Samsung may be scaling back on its gadget takeover, but now it’s moving on to applications.
On Wednesday, the company announced the second installment of its Milk app franchise, Milk Video. The title is pretty self explanatory: It’s an app that plays video, though it’s not a video player. It's actually a video discovery service for the bored millennial in you. (In a closed presentation with the press, Kevin Swint, vice president of content and services at Samsung, cited "millennials" and their video viewing habits as the inspiration behind the app.)
Milk Video is covered in a bright, bold, almost neon color palette, but it’s ridiculously easy to use. Slide in from the left to choose a video channel—similar to how the dial function works on the Milk Music app. You can then log in with your Facebook account to subscribe to individual video feeds and "re-share" content with your friends.
To Samsung's credit, there's a hefty variety of content to choose from, including videos from the likes of GQ, VICE, Vevo, Funny or Die, College Humor, Refinery 29, and Maker Studios. Newly uploaded videos appear in a timeline of sorts, where you can quickly swipe right to remove individual content from your feed, or tap a button to share it with friends. Videos can then be viewed in two modes: portrait mode, where the video plays at the top of the screen and then you can browse through other videos below it as it plays, or in full-screen mode, which automatically kicks in when the device is in landscape mode.
While the content will undoubtedly appeal to a large subset of users—amateur chefs, nerds, frat boys, fashionistas, and everyone in between—it's a wonder why someone wouldn't just watch this content somewhere else on the Internet. Samsung added that like Milk Music, there's an editorial team curating video content for each of the available channels, the idea being that someone out there who likes the same videos that you do is adding clips to your feed so that you don't have to bother curating it yourself.
A messy rollout
Samsung requires that you log in with Facebook before you can customize anything, though you're merely limited to what you’re sharing and who you’re sharing with. There are no options for offline playback or video size, nor is there a “Wi-Fi only” mode. When I asked Samsung’s Swint about this, he suggested that users bookmark the content to view it later—when they’re in a “safe zone” of sorts that offers Wi-Fi.
Also, Milk Video will only be available to Samsung's smartphones running Android 4.3 and above. The app is live in the Google Play Store, but you can only download if it you’re using a Galaxy Note II or later.
The story behind the story: Samsung may rein supreme when it comes to hardware, but software is its next big undertaking—and it's no surprise why.
Samsung's profits have plunged in 2014; as Apple has proven, creating a truly compelling mobile experience that keeps users coming back year after year takes more than mere mastery over physical nuts and bolts. Milk Video, along with Milk Music, Samsung's nurturing of the Tizen operating system, and the myriad apps and software tie-ins stuffed into Galaxy phones are all signs of Samsung attempting to seize full control of an ecosystem, rather than simply being the most prolific phone maker in the world.
But for as slick as Samsung's new app is, I just can't help feeling that I'd be more excited about Milk Video if it were more than just another YouTube or Vimeo alternative with no option for offline playback.