During this week's unveiling of the new Samsung A Series of smartphones, much of the focus was on the high-end features at a more affordable price as the South Korean tech giant looks to regain its status as the world's top smartphone maker versus Apple's iPhone.
But buried in the range of features mentioned in the new Samsung A Series was a surprising and very big feature addition: native Snapchat augmented reality lenses.
The line-up, which includes the Galaxy A52, A52 5G, and A72, all display Samsung's typically sleek design, as well as 5G connectivity (for the A52 5G), 4K video capture, AR Emoji, as well as features Apple apparently hates (no matter what users request), like a beautiful headphone jack and a MicroSD slot.
However, from Samsung's vantage point, the biggest news here is the pricing, as all three phones are roughly at or below the $500 price point—a rare bit of relief from the wallet-gouging trend of the $1,000 smartphone. So far, the low prices announced are for European customers, while the official pricing for the US will likely be announced sometime in the spring.
Yet even with all those features, the one that stands out for us is the new native Snapchat Lens feature on the Samsung A Series called Fun Mode, which allows you to use Snapchat filters from the device's native camera app.
According to the company's official statement, the feature's availability "may vary by markets and carriers." Nevertheless, this is a huge step for Snap as it continues to build its reputation as a primary AR gateway in the mobile space not just for its user base, but for users engaging AR on a variety of platforms.
When it comes to building successful software platforms, the question of native hardware often comes up when a platform reaches a massive scale. This is why there's always chatter about a Facebook smartphone, for example. Considering Snap's dedication to its Spectacles hardware line-up, it wouldn't be a surprise to suddenly see a Snap smartphone appear on the horizon, perfectly optimized to show you the world filtered perfectly through the platform's thousands of Lens effects.
But for now, it appears that Snap is going the smarter, behind-the-scenes route by instead embedding its powerful AR tool inside one of the world's leading smartphone makers. It's a risky play in terms of control, but probably worth it, as Snap's ability to reach the billions of mobile users around the globe has just increased by a huge margin, putting AR even further along the path to mainstream adoption.