How Samsung went from exciting to uninspiring

Samsung rode on the wave of the iPhone to success. The Asian tiger rose to Android dominance by copying the design cues of the iPhone for its Galaxy S series and it paid off handsomely. See Photo Shoot: Apple, Samsung, and Nokia and Aping Apple – Stupid, stupid mobile manufacturers. That was in the beginning. Samsung became a blazing brand in mobile and quickly became the dominant power. They still are, but the flame is not burning so bright anymore.

Photocopy ko easy (Photocopy is not easy)
For one, it seems that Samsung has gotten it into their head that copying the iPhone to the hilt is the way forward perpetually. Copying the visual design cues of the iPhone was okay. But now forging ahead in copying the limitations of the Apple’s cool aid in their flagship devices is downright silly. No micro SD card. No removable battery. Duh. Very soon, perhaps Samsung will remove multitasking and skin TouchWiz to run like iOS does.

But here is the deal: Android is not iOS. And the average Android user is not like the average iOS user. Android is about freedom and flexibility. For one, the freedom to choose how the user stores files and when to change their battery.

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge curved display

Less Is More
But such things aside, Samsung is also overreaching, somewhat reminding one of Nokia at some point. Infact, Nokia was still doing this as at last year (remember the debate about Nokia’s Lumia product line?). Like Nokia did, Samsung has multiple devices in each price bracket – and with no significant differences between those devices. They look alike, feel almost exactly the same, and have similar specs and similar prices. The result? Confusion for buyers and users. Plus, the huge waste of the resources that go into producing and marketing those devices.

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See the S6 range. There’s the S6, the S6 Edge, and now the S6 Edge+ and Note 5. All of these at the top. And where are the distinguishing differences across these devices? Bummer. The same applies at the bottom of the pyramid – multiple devices with no distinguishing differentiation.

At the top, the iPhone is outselling Samsung. At the bottom, the Chinese bears are eating everything up. Yet, Samsung is busy removing everything that the very platform it rides on stands for – liberty and flexibility – and reproducing phones like a rodent.

The Way Android OS Is
Lastly, Samsung bet on Android OS, a platform that by its very nature ensures that cannibalization of its hardware partners is the only way forward. The truth is that the Android ecosystem is unable to sustain a huge number of brands (especially big ones) for a significant period without them being edged out by newer ones. New brands will keep showing up and eating up the lunch of older brands simply by pushing lower costs. The lunch will keep getting smaller and smaller till eventually there is no lunch to eat by anyone. This is a subject for another day (see my older article, Perhaps iOS is the only commercially viable smartphone platform though for a hint), but being the top Android dog now means that Samsung is right in the middle of this atrophy. See: Who exactly is making money on Android OS?

On The Ground
I was with a group of people last week and someone asked for phones to add to a list of outstanding bargain-for-money smartphones. Not one Samsung was mentioned. I asked why. People responded with one form of dismissal or the other. All of them agreed when someone finally replied that there was nothing from Samsung that is striking enough in terms of features and value versus pricing.

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You may disagree, but Samsung phones are not selling enough and the company’s profits are taking a hit. That response cannot be too far from the truth.

The Way Forward?
In my opinion, the way out for Samsung is to cut off multiple products across the various price segments and produce just one device per segment yearly – one flagship, one mid-tier, and one budget device. Cut off all waste. Add back the missing feature at the high end. Innovate some more. More like be the premium poster boy of Android, instead of trying to be everything to everyone that they currently are trying to be. Yes; this means that Samsung will lose marketshare, but they stand a better chance of staying profitable that way.

However you look at it, it is tough to be Samsung Mobile right now.

  • samsung iphone design

Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

21 thoughts on “How Samsung went from exciting to uninspiring

  • August 14, 2015 at 1:31 pm
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    Since I had an experience with S3 mini, everything Samsung irritated me. Their TouchWiz nonsense too. I can’t bear the look. And their devices are overpriced.

    • August 14, 2015 at 1:45 pm
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      Touch wiz is still the best UI till date is it lg or miui or tecno or infinix or HTC sense, touch wiz is the best. It redefined android because aosp is so ugly.

    • August 14, 2015 at 5:24 pm
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      you’re obviously not familiar with TimeScape, SONY’s Android skin. even the newer iterations of Sense knock TouchWiz out of the park

    • August 14, 2015 at 10:36 pm
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      Sense UI and Timescape are much better than TouchWiz- The End!

      Samsung’s slide began with the S4, then the S5 trying to be like the Sony (read: water resistant) they weren’t bringing anything new enough to the market. And the S6 reminds me an awful lot of the iPhone 6.

      Nokia have been there, as has BlackBerry. It was inevitable, really. the question now is how do they go about surviving in the current doldrums.

  • August 14, 2015 at 1:42 pm
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    I disagree with you. Samsung and apple have different drives and visions. Samsung is to reach all and sundry, rich, middle class and poor but apple focuses on the rich so to speak. Samsung removing the Sd card and other things is to make their devices more premium.

    For features, no android manufacturer is near Samsung. also in durability. They are moving away from plastic phones and trying to make their devices more secured. SD card tends to corrupt. Even apple depends on Samsung for screen production. Samsung is not copying. S5 was criticised greatly so they decided to improve.

  • August 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm
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    “Samsung is to reach all and sundry, rich, middle class and poor”

    I beg to disagree with you here. Yes, Samsung produces phones for all the cadres in the market, but have you actually used those devices and compared them to the same range devices from other brands. I have and here is the verdict: The Samsung devices don’t stand a chance.

    Place a low end Tecno device side by side a low end Samsung and see which would blow your mind farther. In my opinion, Samsung has really gone uninspiring. They push out devices with mediocre specs and place it in the same market, at the same price with their competitor’s better spec’d devices.

    We- or rather- most Africans would look out for the most value for money and in my humble opinion again, Samsung at the bottom of the pyramid, DOESN’T OFFER VALUE FOR MONEY. End of rant.

  • August 15, 2015 at 9:38 am
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    Sorry to say but I classify Samsung phones as expensive plastic coming from my experiences with the S3 & S5. It’s so sad that even Tecno phones are laughing hysterically at Samsung products now.

  • August 15, 2015 at 9:59 am
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    Even the highest end tecno cannot be compared to the lowest end Samsung. I have used the devices myself. Last year I used 23 phones. So I know what am saying. 99 out of every 100 Nigerian will still choose Samsung over tecno and the likes. It’s about durability. Have you seen a tecno that lasted for 3 years without fault. But Samsung do last. Even their low ends. If you were to compare Samsung please use Huawei and not fake tecno. Those cheap devices at the long run will even cost more to maintain.

    • August 15, 2015 at 4:48 pm
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      23 phones? Hope you know that is mind blowing! Anyways, hope Lumias featured in the lineup.

    • August 15, 2015 at 10:19 pm
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      Wow! That’s like 2 phones in a month

    • August 16, 2015 at 3:02 pm
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      23 phones in a year…I laugh in Papa Ajasco!

      @Pretty Angel please, we would like a list of every device and how long you used them for, so that we can correctly categorise your experience 😀

  • August 15, 2015 at 11:04 pm
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    Let’s put this under perspective. Using 23 phones in a year is not a valid means of determining market trends.

    I owned 20 phones in 2014 and used over 30. Those figures only tell you about my preferences, whims and associations.

    What is the market saying? That people are not buying Samsung phones as much as they used to. Samsung’s sales and profits keep dropping.

    How many phones any of us enthusiasts here personally owned or used in one year means nothing. The vast majority of buyers use an average of one phone for one or two years.

    • August 16, 2015 at 3:04 pm
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      How many were for demo purposes?
      How many did you return to source after demoing?
      How many did you go out of your way to buy?
      How many of the 30 do you still have?

      Enquiring minds want to know.

    • August 16, 2015 at 4:31 pm
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      Noni,

      Not telling! Curiosity killed the cat named Noni. *sticks tongue out*

  • August 15, 2015 at 11:13 pm
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    Here’s another fact: no matter how inferior anyone says Toyota cars are to BMWs, Toyota will keep outselling BMW. Why? It’s the more affordable brand.

    It doesn’t mean Toyota and Kia and Hyundai are bad brands. They are pretty good. But being more affordable, they outsell BMW. Simple economics.

    Samsung phones may be more durable than say TECNO, Infinix and Co (and it doesn’t mean that those brands are bad), but as long as those brands have the cost advantage, Samsung will sell less and less. Simple economics.

    The bottom of the pyramid is where the numbers are.

  • September 9, 2015 at 2:42 am
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    Well said, great Lord Mr Mobility. I’ve been saying it for ages that Sammy was shamelessly copying the iPhone. It’s now obvious that the fact is finally laid bare for all to see.

    Yes, the iPhone is the ultimate device out there. Haters gone be hating. Android fanboys gone be speaking out of hand. But we know who is winning the high-end smartphone war. That’s iOS. No contest.

    Sammy needs to go back to the drawing board and innovate. That’s ALL. They should stop copying and also stop removing much needed features.

  • September 9, 2015 at 12:29 pm
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    My take: Mr. Mo is mostly on point here. Pretty Angel has a point too but she’s mixing things up a bit but Mr. Mo appears to have addressed that to an extent too.

    Fact is, Samsung devices are generally more durable than say Tecno or Infinix device but can similar priced Samsung phone compete with a Tecno or Infinix on price? Not in any way going from what’s on the market right now. There’s no current Samsung smartphone with 2GB of RAM and 32GB internal storage that will go for less than N70,000.

    Yes again, Samsung smartphones may be more durable than those other lesser brands but what’s the use of a smartphone that’s limited greatly in scope even if it lasts 10 years? I still have my first Android device of 512MB of RAM and a meagre 200MB of internal storage but as Android Services and Google Play Store and other Android/Google associated apps keep growing in size, it has been reduced to something closer to a dumb phone because I couldn’t install much else after updating the bundled apps. Same is the case with those Samsung devices coming with 512MB of RAM and priced in the N20,000 range. Yes, they may last more than the Tecno, Infinix and Innjoo phones but they are practically useless as smartphones. Those are the kind of devices that gives Android bad reputation. Of course, those coming to embrace smartphones newly may still finds this class if devices useful as they may not have much need for apps outside the bundled ones.

    And finally, I agree that Samsung is copying Apple both in device looks and also making attempt to copy their business style but they just have to realise that there is only one set of iSheep out there. The iPhone belongs to the iSheep while any Android device is for those who like making choice and appreciate options.

    Samsung is too big that they can’t just go the way of Nokia or BlackBerry but they can hardly improve sales or profit with this idea of doing exactly what Apple is doing. Those who wants to be chaperoned in their mobile life are already with Apple and their move towards stripping important features like Apple can only mean that other Android manufacturers will gain some more market from them if they are not silly enough to follow Samsung’s footstep in copying Apple too.

  • October 3, 2015 at 11:14 am
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    First off samsung is too big to go the way of nokia or blackberry. 2nd samsung phones might not sell well as they used to due to some bad decisions they made but i bet you that if you place a tecno phone and a samsung phone side by side a typical nigerian would pick samsung. Now inteenationally samsung phones are the biggest iphone rival on the android ecosystem. Agreed they have a lot of devices out there and they are mostly pricey too. But samsung had a bad yr with s5 and s6. Note 4 wasnt a flop. Here are things they will do to come back to their former position…return micro sd card (if possible removable battery). Make their phones less pricey and stop thw clone war thing with apple. They ve copied apple enough to get their own spotlight…its time to chart their own course and blaze dia own trail without copying apple. Ans lets not forget apple copies too but because they are d leader it is excused.

  • October 3, 2015 at 11:36 am
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    The history of mobile devices is littered with the carcasses of companies which failed to innovate and consequently paid heavily for it,at its Zenith Nokia bestroded the mobile landscape like a Colossus but failed to flow with the times and paid the price for that,and no even Samsung at its current best still got nothing on Nokia at its supremacy and while I believe it’s too early to start predicting doom and gloom for Samsung,it will behove them to take a little gander on others predicaments..No ONE is too BIG to FAIL..

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