Retrospective: the company's questionable and unsuccessful decisions regarding smartphone design.
Samsung is a leader in smartphone design. The company produces flagships that are worth their money. She is not afraid to test innovations and, after many lessons, is careful not to scare away fans. The Galaxy S9 has added many new features, but it has also taken into account the wishes of consumers. The 3.5mm jack is in place, the fingerprint sensor has moved to a more reasonable place, both wireless charging and fast 'over the wire' are available, all without a single cutout.
Be that as it may, the S9 is just one of a long line of Galaxy devices. If you include the Galaxy S, A, J lines, then you can talk about more than a hundred Galaxy devices that saw the light of day. Not all of them shine with design. Today, the company's devices have reached the top level, but recently the situation was completely different.
Before the release of smartphones, Samsung was, by and large, a little-known South Korean industrial conglomerate that produced giant cargo ships, tanks, TVs, washing machines, and just about everything else. These industries are active to this day, just the company gained widespread fame.
Part of that conglomerate, Samsung Electronics, was originally an OEM making low-cost components for other companies. In the period from 1993 to 1996, the company changed the vector of its work, it was at this time that the head of Samsung Group Lee Honghee set a course for innovation. In 1995, he and his board of directors, in front of a crowd of thousands of employees, destroyed Samsung devices in an attempt to hammer Samsung’s dissatisfaction with product quality into their heads. In 1996, Gonghee made a series of remarkable and prophetic statements about the design of the future, announcing a 'year of design revolution' and paving the way for the company to lead. Samsung has made quite a few strange design decisions along the way. Some we appreciated, some were simply ahead of their time, and some were frankly worthless.
In 2009, Samsung released the Galaxy i7500. It was the first device of the Galaxy line and the first Android device. It was installed OLED – display, the smartphone worked on the basis of Android 1.5, suffered from poor autonomy, and also had a poor mechanism for locking / unlocking the display. Let's be honest, bad design isn't just about looks.
Early Galaxy Note
The first Galaxy Note devices introduced large screens, which became the subject of ridicule by fans Apple and Steve Jobs. It was a good decision for Samsung, but the design lacked the feel and exterior of a premium product. Instead, the device looked and felt cheap and slipped in the hand. The first Note was basically accepted, the segment was fresh and unusual, but the Note 2 and S2 were criticized for continuing the trend: their design was updated, but the body remained the same slippery, and the display collected even more prints.
Here's what CNET wrote about him:
“Samsung is openly continuing the tradition of flaunting plastic to its competitors, which are using more attractive and possibly denser materials. Attractive as it is, the Note 2 is not very well built, and the overly reflective surfaces sometimes glare and interfere. '
Samsung has been constantly being compared to Apple. Even when the performance of the devices met or exceeded expectations, many felt that the Korean company was always one step behind in design. Those were the old days of struggle iPhone and Android, when the latter was not as polished as it is now, and Apple had not yet begun to make increasingly strange design decisions.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The third device of the Note line had a cover 'under the skin', there was even an imitation of stitches. This was Samsung's response to criticism of the slippery, glossy plastic in previous smartphones, and it was controversial. The soft finish was quite pleasant to the touch and reminded users of a leather-upholstered folder.
Some people still remember these devices fondly. Bogdan Petrovan from Android Authority wrote: '… these phones felt better in hand than they looked. I really liked the way they sat in my hand. However, in comparison with iPhone they were losing outright. '
The Note 3 just wasn't premium enough. The white version was particularly tasteless, wore out quickly and attracted few people with its polycarbonate cover. This became apparent when HTC launched the One (or M7) in a beautiful all-metal case, which became an indicator of forward thinking and timeless design. At the same time, OnePlus One entered the market with a plastic case and case that looked and felt more premium than anything Samsung has released.
Between the announcements of flagships, Samsung released devices with an interesting concept, often slightly confused.
There was a Samsung Galaxy Camera, an unusual attempt to pair a full camera and Android a smartphone. Unfortunately, the photos came out mediocre, the battery life was terrible, and the phone was difficult to use, especially since I couldn't make calls. An acquaintance of mine bought it thinking he was getting a 2-in-1. In the end, he got half of one and almost zero from the second.
Samsung Round came out a little earlier LG G Flex. It was curved from left to right, as opposed to the vertical curvature of the G Flex. The style LG turned out to be more attractive. Even though Samsung swore that the phone was easier to carry in your pocket, it did not affect the experience of using the phone in any way. We didn't recommend Samsung Round at the time. On the other hand, the device showed the level of manufacturing skill and Samsung's technological expertise.
As part of MWC 2012, the world saw the Samsung Galaxy Beam, Android – a smartphone with an integrated projector. The specs were rather limited, but buyers could still get an nHD projector with a 640×360 resolution and 15 lumens brightness. On paper, the idea was interesting and logical. In practice, the quality was lame, the concept was boring and did not catch on the market, despite the interest. The main issues were brightness and autonomy.
Samsung Galaxy S5
While Samsung was playing with unusual ideas, the flagship lineup was in decline. The Galaxy S5 still stuck to the all-plastic body style. The smartphone was well received for its display and powerful hardware, but this time the opinions were the same: the design was terrible. The bumpy plastic lid looked like a plaster, and the metal bezel didn't add to the charm. It was a good flagship with cheap looks.
The design was nothing. It was so bad that Samsung's designers had to publicly explain their choice. Three senior product designers talked about this in an interview with Engadget:
“If we used metal, the design felt heavy and cold. The plastic gave the texture a warmer character. We believe that users will find the device warmer and friendlier. This material was also the best visually expressive of volume and better symbolized our approach to design. '
Despite all the seeming warmth and friendliness, the smartphone was not successful and brought about a big change at Samsung. Previously compared to Johnny Ive, designer Chang Dong Hoon was offered to quit. He stayed, but changed his occupation.
The transition was one of the catalysts in the process that led to the emergence of modern Samsung smartphones. Subsequent flagship releases – the S6 and S6 Edge – represented a big shift in design. The smartphones used metal and glass and pioneered the curved design that still characterizes the Galaxy S and Note lines.
The pay for this design was simple. There was no protection against water, the battery could not be changed, there was no possibility of expanding the device's memory, which enthusiasts would like. Still, the S6 was a big milestone – it took design to a new level for Samsung.
Since the S6, design has flourished in Samsung devices. The biggest problem was the S8's too high-mounted fingerprint sensor. Samsung told the press that the battery was 'hindered' under the camera, but whatever the real reason, the S9 has fixed that bug.
Many of Samsung's bold design decisions have been around for a long time. Large screens, the move to the ubiquitous glass-and-aluminum chassis and curved display describe the company's best devices. Samsung, according to some analysts, forced Apple to switch to larger displays in iPhone and take a risk in iPhone X.
Few in Apple actually thought the cutout in X was a good idea. The choice in favor of functionality over form for Apple is not a frequent event, and now Samsung has every chance of surpassing its competitors in the next generation of flagship devices.
By Tristan Reiner
I won't say that I am a big fan of Samsung, but for a long time I used the fourth versions of the company's flagships (SGS4, SGN4). I chose not because of the design, but rather based on the functional features and scenarios. Nevertheless, the 'under the skin' option in the Note 4 evoked mixed feelings: on the one hand – beautiful, on the other – glides. In terms of ergonomics, there were no complaints, perhaps, except for a slightly thick case for my average hand size.
As for the S4, its plastic design was by no means paramount. I really liked the 'filling', which stood out very sharply against the background of my previous device (HTC HD2). At that time, I was not really 'soared' over the design, I liked to flash devices, change the interface, etc.
In terms of design from Samsung, I really liked the Note 7 / Note 8, however, I wanted the camera to be recessed into the body ('as before', yeah), well, the cutout, in my understanding, is not an obligatory element. Interestingly, here my choice conflicts with the solution Apple. The functionality in the neckline is not worth the sacrifice in my opinion.
Do you think Samsung is actually the leader in smartphone design? Which trends would you bring back from the past? Or are you satisfied with the current market situation?