Samsung has grown from a fringe player to become on the giants of the smartphone and mobile computing industry in little under 5 years. From its humble beginnings as a feature phone “also ran” to becoming the leading supplier of memory and hardware materials for leading smartphone and tablet vendors, Samsung has come a long way. Today, Samsung devices reign over Android smartphone segment, which is by itself a huge chunk of the smartphone market. In doing so, Samsung is now in the position to determine the future of mobile computing just as Apple was till about a year ago. But is Samsung up to the task? Can Samsung really innovate or are they masters of replication?
Samsung Galaxy S2 To Galaxy S4: A Story of Innovation By Improvement
Samsung started its journey to the top by doing what it does best. Producing upgraded versions of trend setters in the market at a more affordable price range. Samsung launched the Samsung Galaxy S2 in 2011 with the features of then successful iPhone 4s at a much better price. The phone was Android’s first major market success in smartphones. Having sold over 10 Mn units, Samsung gained on the delay it enjoys over iPhone launches and stepped up the game with better hardware, slimmer profile and an almost identical design. With the Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung upped the ante, launching a version that was twice as good as the S2 and competed with the iPhone 5 on even terms. Samsung Galaxy S3 sold over 20 Mn units in its first 9 months. Effectively however, most Samsung devices were but minor upgrades over existing iPhones. The Samsung Galaxy S2, S3 and S4 each had hardware that was better than the iPhones of their time and came with but minor feature upgrades.
Here Is A Look At The Amount Of Innovation
While S3 was launched with the Nature UI and brought with it a slew of new features including group shot, panorama, Eye-Tracking, S Voice, wireless charging and even 4G LTE connectivity. Most of these features however weren’t innovations. Rather, they were Samsung’s own version of existing features across the market.
Samsung Galaxy S4 is an almost forgettable phone in this aspect as well. The phone had nearly nothing new to provide for the users except for the Group Play feature which allowed for ad-hoc file sharing and co-operative gaming. Another novel feature was Quick Glance, which let users get quick notifications when they lift the phone.
Till date, every Samsung Galaxy Flagship has outsold its predecessor by at least 10 Mn units. The Samsung Galaxy S4 sold over 40 million units within six months of its launch. As we approach a year, we can be certain that number has grown even more significant.
Samsung Isn’t An Innovator?
Despite Samsung’s great commercial success and obvious clout of the hardware market, Samsung has done little to no innovation with its Smartphones. A look at the table below will list out some of the claimed innovations that Samsung has made on its past flagships, including the Galaxy Note range.
|S Translator||Samsung Galaxy S4||Multiple Translator apps on Google Play and iOS|
|Smart Scroll||Samsung Galaxy S4||Samsung|
|AirView/Air Gesture||Samsung Galaxy Note 2||Sony Xperia Sola|
|Dual Camera||Samsung Galaxy S4||Apps on Google Play and IOS|
|Split Screen||Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1||Samsung|
|Smart Stay||Samsung Galaxy S3||Samsung|
|PopUp Mini Apps||Samsung Galaxy S3||Samsung|
|Quick Settings Toggle||Samsung Galaxy S||Samsung|
Note: This list is indicative only and is not exhaustive.
A look at some of the highly appreciated and marketed features/ innovations of Samsung’s previous Flagships will show just how little Samsung has added to the smartphone industry. While there was a time when Samsung launched a phone with features that would soon become the status quo for Android smartphones such as Quick Settings Toggle, Multiple Home Screens and Ability to add, edit and delete widgets, Today Samsung seems to be engaged at producing affordable and improved versions of existing smartphones. This in no way is a bad strategy and is clearly working for Samsung but can Samsung survive on this?
Lessons To Be Learnt From Fallen Giants
Capitalising on existing market trends and improving on them isn’t a new trend. Several players have already succeeded in making that quick buck and rise to dizzying heights in short time. Even in the mobile phone market, players like Nokia and BlackBerry held sway over the mobile market for almost 15 years. However it takes only one breakthrough innovation from a lesser known rival to completely topple your position. Apple did this to Nokia and to some extend Android and Google are doing the same to Apple at the moment. It won’t be long before Samsung are out gunned or out witted by a growing number of Smartphone/ communication device makers. As Samsung prepares to launch the Samsung Galaxy S5 in February, it may be wise to heed from these lessons.
Can Samsung Galaxy S5 Break The Trend?
Samsung prepares to launch its 5th edition of the Galaxy S Flagship. Every Samsung phone has brought with it some significant new feature and the same is expected with the Samsung Galaxy S5. Samsung Galaxy S5 has so far been touted to be Waterproof and Dust proof, will feature a Fingerprint Scanner will have a 64-bit CPU, 2K QHD display, 16MP full HD camera among other new features. Looking at the list it clearly doesn’t look like S5 is revolutionary. If anything, Samsung Galaxy S5 is meeting industry benchmarks set by different players including Apple, HTC and Sony. However we may have to wait to know whether Samsung Galaxy S5 price will make even meeting bench marks adequate for the phone’s success. For now however we may have to wait to see how exactly Samsung Galaxy S5 breaks the trend on Samsung’s neglect on innovation.
Samsung has so far relied on the principle, “If it works, don’t change” and has been extremely successful in this. However growing market pressures, multiple competitors and the evolution of newer communication trends may force Samsung to bite the bullet and make few innovations that are yet to be seen in the smartphone space. Features such as Smart Stay and Smart Scroll may look appealing to consumers but are nothing more than marketing gimmicks. They may force a few sales but may never define the age of smartphones as Samsung is destined to do. It will be interesting to see if and how Samsung Galaxy S5 can break this trend and usher in a new age in smartphones. In case Samsung doesn’t take the plunge this time around, we may know for certain who will in the coming months.