Seven years ago almost to this day, Samsung gave the world’s press attending its annual CES event a sneak peek at a ‘lifestyle’ TV which essentially looked like a photo frame in disguise.
I remember it well; being somewhat impressed but mostly bewildered by the Samsung spokesperson talking about this mystery TV being able to display works of art and having interchangeable frames. As you may well already know (perhaps you even have one on your wall!), that materialised into the now-iconic ‘The Frame’. While the curvy TVs and flagship LCDs of that period have all but disappeared to give way for next-gen panels and return to good ol’ sensible flat screens, The Frame has stood the test of time, having remained a staple in Samsung’s catalogue ever since. A new and upgraded 2024 model has actually just been announced – and heck, the concept has now even spawned a ‘Music Frame’ wireless speaker sibling.
Say the words ‘lifestyle TV’ to anyone in our industry and the image that will undoubtedly spring to mind is that of this popular Samsung set. It doesn’t have to be – Samsung has flirted with other ‘lifestyle’ TVs such as The Serif, with its I-shaped profile and freestanding stand, and the outdoor-friendly The Terrace, while LG has its The-Serif-like Posé, as well as the Easel which can partially hide or fully reveal the screen with a textile cover. But it will be. The two brands have fought hard and unwaveringly across the entire TV battlefield alongside Sony, Panasonic and, in more recent years, the plucky likes of Hisense and TCL, but this is one area Samsung can firmly stick its flag in the ground. The Frame is neat, affordable and, unlike those aforementioned others, I’ve actually seen it in the wild (that is, in real living people’s real living rooms) several times. People like it; I can see why.
OK so there are a few The Frame rivals out there, half of which also come from Samsung, but where are the rest? Why has Samsung been allowed to almost fully occupy this segment of the market? LG doesn’t seem to really push its aforementioned lifestyle sets, and Sony, Panasonic et al don’t have any.
Those TV brands aren’t exactly lacking in imagination! LG has for years produced innovative screens like its Gallery Design models, bendy Flex gaming TV and Rollable OLED TV R. It has just unveiled a production-ready transparent OLED, too. Bang & Olufsen has a handful of design-led TVs with folding elements, integrated sound systems and motorized this, that and the other. Loewe is another TV brand not why of showing off swanky TV craftmanship. And Hisense has its unique – now rollable – Laser TV... if you can even really call that a TV. But what do they all have in common? Price tags to make Tom, Dick and Harry all wince at once.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of TV porn – these downright stunning TVs do get bought by some financially fortunate souls, after all, and are drooled over, and dreamed of, by the rest of us. They importantly pave the way for innovations that could someday trickle down, besides. I just wish there was more imagination in the affordable TV market. Projectors are trying hard to adapt to modern-day whims and win over everyday consumers with easier-to-accommodate ultra-short-throw technology and petite, plug-and-play designs, so why are most everyday TVs still, to look at (not watch), pretty banal bits of technology?
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