New products offer fresh ways to watch shows and videos
Shifting media habits during the pandemic has given rise to a new family of devices for watching TV, especially for those who don't want or need a big, stationary set.
The appliances come in different forms, but share a common trait: they let you stream Netflix virtually anywhere — like at the foot of a bed, in the tub or while baking.
Lee yu-min, a 33-year-old woman living in Seoul, was drawn to buy the LG Electronics StanbyMe because of its great portability.
With the increased time online since the pandemic started, she was looking for a screen bigger than smartphone or tablet screens, but also a screen that is easily movable.
The 27-inch screen is connected to a matching stand and base with five concealed wheels so that users can wheel it around and swivel or tilt it to both portrait and landscape orientations. It has a battery that allows for three hours of viewing.
"Since I am living alone, I didn't think I need a large TV set that takes up much space, and it is hard to move around," said Lee, who bought the StanbyMe last year for around 1 million won ($834).
LG Electronics released the StanbyMe screen last July with an initial price tag of 1.29 million won.
At first glance, it just looks like a small stand TV, but she found that the product is optimized to provide a viewing experience akin to what smartphones offer.
It has a touchscreen with a similar aspect ratio to that of a smartphone. The screen is not equipped with a TV tuner, but the webOS operating system has built-in Netflix and YouTube apps.
"I don't often watch TV programs, but rather stream content," she said, "So it didn't really matter."
With the screen mirroring feature, users can display their smartphone screens onto a StanbyMe.
When connected to a laptop with an HDMI cable, it can go from a television to a PC monitor, a usage that Lee employs when she works from home.
Whenever online retailers, like the LG Electronics shopping mall, Coupang or SSG.com make the model available, it is sold out in less than an hour.
The electronics company has expanded production capacity for the screen three-fold at its factory in Gumi, North Gyeongsang, compared to the beginning of sales, according to a spokesperson at LG Electronics.
LG Electronics shops tentatively stopped taking orders until March, since demand outpaces supply.
"Orders will resume in early March," said a front desk receptionist at LG Best Shop in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul.
"It will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis, but it will take several weeks for customers to have StanbyMes delivered," he said.
The manufacturer is hoping to emulate the success at home in overseas markets, bringing the display to Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam.
Despite the successful debut, some see that the movable screen won't be an immediate threat to televisions since many users consider it as a secondary screen after TVs.
Kim Jung-a, a 39-year-old woman who lives with a family of three, already owns two televisions, but bought the product for media watching on the move.
"It accompanies me wherever it is most convenient — in my room at night before sleeping and in the kitchen when I cook alongside the tutorials shown or even at the foot of bathtub," she said.
"But sometimes my family and I turn on the TVs when we want to watch the Olympics and regular news on a bigger screen."
StanbyMe could be a letdown for high-end viewers who are sensitive to picture and sound quality.
"To me, the picture quality of the StanbyMe felt closer to the range of PC monitors than TVs," Lee said, "And audio was just fair enough for normal users like me but could be disappointing for people who expect a home theater sound quality."
StanbyMe has an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panel supporting 1,920 pixels horizontally and 1,080 pixels vertically. The full high-definition (FHD) mode lags behind TVs with ultra-high definition options like 8K and 4K resolutions.
Samsung Electronics, the world's largest TV maker, also jumped the market for lighter, more mobile screens with The Freestyle, introduced last month.
It is a projector that can offer a 100-inch image, but the selling point lies in its rotating capability so that users can project images and videos onto different surfaces without moving or reconfiguring it.
In one scenario, it projects videos on the ceiling for a person in bed without the need for mounting the projector on a tripod or another sort of stand. The 830-gram can-shaped projector is easy to carry, and its base provides 180 degrees of tilt.
In the month following the release in Korea, the United States, Europe and Latin America, Samsung said that more than 10,000 units have sold. It is priced at 1.19 million won.
"The product is intended for the shifting socializing practice in the pandemic," a spokesperson at Samsung Electronics said.
"On top of streaming, users can project images during gatherings at home."
The Freestyle uses a light emitting diode (LED) as the light source and supports the FHD mode just like the StanbyMe. The projector deploys a 360-degree sound radiation technique to deliver more vibrant sound.
BY PARK EUN-JEE [email@example.com]