company has pushed the launch back longer than many expected. Many believed the S III would be unveiled at Mobile World Congress in February, which is the same setting Samsung used to announce the original Galaxy S and Galaxy S II in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Reports of exactly what the S III will be like run the gamut and are more a wish list than a reliable set of specs.
Right now, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, a 4.7-inch 1080p HD display, quad-core processor (probably Samsung's own Exynos chip, not the Nvidia Tegra 3), ceramic materials, NFC, and 4G of some flavor are all on the table. Samsung has played its hand very close to the chest. Though there have been "leaks" galore, absolutely none of them has coughed up any worthwhile information.
[ What will Google do with Motorola's smartphone business? See Samsung Debates Fate Of Motorola Smartphone Business. ]
There's another possibility, however, that's almost more exciting than the Galaxy S III.
Back in March 2011, Samsung and Visa announced a partnership, with the goal of establishing and deploying an NFC-based mobile payment system across London in time for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. The two companies promised to bring to market a special NFC-enabled handset and accompanying contactless payment application that will be accessible to athletes as well as the general public in time for the Games.
The companies said they were working with mobile network operators and financial institutions around the globe to offer their joint solution on more than one carrier and with more than one bank. At the time, Visa boasted that it already had 60,000 NFC-capable payment terminals in London, and promised to continue to build out that number leading up to the Games. Samsung didn't provide any details about the handset at the time, and it hasn't really since.
In the 13 months since this announcement was made, mobile payments and mobile banking have made huge strides around the world. Google launched Google Wallet, which is an NFC-based mobile payment service that works on the Samsung Nexus S and Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Visa and its partners AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have moved forward with their ISIS joint venture, though it has yet to fully launch. NFC chips are in many more phones now than they were a year ago, and retailers are more open and receptive to receiving payments made via mobile devices.
Adding this information to what we now know, Samsung's May 3 event--which will take place in London, the same location as the 2012 Summer Olympic Games--could be to unveil the product it announced more than a year ago.
The more realistic scenario, however, is that the Galaxy S III and the 2012 Olympic Summer Games handset will be one and the same. Samsung choose London to unveil this global product because it is intended to be used by the athletes at the games later this year. Otherwise, why wouldn't Samsung unveil the product in its hometown of Seoul, Korea? After all, its Galaxy S series devices have been global devices, launching in global markets before coming to the U.S.
Samsung has kept this device under wraps very well. Let's see if it can manage to keep the secret for the next two and a half weeks.
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