Saturday, August 15, 2015

What's next for Samsung?

samsung-next-is-now-poster
There's 7 different type of twins and probably the most commonly viewed on is the half-identical twin which basically means that their genes will partly be identical from their mother and the other half will be uniquely different. Why am I talking about genes (or Biology) and what does this have to do about technology. Well, Samsung just unwrapped two new large screened devices namely the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 edge+ which features large 5.7" displays and is categorized under the phablet umbrella.

But as much as how they look is different, they are indeed half-identical twins, their core specifications are very similar but the targeted user base is totally different. The S6 edge+ is aimed towards the mainstream market while the Note5 is targeted at those out there who wants the multitasking prowess of the S Pen. Both the S6 edge+ and Note5 improves on the industrial design introduced with the Galaxy S6 and these devices essentially still feature sandwiched glass on a metal frame.
Samsung's new Galaxy S6 edge+ comes with a big 5.7" curved display — Besides all the hardware and software enhancements, Samsung is also getting ready quite a number of accessories which are uniquely different. Continue reading.
Samsung Galaxy Note5 announced, say goodbye to plastic — The industrial design being showcased on the Note 5 looks a lot like what's implemented on the Galaxy S6 but that's actually a good thing. But Samsung didn't merely enlarge. Continue reading.
With the introduction of these two new phablets, Samsung is rounding up the year with four flagship devices specifically tailored to different kind of users. While it is a debatable whether Samsung needed to release more high end devices, it is clear that the Korean company is no longer harboring the ideas they had last year.

Samsung made a pretty stern statement earlier this year with the introduction of both the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge and the recent launch of the Galaxy Note5 merely just reinforces the idea behind the company's new strategy. While the Galaxy S6 didn't manage to rake up record sales, it still managed to convince reviewers that their design team is capable of coming up with sexy looking hardware. So, now that Samsung is making hardware that rivals the iPhone in terms of premium-ness, what is next in the chapter of Samsung's history?

Twentyfourteen (2014)
Right, before diving into the future, first let's take a stroll down memory lane. In 2014 Samsung released both the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 (and Galaxy Note Edge too) and while the Galaxy S5 was at that time a pretty common sight amongst Samsung flagships, the announcement of the Galaxy Note 4 was a fresh new start. It's pretty clear that Samsung made the wrong decision when designing the Galaxy S5 and while sales ended up being quite promising, the company has since then been facing the heat amongst netizens

Then came the aftermath of reviews which criticized Samsung's poor design choices of the "glam" look on the Galaxy S5. That criticism however clicked through Samsung's executive board and it was somewhat a wake-up call that their luck will not last forever and so they went back to the drawing board to redesign a comeback. Within three months, "BOOM" the Galaxy Alpha was born and damn was is a pretty handsome device. Mind you at that time, Samsung was still engineering their polycarbonate designs and the Alpha was a refreshing new look.

galaxy-alpha-promo-press-image

Soon enough, the Galaxy Note 4 adapted the Alpha's similar design by including a premium metal frame as the main structure of the device but still kept the plastic back cover which Samsung is closely known for. The plastic was retained on the Note 4 mainly because the removable back enabled Samsung to include both the removable battery and also the trusty microSD card slot. That's pretty much how it all went down and the rest of the story reconnects after the fully tanked Galaxy S6 was announced.

What's next?

So, we're in the present day and the Galaxy Note5 has been announced but Samsung is still faced with quarterly declines over sales. Samsung however is pinning the blame on Apple's new iPhone 6 which is now bigger than ever. Part of the move to release the new Note5 ahead of its usual IFA unveiling was to get a little head start over the forthcoming iPhone 6S which will be released in mid-September. The fact that the iPhone is stalling the sales of Samsung's flagship offerings is somewhat true but that just a fraction of the actual problem.

The ever growing Android market is indefinitely where Samsung is being caught up, no longer is the market relying on Samsung to come up with Android devices. Quite a number of new manufacturers from India and China has surprisingly rose up in the last few years and companies like Xiaomi, Lenovo and Micromax are producing Android devices which are equally better compared to Samsung but the difference is how these newfound companies price their offerings.

Flagship smartphones only take up a pretty minute market worldwide as Windows Phone has proved in the past and the market is now saturated with affordable devices as more people dive into the smartphone world. Moving forward, we'll begin seeing Samsung focus on bringing value down to their mid-entry-level offerings. You can take a look at their new initiative through the new Galaxy A series which was born out of the original Galaxy Alpha which started this whole premium move. The new A series shows that Samsung is capable of producing feature packed devices with good design terms at multiple price points to suit the market.

Arguably Samsung has chosen the right path to innovate from the ground up with higher quality materials and innovating closely to Apple's terms meaning that not every year will we be able to see flashy new flagship devices with a radically improved feature set across the board. But the important thing is the they have taken the first step out of their demise with uninspired designs and moving forward, they need to put in the effort to build up a stronger portfolio of devices which appeal to the ever growing smartphone market.

As much as how we're impressed with the new metal and glass build that Samsung is throwing into their flagship devices this year, it's not long before Samsung realizes that glass and metal is not a good combination. History has already proven that sandwiched glass smartphone generally don't get a very good feedback. The combination does look pretty slick and Samsung's method of coloring the rear glass panel with various colors is pretty ingenious but the feeling in the hand is not too good as things can get pretty slippery with the smooth glass and metal frame wrapping around your hands.
Hugo Barra expresses his displeasure against microSD cards and removable batteries — It is a trend: SD cards will disappear and you should basically not expect SD card slots in any of our flagships. Continue reading.
Sure you might also join in the subjective debate whether Samsung needs to implement a microSD card slot onto their flagship devices but it's not something that is up to us as a consumer to decide on. They've already shown that microSD slots can exist inside metal enclosures with the Galaxy A8, so don't jump into the trivial conversation about removable storage. although things might look a little lacking right now but it won't be long before Samsung comes up to mark the return of these features if they see fit.

While most of the attention is set on the new premium design language that Samsung is implementing on to their devices, the overall workings of Samsung's mobile offerings this year have also been altered to reflect the change. Samsung is still releasing quite a number of Android devices this year but if you notice closely, the quality has somewhat been improved across the board and the overall quantity has also dropped. Samsung launched quite a number of wearable devices last year alone but they've yet to announce a smartwatch/ fitness tracker this year.
galaxy-s6-family-edge-and-edge-plus
This is overall a better proposition as Samsung can direct their R&D towards selective devices to get better results outright and while Samsung will never reach Apple's level of releasing 2-3 phones a year, narrowing down the device lineup will not only save on cost but they can put their focus on a couple of devices and ultimately ending up with a solid lineup. Samsung should consider adapting to Motorola's strategy of streamlining their smartphone business to a couple of devices, because like seriously who actually wants to buy a low profile smartphone from Samsung, it always ends it's life with the software it came preloaded with.

Speaking of low profile smartphones, one thing that Samsung is bound to fix down the road is how they distribute software to devices. We've heard stories from far and near that software support from Samsung basically doesn't exist for devices which aren't heavily marketed. Well I understand that it is a little tough to push out a new release of Android for every single Samsung phone released in the year, this is where the narrowing of the device lineup comes in.
Samsung's new Tizen based Gear S2 will arrive in September — the announcement of the Galaxy Note 5 marks the end of big announcements for the Korean manufacturer but just before closing of the keynote. Continue reading.
Besides releasing a considerably lesser amount of devices, through the high profile Unpacked event launches this year, we can see that Samsung is tuning down on the sideline software features which they used to talk all about. Sure, TouchWiz still comes with a considerable amount of software enhancements that spice up the entire experience but by no means is Samsung making a big deal out of it. Instead, the company seems to be focusing more on core experiences that will actually impact the user itself.

Tizen

While Samsung is pretty big on Android, they're also partly working on a new Linux based operating system called Tizen that is currently powering most of their Galaxy Gear smartwatches and some of their smart cameras. After much delays, it looks like Tizen is about to make it's widespread debut onto smartphones, the first being the Samsung Z1 which is currently available in select developing countries like India and Bangladesh.

At the moment, Tizen is quite like an unknown world even in countries like India which Samsung is trying inject Tizen OS into. It is pretty clear that Samsung is keen on Tizen OS as it's already deploying it on their new smartwatches which can be paired to android devices but driving it into the smartphone market is another story as the current state of smartphones is Android vs iOS with other smaller mobile operating systems filling in the gap.

Personally, I don't see Tizen OS as the next big smartphone operating system but Tizen isn't only made to run on smartphone and wearables. It has been designed to adapt into the IoT world where real world products like printers and smart home appliances. That's where I can forsee Tizen developing gracefully as Samsung along with their partners in the Tizen association will be able to implement onto devices while also getting support from developers to implement applications into Tizen.

Conclusion

The future is bright for Samsung if they can keep things upright and provide users what they are asking for but from a competitive standpoint, they'll need to ring up a new formula to convince iPhone users that Galaxy phones are simply better. Simply just pushing the release date a little earlier does not immediately ring up success. I know this is a fairly subjective debate as to which operating system works best for your but I think that Samsung is on to something as they're beginning to actually build up their smartphone lineup with better quality products.

In conclusion, Samsung has broke up with their old strategy and moved towards a newer one which includes building smartphones with higher quality components. But that is just the start and the design alone will not retain users from switching to other smartphones, the overall experience from software experience to the feeling of the hardware in the users hand is what's important. Expect to see amazing things from Samsung moving forward as this year's flagship are merely just redesigns and a little upgrade on the hardware side.

Insider talk (out of topic)

Started off this article when the unpacked event started, worked through the night and got the rough body of the article. Unlike previous years where I do a writeup about the new Galaxy Note, this year I didn't waste time on talking about all the new features and specifications as they're basically just news topics. As you might already know, I have moved the news segment to our local Malaysia site and instead of wrapping up the Unpacked event, I'm going for an indirect third party approach for this article which depicts the announcement in a subjective way. Moving forward, I will base off articles in this kind of way as I move away from talking about the technical specifications