Step aside Android; Samsung debuts Bada 2.0 handsets

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Samsung introduced three new smartphones on Tuesday that run on the company’s proprietary Bada platform. The Samsung Wave 3, M and Y all use a new version of the platform Bada 2.0, which looks similar to Samsung’s customization of Google Android. The phones themselves evoke images of Samsung’s most successful handset, the Galaxy S II, although two of the three are targeted at the first-time smartphone buyer and have relatively limited hardware specifications.

A quick look at the new phones shows a capable lineup in both the low- to mid-range market as well as the high-end segment. All three models share Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface, Music and Social Hub, Samsung Apps and the new ChatON messaging service that was announced Monday. It’s almost ironic how the new Bada handsets appear similar to Samsung’s existing Android phones: At a time where Samsung is accused of copying the look-and-feel of Apple’s products, Samsung is almost copying itself. At a quick glance, these look just like their Android counterparts to me.

 

The Wave M and Y both run on 832 MHz processors, support 7.2 Mbps HSPA 3G networks, and use low-resolution 320×480 touchscreen displays of 3.65- and 3.2-inches respectively. The pair have limited on-board storage, but can be expanded to 32 GB through the microSD card slot. The Wave M has both a 5-megapixel rear camera and a VGA sensor in the front while the Wave Y only has a 2-megapixel rear camera; both have a GPS, optional NFC support, Bluetooth 3.0 and Wi-Fi Direct for sharing content wirelessly.

On the high end, the Wave 3 sounds like a “Galaxy S II Jr.,” or a Bada version of last year’s Samsung Galaxy S with similar features. The handset uses a 4-inch Super AMOLED display with 800×480 resolution, 1.4 GHz processor, 5-megapixel auto-focus rear camera with 720p video capture, VGA front camera, 3 GB of internal storage, microSD slot, aGPS, Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and support for 14.4 Mbps 3G networks.

An official Samsung video shows off the new hardware with a heavy focus on the Bada 2.0 platform. Based on my viewing, Bada’s feature set is now rivaling that of Android in many ways and could appeal to some who were considering a Google-powered phone.

The new Bada handsets and software signal a clever strategy from Samsung, which debuted the first iteration of Bada in Feb. 2010. Instead of solely relying on Google Android to help propel Samsung to the No. 2 smartphone seller in the world, the company continues to invest in its own proprietary mobile platform and ecosystem. So far, the strategy is working well: Aside from selling 5 million Android-powered Galaxy S II phones in 85 days, Samsung’s Bada line outsold that of Microsoft Windows Phone 7 in the first quarter of this year.

While Samsung is making a name for itself using Android, it’s steadily building up a user base for its own mobile platform, something no other smartphone maker has done yet in the face of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android systems. That doesn’t imply that Samsung will eventually abandon Google’s platform, especially if the Android-powered handsets continue to sell well. But it reduces the risk of relying on Android in the future. Samsung has already done this through diversification to a point: The company also makes smartphones that run on Windows Phone 7.

Diversification through the platforms of others is only part of Samsung’s strategy, however. By continuing to improve Bada, build support for apps that run on it and creating a media ecosystem of its own, Samsung is positioning itself to create smartphone sales through an in-house platform. And as Apple has shown over the past several years, that’s a roadmap towards growth in market share and profitability.

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