The sound of Samsung

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Samsung has always been a step behind Nokia and Motorola in worldwide handset sales, but with a strong Christmas offering and promises of a 4G revolution in 2008, its aims of becoming number two in the league table could soon become a reality.

Currently holding 18 per cent of the European handset market share, Samsung is targeting 14 million sales by the end of 2007 and an increase in market share to 20 per cent. Thanks to the growing success of the Ultra Edition brand this is looking like a relatively easy target, especially as the push will soon be complemented with some impressive new devices.

Part of Samsung’s new strategy is to shift its focus to making technological advances accessible to the European market, rather than trying to fit as much as it can into a sleek casing, as seen with the Ultra Edition I and II ranges.

The dual-sided F300 bridged a gap between a sleek fashion device and a music-focussed handset. Now, says Europe and CIS sales and marketing vice president Yangkyu Kim, music is where Samsung will be spending the majority of its R&D budget for 2008.

A new range of music devices will be announced next year, following the success of the F210 and F200 music sliders. And a partnership with electronics specialist Bang and Olufsen, as well as a new music content service in the same vein as Nokia’s Music Recommenders, should see Samsung turning plenty of heads in the mobile music space.

The Icepower cometh

The deal with Bang and Olufsen will see the integration of the latter’s Icepower amplifier technology into new Samsung music devices, turning them into freestanding music devices with phone capabilities, rather than handsets with music as a secondary feature.

This shift could be regarded as Samsung’s response to Apple’s iPhone, but naturally this has been denied by the Koreans. But whether true or not, this new direction could dramatically alter the mobile music landscape.

Kim says there have been serious software issues with the iPhone, but overall says it is “doing well” in the marketplace, considering it is Apple’s first step into mobile.
“We have plans to launch a similar model to compete in the same sector, but details aren’t available yet,” he says.

Kwaneui Hong, assistant manager of Samsung’s mobile communications design team, agrees the iPhone is a unique offering, and is perhaps the reason the Korean manufacturer is preparing to take on Steve Jobs’ innovation.

Says Hong: “The iPhone has given us an insight into the future of mobile phone design. The idea of the touch screen is not user friendly and needs to be improved.”

Kim adds that the iPhone is not suited to the European market, but more to the Korean market, where new technologies are at the forefront of handset design as opposed to fashion.

Samsung is now set to follow, with a new portfolio of smartphone devices, and these changes will be noticeable in the next year when the Korean manufacturer will begin to produce handsets solely using the Symbian and Windows platforms.

“Samsung is not taking the same approach for design as the iPhone. We are taking key features, and turning them around to suit the European market,” he says.

According to Samsung, the European trend is to move to 3G technologies in all high, mid and low-end devices, with multimedia and music top of the agenda – something Nokia has already achieved with its Nseries handsets. Kim says consumers in Europe want something more than just a device that can make and take calls – they want an all-in-one solution that looks good too.

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