The South Korean electronics giant Samsung has managed to launch some of the best smartphones in the market with the most recent one being the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. The previously launched Galaxy S series smartphones, the S7 and the S7 Edge, were a huge success for the company. The smartphone got a splendid response from everyone across the globe and turned out to be one of the best smartphone launched in the year 2016 so far.
When it comes to launching a new smartphone(s), planning it well ahead of the time is very important. It is important to make sure what goes into your smartphones and what is the final outcome. So you might be wondering, who is behind all these planning for one of the biggest smartphone manufacturing company? It is Kim Gae-youn for Samsung. He heads the Smartphone planning at Samsung. So basically he is the man behind all the planning about an upcoming smartphone from the company.
Verge conducted an interesting interview with the man himself, and he shared some interesting insights on what is it like to plan for a smartphone for it’s international launch. We have selected only a few of the interesting and informative insights from the interview.
On S7’s Design
The S7 & the S7 Edge have a lot in common with the S6 from last year, whereas the S6 was a huge change from the S5. So when asked about the reason behind such a significant design change from the S5 to S6, he said –
According to their customer research, they have realized that over the course of time people started looking at the smartphone more than just a functional product. There was a need for a product that looked good and which goes along with their life and hence there was a demand for premium smartphones in the market. So the company decided to go with the trend and decided to make a significant change. He also stated that the company invested heavily for the metal and the glass structure.
Team’s approach towards the S7 after the launch of the Galaxy S6
On this, Kim stated that if the S7 is compared to the S6 in terms of design, there is a big change. He said that the S6 Edge had curved 3D glass on the front and only a 2D glass which is flat on the back. Whereas on the other hand, the S7 Edge has 3D glass on both sides. Kim explained that this decision was taken to improve the ergonomic design of the smartphone. Although both the smartphones look somewhat similar in design, they feel entirely different when you hold them in your hands. There were many such small nuances, which may go unnoticed by a common user, but they indeed make a huge difference over the course of the device usage. Hence, the approach was simple, build upon something which is already a great product to further make it more valuable for what it is.
Removable batteries on the new flagship smartphones
“Everything is possible; it’s just cost issues and tradeoffs,” he said. Explaining further, he stated that allowing user removable batteries will result in a thicker footprint. It is indeed possible with the Glass and metal build, but it will definitely cost us more. Also, he mentioned that looking at customer behavior, it was noticed that although you removable batteries, users are often carrying an extra battery as well a charger to charge that one as well. So they decided that giving a battery that would last for an entire and also allow users to charge their batteries quickly with a wireless charger is a better solution.
Display technology and innovation on the flagships like the S7 and the S7 Edge.
Answering that he explained the first ever curved flexible display that they launched in Korea was the Galaxy Round. The next one was the Galaxy Note Edge, which had a curved edge on one side. It was not liked by many and hence it didn’t do well in the market. So up on doing some research on that, the company found out that even though it offered a good functionality, aesthetic design is equally important as well. Hence they decided to launch a smartphone with a good functionality as well as a device which looks appealing as well. That’s when they started working on the S6. The company’s priority with S6’s flexible display was design, but the functionality was secondary. He also said that the S7 has more streamlined design and it is “the best smartphone they’ve ever made.”
With smartphones from manufacturers like Xiaomi, LeEco, etc. are capable of performing similar to that of the flagships, should one really go for the premium smartphones like the S7 and the S7 Edge?
Answering this one, he stated that the hardware in Samsung flagships is very nice. He gave a small example of the camera, where they apply two-photo-diode technology, which is only applied in the professional cameras like the Canon 70D. He also mentioned how the company has evolved with certain services like Samsung Pay. So essentially both hardware and software services together are a key feature that makes them stand out from the mainstream.
A step down from a 16-megapixel camera to a 12-meagapixel sensor on the S7 this year. How did you did you go about that?
To this, Kim laughed and said it was indeed a very difficult decision to take and he personally had a hard time to convince his authorities and stakeholders. It took almost three months to convince everyone, explain how things will work. Although the discussion was intense, it a good decision to take and he said the users are really happy with what they have now in terms of camera performance. More megapixels are not always better and here we went with what people actually wanted. According to the comapny’s customer research, they noted that most of them are viewing the images on their smartphones or on a television display and hence there was no need for that many pixels. So they decided to keep it optimum and upgraded the overall performance like low-light shots and stable images.
TouchWiz as a custom skin on top of Stock Android
So the earlier versions of the TouchWiz was more like a compliment to the stock Android, he said. But it is to be noted that as, the Android version evolved over time, and most of the new features that Samsung offered with touchWiz was slowly implemented with the stock Android. So eventually they had to cut down a lot of it, which was not needed, and that’s what we have today. So as far as visual changes are concerned, he stated that the changes are done in order to offer something unique to the customer who buy the Galaxy smartphones. Just like the smartphone undergoes changes from outside, in terms of design, they think that it is also important to make changes in the UI to complement the new hardware. He gave an example of buying a new house, where the exterior and interior, both are new, and they compliment each other.
Importance of software to Samsung overall
It’s very, very, very, very, very, very, very important.
Remember he stresses this seven times. That has to be important when emphasized these many times. This is where we see Samsung trying hard on Samsung Pay & the Knox Security Suite. The OS still being Android is covered and repackaged in such a way that the experience changes altogether. That said, they now have two development organizations where one is fully for software, while the other on hardware.
Finally, Tizen as the way forward replacing Android on Flagships as well
As far as the operating system goes, the company is doing well with Android as of now, and they don’t have any plans to implement and see a way forward with the Tizen. Smartphones like Z1 & Z3 are indeed unique, and they are targeted towards a different market segment. So as of now maybe that’s not the way forward for them to use it on flagships. But we will see more devices that run Tizen software.
So this was a quick run down of the brief conversation with Kim Gae-youn, who heads the smartphone planning for Samsung. The company looks really strong after the success of this year’s Galaxy S smartphones, and they are also expecting the newly launched Note phablet to perform well. Stay tuned for more such detailed information.