SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—The consumer electronics titan Samsung is making plans that could shake up the hearing aid industry, according to a report published April 27 in the online publication BusinessKorea. After watching the successes of the partnerships that its industry rival Apple has forged with GN ReSound and Starkey Hearing Technologies, Samsung appears ready to invest in the hearing aid industry.
The entrance of Samsung into the hearing industry would be very different from Apple’s, however, as the Korean company is proposing to actually manufacture its own hearing device.
According to BusinessKorea, Samsung recently placed a $14 million order for amplifiers, a necessary component of any hearing aid.
Samsung has enjoyed tremendous success in recent years. It has become not just the largest smartphone manufacturer, but it’s also grown into the biggest electronics company in the world. Samsung’s entry into the hearing aid industry is seen as a way to increase its presence in the growing mobile health market.
Made up of over 80 different businesses, Samsung has some 275,000 employees worldwide, and Forbes magazine ranks it as the eighth most valuable brand in the world. The company’s global sales dwarf those of many of its leading rivals. For example, in 2013, Samsung shipped a total of 281.5 million smartphones, while its closest competitor, Apple, shipped a mere 43.7 million.
(For much more on Samsung and the potential impact of its foray into the hearing industry, see this week’s Hearing Economics.)
A DIFFERENT INDUSTRY POSES DIFFERENT CHALLENGES
If history is any guide, Samsung may find that becoming major player in the hearing aid industry is more difficult than it seems. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, 3M, Bausch & Lomb, and Motorola, three leaders in their own industries, all tried but failed to replicate their success in the hearing aid field.
On the other hand, with its enormous resources and its proven excellence in electronics, Samsung may just have what it takes to add a seventh member to the Big Six group of companies that has dominated hearing aid manufacturer for more than a decade.
Also, hearing research and technology are not entirely new to Samsung, as its hearing aid-related patent activity dating back to 2011 has been documented by Hearing Economics.
According to Cho Jin-young’s article in BusinessKorea, Samsung’s hearing aid project was strongly influenced by Lee Jae-yong, the company’s vice-chairman. Samsung views expansion into the hearing aid market, which chalked up an impressive growth rate in the U.S. of over 11% in the first quarter of 2015, as a potential source of long-term growth for the company.
RELEASE EXPECTED NEXT YEAR
Reportedly, Samsung aims to complete the development of its new hearing aid in time to release it along with the Galaxy S7, the company’s new flagship smartphone, which will be unveiled in early 2016. The S7 will contain electronic upgrades that allow it to connect directly to the hearing instruments.
For the latest update on this developing story, please see the 2/11/16 post: Samsung PSAP ‘Earcle’ User’s Manual, Images, and Other Documents Surface