The most discussed item to come out of the 2015 Mobile World Congress thus far is still the Samsung Galaxy S6. Samsung’s unveiling showed off a sleeker-looking product that shed its past plastic confines for more luminous aluminum and glass. Some reviewers have been fairly effusive in their praise of Samsung’s new phone, particularly due to its iPhone 6 “inspired” design. Others, less so.
As a consumer, I must confess, I have absolutely no brand loyalty. I tend to be a creature of convenience and practicality (and cool, naturally), not of fanaticism. I’m purchased different makes of cars. I’ve bought and enjoyed video gaming consoles from all of the major companies in current existence (and a couple that are no longer with us). My polo game has switched between Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Vineyard Vines and so many others more times than any person should keep track of. Point being, I have no agenda. I own neither an iPhone, nor a Galaxy. I’m not averse to purchasing either phone down the road so long as it’s the best idea for me at the time. I’m not setting out to unduly disparage or dignify either product–not that my humble opinion would hold much sway with anyone anyway. I’m simply offering my take on what I see (a take which I readily admit may turn out to be inaccurate).
What I see is Samsung taking a misstep with their newest incarnation of the Galaxy.
The technical specs are what they are: so long as technology and time are in lockstep with one another, the latest edition of any device will always have more powerful hardware than its predecessors. So the Galaxy S6 (and S6 Edge) has more RAM and processing power than the S5. The screen resolution is also improved. I don’t want to go so far as to say you could take such progress for granted, but there’s a certain sense of inevitability to the technical advancements of this year’s phone. It’s laudable, yet expected.
Less expected is the much discussed new look and feel of the Samsung Galaxy S6, and its curved counterpart, the S6 Edge. As aforementioned, they’ve ditched the oft bemoaned plastic casing for a metal and Gorilla Glass enclosure instead. The new look of the phone has been compared to the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 in terms of both stylishness and limitations. And that is where lies the concern.
The newest editions of the Galaxy will no longer have a removable battery, microSD support, or water-proofing. To be fair, none of these are features I either have or have needed on my current phone. I keep a portable charger with me, I don’t have enough content on my phone to need an external storage, and I was brought up to believe that letting electrical devices get near water is a perfect way to electrocute yourself, and while that may not be the case with smartphones, it’s still embedded in my brain. Suffice to say, I keep the phone dry. So while all of these features sound like good ideas to me, I don’t necessarily see them as must-haves.
Then again, I’m not a Samsung Galaxy owner.
While I’m not a brand loyalist, if I find a product that I enjoy, I wouldn’t be happy with the latest, “better” edition of that product ditching some of the things that I found useful or enjoyable about it, particularly if that abandonment appears to be done just so it can mimic the aesthetic of its competitor. I understand that Samsung’s smartphone sales weren’t where the company wanted them to be, but chasing Apple’s success by imitating them while sacrificing some of the things your existing customers already appreciate is… well, I won’t say a mistake, but it’s at least cause for concern.
Because at the end of the day, how successful can a new “premium” design be in winning over new customers? Earlier I mentioned that I can be a creature of convenience. I’m not alone in this. The problem with courting Apple customers with an Android product–particularly by way of mimicking a design iPhone users already have–is that it’s simply inconvenient to switch from iOS to another operating system. Same reason why established Android users aren’t super eager to leap over to an Apple or Windows phone. That’s not a matter of loyalty; it’s just a pain to change systems once you’ve gotten comfortable with apps and features that are specific to what you already use. To “convert” customers–if you will–you need wortwhile distinctions that make switching over appear appealing.
Instead of upgrading their look while maintaining a few crucial features that made them distinct, Samsung rolled out a Galaxy S6 that, on the surface at least, looks like it’s so eager to play “follow the leader” it’s willing to give up what the people who already liked it liked about it.