You can almost picture the boardroom of VPs who came up with Samsung’s latest TV. Half-eaten Domino’s boxes are strewn everywhere. There are whispers that no one gets to leave until somebody figures out how to sell TVs to millennials–those darned youngsters who use Instagram and stream their videos online to a phone or laptop. Hadn’t those kids even heard about Samsung’s Quantum Dot technology? Then someone walks up to the whiteboard. They erase the solitary horizontal rectangle and draw a solitary vertical rectangle. The crowd goes wild.
This is essentially the idea behind The Vertical. It’s a new 43-inch TV by Samsung, launching this May in Korea for $16,000. Sitting on a pedestal, the TV stands proudly in portrait format–almost like a full-length mirror, or yes, giant smartphone. The idea is that you can stream content from your phone, whether that’s a typical vertical video or even a screen share of a social network that uses vertical video with comments, and watch it all on the big screen from your couch. And when you want to watch movies or anything else in widescreen format, you can actually spin the whole display 90 degrees to do just that.
There’s a certain ludicrousness to it; after all, it’s just a TV that’s been rotated. But it’s also sort of . . . great? Set aside the fact that more photos and videos are shot vertically on our phones, since smartphone users hold their phones vertically 94% of the time. Millennials so prefer holding their phones vertically that 72% of them don’t even rotate their phones when watching a landscape-oriented piece of content.
If it makes sense to own a TV today at all, it makes sense for that TV to support the camera of our era: A vertically oriented smartphone. Love it or hate it, vertical video is here, and it’s not going anywhere soon.
We’ve already had vertical-spinning desktop monitors for decades. And you can actually buy a vertically spinning wall TV mount for much less money than Samsung’s Vertical (thought it’s unlikely to have proper software support to actually stream all your video in the right aspect ratios). But The Vertical is one of those “why not?” ideas in the otherwise stagnant TV industry. Very few people are going to buy a $16,000 television to scroll through Instagram on the big screen. But if Samsung were to bring this vertical functionality to its mid-range and budget line of TVs, too? It’d be a tempting reason to choose it over something from its popular competitors, like Vizio or TCL.