The TV for the Smartphone Age

Samsung’s Frame TV is a fresh take on how the TV fits into the living room.

Woman sitting at a kitchen island facing a wall-mounted Samsung Frame TV displaying art.

In its early days, the television was a wood-enclosed box that blended in with your existing living room furniture. Its screen was small; plastics and composites weren’t yet commonplace. Over time, manufacturing abilities, design trends, and television usage changed. The TV became the focal point of the living room—and it didn’t need to blend in anymore. The device lost its homely trappings and evolved into the giant, black, personality-less screen we know today.

That may be changing, though. A new screen—the smartphone—now commands our attention, and electronics design has once again returned to a place where harmonizing with your home decor is valued over the statement made by numerous electronics littering your living space. The TV is returning to its place in the background, but in a refreshingly simple way.

Samsung’s Frame TV, now in its second generation, is a fresh take on the way the TV fits into the living room. The 55- or 65-inch flat screen affixes to a wall, like many TVs do these days, but instead of being an empty black screen when it’s not in use, the device acts like a picture frame, complete with art on display and a virtual, white matte bordering its edges. You can select and purchase paintings, drawings, photographs, and other works of art for the set, which automatically customizes its screen brightness based on the ambient lighting in the room. It no longer feels like a TV screen.

You can create a playlist of artistic works based on ones you’ve selected or choose ones that match the color scheme of the room the TV is in. The TV will rotate through these pieces at intervals ranging from 10 minutes to 24 hours. (Alternatively, you can choose a single artwork to stay on screen.) To complete the set’s photo frame effect, you can also choose from four different bezel options (beige wood, walnut, black, and white) so that the Frame TV best coordinates with your living room style. These bezels attach via magnet, so you can change the feel of your TV as needed.

Of course, it is still a TV, with a 4K ultra-HD display and HDR10+, an upgraded picture standard that allows for more vivid, higher-clarity images, and scene-by-scene brightness adjustment. As a smart TV, it also has Wi-Fi and access to apps like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu. And it includes Samsung’s virtual assistant Bixby for voice-based controls and queries.

Samsung’s Frame TV follows design trends we’re seeing with other connected home devices such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. These products eschew a plain black exterior, the default for many consumer home electronics, in favor of designs and materials that better match what’s found in your home. The second-generation Echo, for example, comes in three fabric variants (charcoal, heather gray, and sandstone) and two finishes (oak and walnut). It still retains its LED ring around the top, but when it’s not in use, the device coordinates with its surrounding environment rather than standing out from it. Technology is no longer a destination. It’s integrated and interwoven throughout our day.

The new Frame TV allows owners to make the TV a part of their home, rather than just a device that sits in it. Of course, Samsung isn’t the first to repurpose the screen for an application like displaying art. The fourth-generation Apple TV introduced breathtaking aerial screensavers of beautiful global destinations when it’s not in use. Third-party apps such as Artcast can transform your TV into a work of art as well. But the Frame TV goes one step further by making your TV not look like a TV all the time. It’s a delightful idea, that we can come home and see art on the wall rather than the shiny blank blackness of yet another screen—and it’s the kind of thing we should see more often.