Many of you have expressed no small measure of dismay over the latest iteration of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S, particularly that it lacks a micro-SD card and a removable back. I’ll be the first to admit that I shared this feeling initially, at least until I gave it a little more thought and realized exactly why it had to be this way.
Before we get to the reasons why Samsung made the changes that it did, let’s explore the events that led up to the Samsung Galaxy S6 and its rather massive departure in design language and features.
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The world of high-end flagships
There was a time when the only way to guarantee you’d have a high-performing, worry-free Android experience was to forgo mid-range and entry devices in favor of flagship high-end offerings. As the competition continues to increase, we’re seeing a number of lower-priced devices that offer a stellar Android experience. As a result, manufacturers are now working harder than ever to elbow the competition out of the way and cling to their established domains in an ever more crowded, maturing market space.
Why would Samsung give up two features that for many of us have been useful, practical, desirable, differentiating factors – in a world where almost no one else had them?
This means behind closed doors at corporate headquarters big, small and everywhere – with profits and market share under assault – each firm is calling in its coolest and wisest heads who, even if they don’t know what to do, are going to make sure it seems they do. So, why would Samsung give up two features that for many of us have been useful, practical, desirable, differentiating factors – in a world where almost no one else had them? It all comes down to the Korean giant’s bottom line.
The market for smartphones, like the market for any product or service, can be broken down into segments. For our purposes, I’m going to divide the world of smartphone users into two segments. First, there are those of us that love and care about and get really, really (possibly more than we ought?) excited about a faster CPU, a sexy dollop of red hot RAM, and the fact mine is bigger than yours.
The rest of the smartphone users are comprised of people who can appreciate the fun and pleasure to be had by having a smartphone, but are never going to get all hot and bothered about specs. Nevertheless, they still want something special, something that is going to perform well enough for their needs and not let them down. These are the same users that are generally more motivated by the looks of the device, or the price of it, than the raw power found underneath.
So what’s a company to do when consumer interest starts to decline, negatively impacting marketshare and profits?
Let’s face it, most of the devices consumers buy have way more capacity, in terms of what they can do for us than most even realize, but the manufacturers understand that the more bells and whistles they can lay claim to, the more chance they may catch our eyes and fancies. Now, the first market segment – we – the enlightened, cognoscenti – are always going to be smaller in numbers than the second group – doesn’t make them bad people; just different.
For years, Samsung has seen solid growth in the smartphone realm, and is one of the few phone makers that can really compete on the same level as a giant like Apple. So what’s a company to do when consumer interest starts to decline, negatively impacting marketshare and profits?
If you have been following along the past few years
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You are undoubtedly aware that Samsung has been taking a lot of heat because of their “exactly the same but different” S Series design. This is particularly true in the case of the Galaxy S5, which many hoped would be a massive step forward for the Galaxy line, only for most of us to have our hopes dashed once again. But, we here, at Android Authority – looking down from our lofty vantage point have always felt that there was more than a little rhyme and reason to Samsung’s approach. The phrase “Crazy like a fox” comes to mind; Samsung may be many things – but dumb isn’t necessarily one of them.
Would you preempt your rival by creating your own revolutionary device ahead of them or wait until the other company is forced for the sake of survival, to show theirs?
It was not lost on us, nor Samsung or we suspect you either, that it was really taking Apple a long, long time to get around to finally upping their game; content to rehash the same technology year after year, with only the smallest of revisions. So, what would you do, if you were in Samsung’s position? What would you do if your biggest rival is being pressured even by its devotees, not to mention the marketplace, to get off its slow ass and produce a new “revolutionary” device? Would you preempt your rival by creating your own revolutionary device ahead of them or wait until the other company is forced, for the sake of survival, to show you theirs?
Of course you wouldn’t do the big reveal, because you are smart – and so was Samsung. They waited, and waited, and waited – along with the rest of us. And then finally, Apple produced not one but two brand new, revolutionary iPhones. Granted, both these phones still lack many of the features that Android has had for years, but Apple in its wisdom continues to see fit to deny its users. But, Apple is as Apple does. Frankly, the fact you are here and not at some Apple fansite says you, I and we don’t really care what they did or didn’t do.
But, with the appearance of the iPhone 6, at last the moment had come. Now Samsung knew exactly the fixed target they had to meet and beat, the one that was going to remain the same, unmoving for a full year – if not five or six, if history is any indication.
Ready, set …. GO!
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Amid declining sales, complaints about design, and the emergence of a new threat from Apple, Samsung set out to raise the bar and give the world the Galaxy S we’d been long been waiting for. Unleashing its hordes of engineers, unchaining its best designers, Samsung said unto them:
Go forth, NOW – put the pedal to the medal, hold nothing back, shift that sucker into high gear, hit the afterburner – GO THERMONUCLEAR! – Ballistic even, and make, build, design a truly revolutionary smartphone. Show the world how it is done – when it is done right – when WE don’t hold anything back and give it our all. Hoo Rah!
Amid declining sales, complaints about design, and the emergence of a new threat from Apple, Samsung set out to raise the bar and give the world the Galaxy S we’d be long been waiting for.
Okay… so I got a little carried away there, but it’s the way I saw things developing, more or less. The end result of Samsung’s shift into high gear was the production of what is arguably one of the most beautiful phones the world has seen, and not just a single, standard issue version with sculpted metal sides yielding the sophistication, fit and finish we’ve been clamoring for, but a second iteration as well, in the form of the beautiful and unique Galaxy S6 Edge.
Of course, it wasn’t just the outside that Samsung took to the next level with the Galaxy S6 and the Edge, but the inside as well. Samsung brought us a 64-bit eight-core in-house processor, a QHD display with nearly two times the pixels per inch of the new iPhone, quick charging, a 16MP rear cam, 5MP front cam, and the list goes on and on.
Read more: Galaxy S6 full review
BUT, no micro SD CARD; NO REMOVABLE BACK!
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Now to the crux of the matter. While many of us may admire the new design of the Galaxy S6, why did Samsung feel it necessary to strip us of the microSD card and removable battery? Because.
Elaborating a bit further, the goal with the introduction of the Galaxy S6 was to hit a home run and not muddy the waters with items that most people – that larger segment of the buying public aforementioned before – apparently didn’t want, didn’t care about, rarely used and definitely were not going to be persuaded to pay extra money for and which, if included, would run up the price and/or make fabrication more expensive and problematic.
We know what some of you must be thinking, and I admit I was right with you. I felt your pain, but that was my first reaction, until I took pause for thought and realized – to paraphrase Mark Twain upon reading his obituary in advance of his being dead … that “the reports of the deaths of these features may have been greatly exaggerated”.
Whether its the Active or some other yet to be announced variant, it is very possibly that Samsung will eventually debut a variant of the Galaxy S6 that has similar specs and features, while also adding in missing staples from the GS5, like waterproofing, microSD and a removable battery.
My observation is that Samsung tends to listen to its customers, genuinely cares and tries hard as it can to fulfill the desires of their customers via the features they impart to their products. So, here is my possibly prescient, hopefully true, but not necessarily correct prognostication for those of you who want so dearly want what obviously we can’t have now, or at least yet: give it a little time.
While Samsung is reportedly trying to trim the fat a little when it comes to extra phone models, the reality is that the company is notorious for creating variants of its handsets, and the rumor mill already suggests a Galaxy S6 Active is in the works. Whether it’s the Active or some other yet to be announced variant, it is very possible that Samsung will eventually debut a variant that has similar specs and features to the original GS6, while also adding in missing staples from the GS5, like waterproofing, microSD, and a removable battery.
Bottom-line, Samsung’s vision with the Galaxy S6 was to create a sexy eye-catcher, a device aimed at the type of consumer that is still willing to pay a premium for such an experience. In order to meet this vision, some sacrifices were made, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that these staples are gone for good. What do you think of Samsung’s decision to ditch microSD and a removable battery? Would you consider a variant of the GS6 with slightly less impressive aesethics but the return of microSD and a non-removable battery?