Samsung has been suffering a bad few months. Profits are down (even though it’s making a lot of money), and smartphones the one category they have relied on for explosive growth has slowed to a crawl in many markets.
In the markets that have the biggest growth potential – India and China – the company has been bleeding out to competitors such as Micromax and Xiaomi. So what’s ailing Samsung and what can the world’s biggest smartphone maker (that’s a crown they would be desperate to hold on to till next year) do to stop the slide? And there’s definitely a slide as tweets like this from Flipkart founder Sachin Bansal show (Though Bansal does have a vested interest in claiming Flipkart-exclusive Xiaomi’s rise)
If xiaomi is the next samsung, does that make samsung the next Nokia?
— Sachin Bansal (@_sachinbansal) July 16, 2014
Samsung is still a major player, but these past financial quarters have blunted its edge and it’s no longer the fierce giant. Recent months have shown it can be taken down. So how can Samsung get back its mojo?
Bulk up the low-end
Samsung has lost the edge in the category that it ruled for a long, long time. While for the past couple of years Indian manufacturers have been chipping away at this lead, Motorola’s entry with the Moto G and Moto E, really galvanised the competition into hyper-aggressive pricing. The pricing epidemic has crept towards high-end offerings like the Xiaomi Mi 3 as well. So clearly Samsung needed to answer. It’s answer in the low-end and entry-level segment has been pitiful. Yes it has these segments covered, but with phones that look a shadow of the competition.
Back to basics
Samsung has always tried to one-up the competition when it comes to specifications of their smartphones, so why has this been neglected in the mid-range and low-end segments? There’s really nothing attractive about any of the new Galaxy phones launched recently in India. This is something that other manufacturers have continued to stick to, offer good specs at a bargain. Somewhere along the way, Samsung ignored this crucial element for success in this segment.
Samsung’s Android software features are great, but these add a lot of bloat to the firmware. What the company can instead do is make them aspirational, and limit them to the high-end. That way the high-end line-up has hardware and software perks if buyers choose to go with them, or they could save money by going for a fast low-end Samsung phone, with some of these software features. LG does it well, bringing the likes of Knock Code to all manner of smartphones, while reserving other features for the higher-end models. This preserves the positioning of the high-end phones, while giving more affordable phones just the right features.
Lose the parallel ecosystem
What’s the biggest difference between a Samsung phone running TouchWiz and any other Android phone which has its own custom UI? Samsung has its own App Store, its own voice assistant in S-Voice, its own note-taking, news-reading apps, and it’s also got ChatOn, a Hangouts-replacement. So why pack all these in when there are perfectly usable default replacements? Not only does this confuse users, but makes them think of Samsung’s Galaxy as different from Android as a whole. Google certainly does not like it, and it’s not helped Samsung in any significant way. While the Samsung Apps hub can be excused as a possible revenue source, the others are not really all that crucial to Samsung. Just lose the extra baggage and maybe you would become more agile in your movement in the market.
Make it peppy
We are tired of slamming Samsung for its boring design. It’s not like anyone at the company is even listening to our pleas, but can we not expect a dash of colour? At the moment, we get glossy blue, glossy white and glossy black as primary options, while the competition has ran through the entire Pantone catalogue looking for some colour. Samsung better step up its game in this regard, as it doesn’t even take so much effort.
Samsung is not the next Nokia yet. It has managed to stay relevant even in a bad period, but it’s in danger of not realising where smartphones are headed, which was considered its biggest strength. It can do more with its forthcoming big launches, but it could once again err by going all-in in the high-end category. The flagships need the support of the smaller, more agile fighters.