A Critical Look At Samsung Mobile – 2011 & Beyond

September 15, 2011
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In 2010, Samsung made headlines with their flagship device – the Samsung Galaxy S, which sold over 10 million units. They also had the privilege to introduce the Nexus S – the Google reference device – in the same year, and that helped concrete their dominance in the Android category. Without a doubt, the 1GHz Hummingbird processor really helped them soar high!


Industry experts, ABI Research, most recently took the Samsung Galaxy S II apart, and concluded that “Samsung took many risks by combining all these new technologies into one phone. ABI Research believes those risks will pay off; the Galaxy S II sets a new benchmark for almost every category on which a smartphone is measured.”

As a result, they shook the industry with the Samsung Galaxy S2; selling over 5 million units in the first 85 days of release.

2011 is looking to be a very significant year for Samsung:

Samsung had their ups and downs since journeying down the Android path, but depending on what they do now, they will either further establish themselves as a top dog, or wash them away like sand.

Super AMOLED – The Double Edged Sword

If you’ve never seen an AMOLED, Super AMOLED or Super AMOLED Plus display, you really should check it out and see it with your own eyes. Its colours are vibrant and beautiful – with deep blacks while colours often look saturated. It’s in its own way, picture perfect. However, beauty is also in the eye of the beholder, as well as in its affect on battery life.

A Samsung Super AMOLED Panel on the original Galaxy S on the left compared with an iPhone 4's display

The way AMOLED screens work is very different than IPS or LCD. AMOLED or Active-Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes emit light in response to an electric current. To make it simple – when there’s electricity, there’s colour, but when there isn’t, it’s black. Ideally, this sounds like the perfect battery saving idea, but it’s not.

Although black is certainly beautiful, consumers, more often than not, buy products with AMOLED displays for their vibrancy. Those with less affinity towards the underlying technology involved usually opt for darker wallpapers, but, in general, consumers will opt for the pretty, high contrast wallpapers. The Web is also predominantly white, which isn’t particularly AMOLED friendly. To further compound difficulties in the future, I doubt Super AMOLED HD will do much to help.

A Samsung engineer with a perfected slate of Super HD AMOLED Panels

The only way, for Super AMOLED to continually dominate display technology is for Samsung (or someone else) to find a breakthrough in battery technology. Samsung should start investing in organic batteries – which are said to be able to give smartphones enough power to last one week. Currently, they aren’t commercially practical to produce. When that time arrives, AMOLED battery drain will become a thing in the past, as will thirsty quad cores and more.

Samsung <3 Developers

At the moment, Samsung is the only manufacturer to make the (probably) biggest recruitment in Android history – Steve Kondik. I would say that CyanogenMod is to Android, what NeXT was to Apple. CyanogenMod is simply one of the better versions of Android OS floating around the cyberspace. There are also speculations of Samsung recruiting some members from the MIUI team; another bunch of talented individuals.

The message is loud and clear. Samsung wants the best custom ROM makers working for them, and as a result, the next revolution of TouchWiz & Ice Cream Sandwich will arrive with an unmistakable sense of presence. This should sound an alarm for other manufacturers, who have not been as aggressive in their recruitment process.

Mark my words – there is no shadow of doubt that the upcoming version of TouchWiz will be a formidable foe, and could potentially spell massive trouble for HTC Sense, Motoblur and other Manufacturer UI’s.

At this point, Samsung could position themselves solidly within the developer community as the preferred employer for developers. If you know the theory of how “like attracts like,” then it’s easy to see why Samsung could find themselves drawing more similar talented developers into their fold. Seriously, are there any developers out there that aren’t interested to work with brilliant minds like Steve Kondik?

Samsung Hurt By Apple’s Pre-emptive Strike

Apple suing Samsung is not a new story. However, I expect this trend to continue in perpetuity. There are no reasons for Apple to stop “harassing” Android, and there aren’t any signs pointing to the iPhone 5 being able to outclass the SGS2.

The recent ban of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 also didn’t make much of a difference for Apple. At best, they just slowed down Samsung’s progress a bit. Samsung did find a workaround for the ban and it is working seemingly well at the moment. Despite that, they have to foresee that this will not be the end of Apple’s harassment. Apple has drawn its bow, and the crosshair is pointing directly at Samsung.

They are still playing it safe instead of going on the offensive. They recently filed a suit against Apple in France, but it’s still early to say anything. Until then, there is no knowing how they will go up against this war of attrition against the fruit company.

A New Korean OS?

There are 3 different OS’ that Samsung is currently manufacturing for. While WP7 and Bada are relatively small, Android has been explosive for Samsung. The Korean company turned heads with the original Galaxy S and now, it’s now winning hearts & minds with the SGS2. Nothing they have done with WP7 and Bada has even come close.

However, the recent announcement by the South Korean government to have their own “Korean OS” to combat any effects of the Google-Motorola alliance might see Samsung getting thrown into a fourth operating system. That is too much to tackle for Samsung at the moment. It’s a nice idea, but if Samsung goes on to work with four operating systems, it might be too much for them to manage and work efficiently. Imagine your attention divided into four, if three wasn’t already difficult enough.  Either way, it will be interesting to watch how they cope with four OS’ in the near future.

What’s Next For SGS2?

The SGS2 is a remarkable device. It’s the way Android OS was meant to be. It’s fast, efficient and powerful. The first every taskkiller-free device I’ve used. A buddy of mine asked me to challenge the phone. I did.

I ran up to 15 apps at one time, without seeing the device stop for breath. Instead, it took my breath away. It was, in my own words – “Silky Buttery.” But does it stop there?

Ice Cream Sandwich is looming near, and the question is – how will it push the SGS2 further? Earlier this year, ASUS announced the ASUS PadFone; an Android phone that can be turned into a tablet, with a casing. The Motorola Atrix had a desktop casing that turned it into a netbook, but the Atrix did not achieve the glory of the SGS2.

I’m curious if Samsung will take this approach. It would be a great idea for them to pursue this direction, as the SGS2 is very successful and may give them an edge to sell “tablets” without being limited by Apple’s injunction against their products. ASUS claims that they always stretch the functionality of their product with the N+1 concept. I really hope Samsung attempts something similar, and has it see the light of day.

Torch TouchWiz

TouchWiz is acceptable. I’ve used many manufacturer UIs and I still feel HTC Sense does better. And I’m not the only one. XDA Developer’s forum is riddled with tons of requests to port over HTC Sense to Samsung devices. Samsung should have done more with TouchWiz, but at the moment, they seem to be taking their sweet time. I hope with Steve Kondik and MIUI they will do better in the next release.

I use a SGS2 as my primary phone, and find it shocking that even a simple thing such as organizing my apps in alphabetical order isn’t available in grid view. At least it’s alphabetical in list mode. TouchWiz should have matured by now, but it still seems to perpetually fall short as a solid challenger to HTC Sense. It is also a bad launcher as it lets users (who know how) to bypass security apps like “Visidon Applock” or Anti-Theft Apps. If you don’t put pin/password/pattern lock on the lockscreen, anyone (with knowledge) can actually enter and wreak havoc on your phone, and more importantly, your personal data. I can only conclude that TouchWiz isn’t ideal if you want a fortress of a phone. I will not release the method here, but I can say it doesn’t require root or ADB for a person to bypass all forms of security in your phone.

Here Are 5 Ways Samsung Can Continue Winning:

  1. Continue pooling the best Android talent.

Hiring individual from the GO Team would be a good place for Samsung to start. The GO Team has certainly done a lot in producing one of the best launcher for Android. Talents from the GO Team will definitely take TouchWiz further.

  1. Release a SGS2 Tablet case.

You can’t always rely on increasing market share. Your existing consumers matter too. And if you extend the functionality of their device, you will earn their loyalty. I hope Ice Cream Sandwich also comes in a timely manner, I hate getting it when the deadline for Jellybean is nearing.

  1. Resolve The Battery Woes With AMOLED

This is a hard one. I personally do not see how Super Amoled would drain less battery, but if Samsung could offset the negative effects of the vibrant screen, it would be a big win.

  1. An Open, But Bigger System

Compared to other Android manufacturers, Samsung and LG are probably the only 2 with a foundation in home appliances. We’ve seen how Samsung integrated DLNA into their TVs. It would have more potential if Samsung took up Google’s idea of Android Home further.

  1. A Better TouchWiz, Or None At All

Who doesn’t love Pure Google? It’s already great out of the box, and manufacturers custom UI overlay’s can be great too. Stil,l TouchWiz still has some questionable UI features, and lacks a lot of key features I’ve used in previous phones. It has to improve, and I hope Samsung does a better job with it. Quite simply, it still falls flat when compared to HTC’s Sense.

Do you have any suggestions for Samsung Mobile? What can they do to become the best Android device manufacturer in the world?

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