CES2012: Samsung inTouch Brings Android 2.3, 720p HD Video Calls to Any HDTV for $199

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Last year, GoogleTV was the hot new thing that Smart TV enthusiasts were talking about. We’ve seen how well that worked out for companies like Logitech (i.e., not at all) – so this year, manufacturers are trying again, but with Google’s Android OS, not their Android-powered GoogleTV. Can Samsung’s inTouch succeed where Logitech’s Revue failed?

Samsung inTouch

What does the unit do for your HDTV? In short, it turns it into the biggest Android-powered phone you’ve probably ever seen. As part of the package, inTouch buyers will be able to add Wi-Fi, web browsing, 720p video calls, YouTube, Google News, Google Weather and more. The video calls will be handled by a pre-installed copy of Skype, which is great news – it means that your friends and loved ones won’t need to subscribe to some arcane and proprietary (and usually hideous) video chat service.

Connected to the TV with a single HDMI cable, the inTouch camera is what makes the magic happen. Samsung included a number of Android applications that take advantage of the unique situation that tying a camera to a television brings, such as photo and video capture programs, as well as one attractive bit of software that turns the television into a fancy photo frame.

Whether you’ll find a 55-inch digital photo frame useful is another story…but at least you’ll have the option. If anything, it would be a great feature for parties.

What makes the inTouch system so attractive are its universality and affordability. Smart TVs aren’t new, but they can quickly become outdated; this is made all the more painful by the typically high prices their owners paid for the systems. At only $199.99, Samsung makes an extraordinarily compelling argument for putting Android onto your TV.

For that price, you get a powerful operating system, dozens of applications, video streaming from software such as YouTube and Netflix (without an extra monthly fee levied by devices such as the Xbox 360), web browsing, Skype video calls, etc. Few previous attempts have included so many options, and those that do rarely include them for the base price. Apple is widely expected to introduce a smart television of its own sometime in 2012 or 2013, but it’s expected to carry what competing fans enjoy calling “the Apple tax.”

As part of the bundle, Samsung also includes a small, but fully intact, QWERTY keyboard. Choosing to include a keyboard instead of a simple remote control raises the bar in terms of complexity, but was likely the better decision since it instantly quells the frustration anyone forced to enter data on their television (L i n k) has felt.

Samsung expects the inTouch to be generally available by March of this year.

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