At the Mobile World Congress,
Samsung unveiled its latest flagship smartphone (Galaxy S5) on the world. The
reaction was a staggering ‘meh’. There should be no reason for such a response.
The specs of the phone are fairly impressive:
- Dimensions: 142 x 72.5 x 8.1mm
- Weight: 145 g
- Processor: 2.5 GHz quad-core application processor
- Operating system: Android 4.4.2 (KitKat)
- Display: 5.1-inch FHD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080)
- Memory: 16/32 GB microSD slot up to 128 GB
- Camera: 16 MP (rear), 2 MP (front)
- Battery: Removable 2800 mAh
- Standby time: 390 hrs; Talk time: 21 hrs
- Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac HT80, MIMO (2×2)
- Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, Hall, RGB ambient light, Gesture(IR), Finger Scanner, Heart-rate sensor
- Other features: NFC, IP67, Dust and water Resistant,
The device has a powerful
processor, plenty of space, a beautiful display, and even introduces
waterproofing (for those prone to spillage and droppage). But why was there so
little ballyhoo for the next iteration of Samsung’s flagship mobile?
I can answer that question in a
single phrase: Same old, same old (Figure A).
The Galaxy S5 with its Band-Aid back.
That’s right, the S5 simply picks
up where the S4 left off. This is quite surprising, considering how
disappointing the sales were for the S4. But there’s a lesson to be learned
from the S4/5 devices, one that Samsung must heed before they drive the Galaxy
line into the ground. Although many may disagree, this design has become
an essential (if not crucial) element in the mobile world. And the design of
the Galaxy S phone has developed into as boring an aesthetic as you will find.
Add to the boring factor the ever-growing size of the devices, and you have a
recipe for disastrous sales.
Here’s the thing… smartphones
have become accessories of peoples’ lives — in business, in social settings, and in
general. Beyond platform, one of the first things consumers see on a smartphone
is its design. The next thing is how the device feels. Beyond that, it’s all about the interface. Samsung has nailed that last piece, but fewer consumers are going
to reach the interface portion of their decision, thanks to the mediocre design
of the phone.
The HTC One bested both Apple and
Samsung to win the Best Smartphone of 2013 at the Mobile World Congress 2014. The winner in 2012 was the Samsung Galaxy S3 — and to this day, it’s the best
selling phone in the Galaxy line up.
That should serve as a hint to
Samsung, better their phones are selling less and less with each iteration. You have to
take into consideration that the Galaxy S3 was a tremendous release. Honestly, it changed the shape of the mobile industry and helped sway the public opinion of
Android. It was unique, it was powerful, the size was near-perfect, and it
introduced an outstanding user interface. But while other manufacturers were
making serious design changes to continue evolving their devices (to match the
ever-growing change in aesthetics), Samsung simply grew the Galaxy smartphone
and added little in the way to inspire awe.
Unfortunately, the greedy
public demands that you “awe” their dollars from them, and the Galaxy S5 packs little
of that in its punch. Even with the the addition of a fingerprint scanner
(which allows for secure payments via Google Wallet, PayPal, and other wallet
systems), the Galaxy S5 is in for a long, uphill climb. This will only be made
worse as HTC releases the next iteration of their award-winning One device
(dubbed New HTC One) and Sony unleashes the Xperia Z2 (which, with 3 GB of RAM,
could be the fastest smartphone on the planet).
I’ve used both the Galaxy S3 and
S4 extensively. Both smartphones beautifully display the power and flexibility
of the Android platform. I was disappointed by how poorly the S4 sold, but
after watching how the mobile world has evolved, I’m not surprised. Nor will I
be surprised if Samsung reports a continued decline in sales for their flagship
The sad truth is that this all could be
avoided by upgrading the design of the device to better fit the modern
standard. Nearly every mockup seen floating around the Internet had a far
superior design than what Samsung eventually unveiled. No matter how hard you
try, it’s impossible to get around aesthetic appeal and desire. People want
shiny and new on the outside and on the inside. But consumers will never
bother to look under the hood if they don’t like what they see on the
Apple knows this. HTC knows this. Sony and LG know this. Why doesn’t Samsung? Share your thoughts about this in the discussion thread below.