COMMENT: Apple may have delivered the first real smartphone back in 2007 when they rolled out the all new iPhone, but it is Samsung that is now pushing the design boundaries with their latest offering, the Galaxy S III, which comes with a big new Super AMOLED screen.
As the iPhone starts to look like yesterday’s technology with its small screen and slow processor Samsung has started to push the design boundaries with lighter and thinner smartphones.
Their new offering, that is more plastic than prior models still, has to confront consumers with the new S III set to go on sale shortly.
Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum said of the new S III “The importance of the Galaxy S III to Samsung can not be underestimated; the company has built its reputation on producing the ‘must-have’ Android smartphone and in the process has become the poster child for the Android platform.
However, Samsung’s Galaxy S III not only needs to stand out amongst a plethora of other Android-based smartphones it will also go head-to-head with the next iteration of Apple’s smartphone flag-ship the iPhone. Samsung has the advantage of time with the next iPhone due out towards the end of this year. In the meantime Samsung can maximize the marketing and distribution of the Galaxy S III on a global scale, and the London 2012 Summer Olympics will provide the perfect marketing opportunity for them”.
He added “Aside from the success of the Galaxy S III, Samsung’s wider business challenge is to decide if it needs ownership of a software and services platform. Leveraging Android has played to Samsung’s advantage, so far, giving it the opportunity to move to the software platform of choice for consumers; however, it leaves the company venerable to a vast number of other OEMs, which could produce the next ‘must-have’ Android smartphone. Having a successful service proposition; would help the company build a deeper relationship with its customers.”
Last week Samsung became the biggest supplier of smartphones in the world. They got there through sheer determination and several failures.
When Samsung released their first smartphone in an effort to counter the iPhone it was a disaster: calls dropped out and the screen was terrible. I remember writing a review where I described one of their smartphones as “a heap of junk”.
How times have changed. At the time Blackberry and Nokia were the phones to beat now those brands are dead and dying.
With the new S III, the smartphone market moves on once more with new innovative features. Inside the new S III has built-in face-tracking and voice control, allowing for a more ‘natural’ control system.
Other innovations include what Samsung said is a ‘more intelligent’ lock system, that keeps the screen ‘awake’ when the phone’s camera senses eyes watching it, rather than turning it off.
A new voice control system called S Voice – that allows users to access weather forecasts, web searches and scheduling, similar to iPhone’s Siri system – has been launched.
Saying ‘I want to take a picture’ launches the camera application – and will work in eight languages at launch.
S Voice can also reply out loud, which Samsung claims will allow the system to be used while driving.
Samsung has a massive manufacturing advantage over Apple which is why Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, is set to be more conciliatory with Samsung when they meet to resolve their differences in a US Court on May 22nd, after both Companies spent millions last year fighting each other in Courts around the world including Australia.
Now Samsung is playing on its expertise in screens and processors in an effort to hurt Apple.
Their new S III has a large 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen running a resolution of 1280 x 720p – far bigger than Apple’s iPhone, and close in size to the smaller end of the tablet market.
Their latest offering is a far cry from their Omnia smartphone days.
Samsung Mobile President JK Shin admitted it was a tough time back in 2008 when the Company struggled to compete up against Apple.
“We now have their metal and we can beat them (Apple)” said an executives at today’s launch of the S III in London.
Since those days Samsung has made millions in profits from selling smartphones.
Lee Minhyouk Samsung Mobile’s vice president for design and his team claim that they are already working on its next smartphone to supersede the Galaxy S III.
Lee, who at 40 is the company’s youngest senior executive said “Without Omnia and Samsung’s previous models, there would have been no Galaxys. There’s a design link among these products,” he said. “They shouldn’t be viewed as fragmental design. They share our deep deliberation on technology, color and design language.”
In the past Samsung’s strategy has always been to be the “fast executioner”, the first in the market with a copycat product when a new opportunity is presented.
Now things are different and Samsung is starting to take it up to Apple.
To become a truly innovative company, Samsung needs to explore the art, as well as the science, of what it does, critics say.
“Samsung is like a fantastic soap maker,” said Christian Lindholm, chief innovation officer of service design consultancy Fjord based in Finland. “Their products get you clean, lathers well. However, they do not know how to make perfumes, an industry where margins are significantly higher. Perfume is an experience. Perfume is meant to seduce, make you attractive and feel good. You love your perfume, but you like your soap.”
Designing something people can love is an art, which requires risk taking and is based more on experience than data. “Samsung needs to learn to lead more. They analyse all creativity to death, they lack self confidence,” Lindholm said.
A Reuters writer wrote recently after a visit to Korea that Lee’s office atmosphere and his comments seem to reinforce an image of a company whose culture leans more to evolution than big-bang creationism.
His design sanctum looks much like any other Samsung department, a Dilbert sprawl of desks and cubicles with framed aphorisms from the founding family on the walls: “Be with Customers” and “Create Products that Contribute to Humanity” and also this one: “Challenge the World, Create the Future”.
The office may lack the exotic art, exercise balls and creative toys of Silicon Valley decor, but Lee and his team are borrowing some start-up techniques for tapping the design muses.
Lee, who has acquired the moniker of “Midas” for his golden touch with the Galaxy series, has travelled to Brazil’s Iguazu Falls and the ancient city of Cuzco in Peru for inspiration. Samsung sends the design team on such trips across the world to stoke their imaginary fires.
When you open the new Galaxy SIII, the lock screen is more interactive with a little ripple running across the screen when you go to unlock the new phone. Users actually get a little water drop sound, and the whole effect is very calming.
Images or emotions they pick up on these trips can be “naturally expressed in design languages or lines and colors”, said Lee, who started out designing cars for Samsung’s failed auto joint venture with Renault in the 1990s.
The design process can also be more mundane, he adds.
“Designing is just part of your life. You study, do some research on future trends and experience stuff you haven’t done before. All this stuff interacts to create a new design.”
Part of Samsung’s design philosophy is to leverage the conglomerate’s ability to manufacture inhouse the components in its products, including microchips and flat screens – an advantage over Apple for instance, which has to outsource most of that.
By most accounts, Ive’s success at Apple stemmed from his close personal relationship with Steve Jobs – a classic marriage between gizmo-maker and entrepreneur.
The big question now is that with Jobs gone and Samsung surging in the Smartphone market, can Apple keep up their design innovation?
Many were expecting a brand new iPhone late last year but all we go was the iPhone 4S which was very similar to the prior iPhone.
To get traction up against Android and Samsung Apple has to deliver a new design barrier. Can they do it without Jobs?
We will know in September when the next iPhone is delivered.