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Samsung is damaging the Galaxy S4 brand

Gordon Kelly

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Samsung is damaging the Galaxy S4 brand

Customer: “Could I have the Samsung Galaxy please?”

Shop: “Which one?”

Customer: *smugly* “The Galaxy S4 please”

Shop: “S4, S4 Mini, S4 Active or S4 Zoom?”

Customer: “I’ll take an iPhone”

Somewhere Tim Cook is having a chuckle. While Apple has come under increasing pressure for iterative hardware and restricted software, its biggest competitor appears determined to dilute and devalue the very brand that has done all the damage.

Right now ‘Galaxy’ is the only name in the smartphone world that can hold a candle to ‘iPhone’, but it stands on a precipice. 30 Galaxy phones have been released since the original 'i7500' was launched three years ago this month. It is joined by 11 Galaxy tablets since the original Galaxy Tab appeared in September 2010.

Next month both lines will increase again. The 8-inch and 10.1-inch versions of the Galaxy Tab 3 will be launched along with the Galaxy S4 Mini and a Galaxy S4 ‘LTE-Advanced’ edition will be released in Russia and Japan before an expected wider international launch. That retailer discussion will become even more comical.

Galaxy S4

Greed

Let’s not beat around the bush, this all stems from greed. Samsung has hit upon a cash cow and it is determined to milk every last drop. Furthermore, by and large, greed has been a policy that has paid off.

After modest sales of the original flagship ‘Galaxy S’, things took off with the Galaxy S2. It sold over 40 million units in 20 months. The Galaxy S3 hit that total in just six months and the S4 sold 10 million units in just 27 days - a figure the S3 reached in 50 days.

And yet not all is well. The Galaxy brand has become an near-impenetrable mess, packed full of models ranging from the budget to the bizarre. More to the point, the premium ‘Galaxy S’ brand - the torch to burn down Castle iPhone - is also feeling the strain for the first time. This week Galaxy S4 monthly sales predictions were slashed by a third and the initial reception to the S4 Mini has been less than kind. This comes just a year after the Galaxy S3 Mini met with a similarly lukewarm reception which preceded mediocre sales.

If Samsung has been polluting its Galaxy brand from below, signs are it is now starting the rot from the top.

Xperia ZComplacency

It all stems from greed’s biggest bedfellow: complacency. 14 months ago the Galaxy S3 was launched into a specifications dominated market. Its combination of power and expandability built upon the S2 and blew rival Android manufacturers out the water.

But its success disguised two significant factors. 1. That in truth it wasn’t a massive upgrade from the S2, and 2. Major Android rivals HTC, Sony and LG were in disarray.

Repeating the trick again with the S4 is proving more difficult. The reception to the S3 Mini hasn’t helped, but rivals are also now able to counter the S4’s horsepower and are going for tangible differentiators such as the luscious unibody aluminium design of the HTC One and waterproofing of the Sony Xperia Z.

Worst of all Samsung is proving its own worst enemy. The aforementioned S4 Mini looks set to damage the S brand in the same way the overpriced, under performing S3 Mini did and Samsung’s insistence that it knows best how to recode an increasingly attractive Android has led to criticism that its calling card TouchWiz software is little more than bloatware.

BBC Watchdog revelations that TouchWiz leaves just 9GB of a 16GB S4’s memory free have added further credence to this.

touchwiz bloat

Opportunity

The obvious point to make here is, having dominated Android smartphones, Samsung is opening the door to competitors. To an extent that is true. A stunning S4 could’ve dealt a fatal blow to struggling HTC, but instead the One is slowly bringing it back to life. Likewise flaws in the Xperia Z have largely gone unnoticed after Samsung’s headline antics and Sony is gradually rebuilding with the impending Xperia Z Ultra looking to be another step on the road to recovery.

Similarly aggressive Chinese rivals like ZTE and Huawei are now pushing into the premium smartphone sector as well as gaps appear.

That said Galaxy still remains king of the Android market, Samsung will still produce record results in its next few financial quarters and predictably talk of a unibody S4 edition is gathering momentum. Samsung may be making mistakes, but like Apple it has become large enough to survive for a while by being reactive and it isn’t going to be unseated any time soon.

What is in doubt, however, is Samsung’s master plan. The unilateral TouchWiz UI that was going to merge Samsung TVs, tablets, phones and eventually a hop to its Tizen platform to beat Apple at its own game is losing credibility just at a time when increasing demand for stock Android could fracture the whole process.

Samsung wants to be above the risks of platform dependence before Microsoft and Google's dalliances with hardware become a major focus. Right now it's blowing it.

meerkat82

June 24, 2013, 11:18 am

I never understood why this brand was so popular in the first place

KOD

June 24, 2013, 2:17 pm

They can have my money the day they release an S4/5 (and onwards) with a metal body.

danielfrisbee

June 24, 2013, 2:41 pm

aside from the branding 'galaxy' the complaint seems to be too much choice, as apposed to apple's 'too little choice'. I'm not an owner or fan or particularly interested but from where I'm sitting it makes sense to have different s4 phones for different interest groups, if people want them they'll sell.

chaosdefinesorder

June 24, 2013, 2:56 pm

From my point of view, the biggest problem with Touchwiz is that (beside from looking horrible with their cartoony colour scheme) ALL it does it delay future OS updates while they spend a huge amount of unnecessary time reconfiguring the new OS code to be re-skinned. Not to mention ALL of their bloat "apps" need to be re-coded for the new OS as well. Essentially each new feature they add makes the update process take longer because they have more to retool...

I absolutely love the design of the S4 Active (waterproofing doesn't mean I can go swimming with it, it means I don't have to worry about rain any more!) but there's no way I will be buying another Samsung phone for the above reason.

My Galaxy Note absolutely flies still with AOSPA (4.2.2 base) but it will never get an official update to that OS version from Samsung because they can't be arsed to update all their crapware from the S4 to run on the Note. The Note is more than capable of running the latest OS, it is Samsung that is holding back their own devices and all for "branding" and blunderbuss approach to features!

I'm actually really angry about this because it's so frustrating and such an easy thing for them to fix (see Google edition S4) but their marketing department is so closed minded that they still *look* like they're running Gingerbread (also I really want the Active but only a Google Edition version!). It's a similar frustrated rage to when I see a brand new cutting edge game with QuickTime events despite the overwhelming negative reception they get everywhere...

manoob1

June 24, 2013, 5:29 pm

Samsung has a little mentality than apple. they offer choices, and that's how they becam the biggest. if you go to Tesco you see different choices of the same product, most people like that!

Mike E. Delta

June 24, 2013, 5:57 pm

What, writer...there are ONLY two smartphones in existence?? =\

Frankel

June 24, 2013, 7:02 pm

I think you should look closer to home like TR full of bias, BS, rhetoric, nonsense, vendetta, little quality articles, propaganda, Apple sheep's... TR will go out of business at this rate.

I have already boycott TR visits. Nothing genuine anymore...

Robert Moro

June 25, 2013, 9:17 am

Offering too much choice is a bad thing now? S4 has 4 models, it's not like it has 400, What is the problem here? Are customers too lazy to take few minutes to research models. Personally I wouldn't mind if there is 10 different models od Galaxy's. More choice= more value for money. It is sure way better than have Apple to decide what phone model is best for me...

KlarkGent

June 25, 2013, 9:21 am

Samsung is ALL over the place. It's becoming a mess. There is a reason why HTC opted for a few good phones instead of many mediocre ones. Quality over quantity. There is a reason why Apple only concentrate on one phone at a time.

Galaxy S, Galaxy S4 Mini, Galaxy Young, Galaxy S4, Galaxy Balaxy 4 etc...it's a mess.

dpanch_89

June 25, 2013, 12:06 pm

Its just marketing... spread your product line, then you'll get "galaxy" quality, with features varying from the top end, down to the low end.

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 12:46 pm

That's very true, though it also helps not to confuse the customer. The Tesco analogy is good, but it is easier to tell types of food apart than smartphone specs.

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 12:47 pm

There are only two smartphones dominating the market. Having referenced many of the other leading brands (and implied others are better) that should be pretty clear.

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 12:48 pm

It's not about too much choice, but too much confusion as models have so little to choose between them.

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 12:49 pm

Not sure what this has to do with anything, or is reflected in this article, but appreciate your continued visits.

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 12:49 pm

My point exactly. There is a fine line between choice and a mess.

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 12:50 pm

Agreed, but it must be done without confusing the customer. Lines and models should be clear and distinct.

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 12:50 pm

This is the standard counterpoint. It is a fair one too.

Where the line is drawn between choice and a confusing mess is in the eye of the beholder. For me Samsung has already crossed that line.

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 12:52 pm

I think if Samsung were truly trying to improve Android it would release its TouchWiz applications are Android apps. But clearly that isn't why they are done... the bloat now has become ridiculous. Especially as Android is now a refined and polished OS.

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 12:52 pm

I suspect that'll be within the next 6-12 months so start saving! :)

chaosdefinesorder

June 25, 2013, 1:03 pm

oh absolutely, "raw" android is a lovely OS now.

The only thing that makes sense for Samsung at this point is that they are trying to make Touchwiz look so much their own that when they release Tizen they can just count on the people who are hooked on the Samsung bloat (the number of people I see on CyanogenMod ROM threads on XDA for the Note asking for S-Note!) to not notice the difference...

In other words I think they'll go the other direction to your suggestion and release their own OS with the bloat rather than their bloat on the Play Store (or Samsung Hub, knowing them)

chaosdefinesorder

June 25, 2013, 1:09 pm

Oh, also, if Samsung were to strip out their bloat into the Play Store in order to push our base OS updates in a timely fashion rather than once all their bloat has been updated, then their users would have a chunk of time (circa 6 months based on past experience) where the bloat apps they may or may not be used to using will not work and will not be available to them. To a certain extent that would be worse for Samsung on the PR level than simply waiting for complete updates...

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 1:23 pm

I think the 'bloat apps' when detached from TouchWiz and put into the Play store would be very easy to keep compatible with Android updates. Most Android apps work from Android 2.0 upwards.

Instead the problem is update the core of TouchWiz itself. Again TouchWiz would be a Play store option or, better still, Google should simply make the stock Android UI a Play download option which anyone can install - much like Nova Launcher.

Gordon Kelly

June 25, 2013, 1:25 pm

The easiest solution would be an official Google stock Android launcher to be available in the Play store.

You misunderstand my point about Tizen though - I believe the bloat will be part of Tizen, it will need to app support. I go into this here and I why I think Samsung is actually deliberately trying to hurt Android now: http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

chaosdefinesorder

June 25, 2013, 1:33 pm

yes that would be lovely; Google Edition out of the box with Touchwiz an optional theme and the launcher additional to stock :-)

I'd actually buy the Active if they did that!

Pg

June 25, 2013, 1:34 pm

Choice is good. Always has been. From the opening statement, if someone comes in looking for a Galaxy S4 then that's what they get. You want a different model, then ask for it. If you don't have a clue what you are ordering, then why are you ordering it?

My biggest complaint would be the "overpriced, under performing" mini. If you are going to release a budget version, price it keenly. You'll get people flocking to you. You then hope your brand is strong enough that they start wanting your top of the range phone, but if not, still a happy customer.

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