Samsung's had its best ever year in mobile, but now it's time to look back. What did 2013 mean for Samsung, and what's coming up next for the mobile giant?
With 2013 drawing to a close, we thought it’d be a good time to talk to each of our biggest manufacturing partners and ask them about the year that was, and what’s just around the corner.
Today it’s Samsung’s turn, so we’ve been talking to Head of Technical Product Management Kyle Brown. So what has 2013 looked like from within Samsung HQ?
“The GALAXY S4 has been the biggest thing for us this year,” says Kyle, “expanding on everything we learned from the SIII. What we’ve managed to do, which was a great achievement for us, was to fit a much bigger screen, a much more powerful processor and bigger battery in the same chassis size as the SIII. That meant that for anyone who upgraded, it would feel the same in the hand, but they’d be getting a much better phone.
“On an engineering level that’s a great achievement by our guys in South Korea.
“We won best smartphone and best camera phone for the GALAXY S4 at the What Mobile Awards. The GALAXY S4 is a great all-rounder, but the camera functionality in it is amazing, with features like Burst Shot and Smile recognition all within a thin, premium handset.
“The thing we’re proudest of at Samsung is that we don’t just win awards for individual phones; we’ve won a lot of awards this year for being the best manufacturer overall, because we can offer such a great range to the market.”
“The GALAXY S4 has been the biggest thing for us this year.”
Doing that was no one-off, though; Kyle reveals that one of Samsung’s main focuses for 2013 has been to maintain a similar experience across the entire GALAXY line-up. “People become really loyal to a device. They understand how it works and they become really comfortable with what they’re doing.
“So trying to keep the same experience and the same core Samsung-ness into every phone is really key to what we’re doing. And having the same size is great – if you’re used to the way a phone feels you might not want to get a bigger or smaller one.”
But if you do want something bigger? Samsung’s got you covered: “Samsung’s whole mantra is to have a phone in a size to suit everyone – we have a phone in every category so you can choose the one to suit you. With that in mind, the other big device for us this year has been the GALAXY Note 3. As a device, it’s the most powerful and most functional smartphone we’ve ever made. Because of all the business functionality built into it, it’s a device I use every day.”
What can 2013 teach us about 2014?
“I think this year’s really built upon what’s been happening for a few years now,” says Kyle. “The market has realised that a phone’s not just for making calls and texts, it’s for doing so much more. And the majority of people spend more time using the internet and apps than those primary functions.
“The trend at the moment is for companion devices and wearable technology, which is something we’re really excited about at Samsung. We’ve seen what Google’s done with Google Glass, and obviously we’ve now launched the Samsung GALAXY Gear, which is our companion device for our smartphone range.”
Kyle tells us that wearable tech is only going to become more important as time marches on: “I’ve personally had the GALAXY Gear for three months now and that wearable technology has become a key part of my life. I’ve barely taken the watch off my wrist in that time. The way it changes your life at home is amazing.”
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“After work, for instance, if you put your phone on charge then sit down on the sofa, you have to get up again to go and check messages, etc. Being able to just flick your wrist and read text messages and things is amazing. It’s amazing how much that second screen really helps.”
“Screen sizes will get bigger and bigger as people do more and more with their handsets,” Kyle adds, “but wearable technology and ‘second screening’ – even if you take that concept to using a mobile device while watching the TV – will be one of the greatest mobile trends for 2014.
“My GALAXY Note 3 works with all the other Samsung devices in my house; you can build up an ecosystem with a TV, Blu-Ray player, home cinema setup – all that stuff works together and I can control it all with my phone. I think that’s the way that the market’s going – your phone will control everything.”
Any other big things upcoming? “Samsung’s always innovating battery technology so expect battery life, and making your phone last as long as possible, to be a key focus for us next year. Again, wearable technology and the ‘second screen’ idea helps with that, because if you’re not checking one device as often, you’re sharing the battery life load.”
The death of the spec war?
Kyle finishes by suggesting that 2014 will be a bit of a turning point when it comes to mobile devices. Is the mobile phone spec war about to become less and less relevant?
“There’ll be faster processors and quicker chipsets, but I think smartphones have evolved to a point where seeing how many GHz you can get inside them isn’t the main focus any more. Likewise, it’s not about how many Megapixels a camera has, it’s about the quality and the overall experience. “It’s not just about a statistic anymore,” he says.
“We’ll always go faster, and we’ll always improve in terms of speed and memory, but it’s more about what you do with it and what software and experiences you can add to that great hardware.
“That’s what’s going to drive us forward in 2014.”