The nightmare of the next big thing


The mobile market can be a cut-throat business. Just ask Samsung  mobile design leader Chang Dong-hoon who after being praised to the ground for the record breaking Galaxy S4, was seemingly disposed of after lukewarm sales of the S5 and criticism of its design

Samsung’s head of design has apparently been replaced because a bunch of internet-blogging geeks didn’t like the plastic case of the Galaxy S5.  Surely some mistake? For did not Samsung’s UK top dog Simon Stanford tell us

“the response to the Galaxy S5 and our new wearables line since Mobile World Congress has been phenomenal”?

Along with other flagship smartphones from other manufacturers, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a miraculous technical tour de force.

It has more processing power than the world’s most powerful Cray super-computer of 1982 which weighed more than five tons. Its camera surpasses the first digital SLR’s from Canon and Nikon.  It can record near-broadcast quality high-definition video of a standard unmatched by a £2,500-plus HD camcorder of five years ago. Yet design head Mr Chang Dong-hoon has apparently felt the need to jack it in because of some poor reviews about the plastic case.

This is like Cameron resigning because journalists moaned about scratched paintwork on the door of Number 10.

Imagine getting into your time machine and travelling back to 1991 with a Galaxy S5 in your hand.  You show it to a bouffant-haired Yuppy (ask your Dad) making crackly calls on a brick-sized Motorola Dynatac. The S5 would be the most incredible thing they had EVER seen – not in their wildest imagination would they conceive of such a product.

Then you tell them: “Ah yes, but it was criticised for its plastic case.”

Unlike the S5,  Samsung needs to develop a thicker skin.  Plastic is good. It is used to make stuff from guns to aeroplanes. Unlike glass (cough …  Apple 4S cough), it  doesn’t shatter when dropped.

Any PR man worth his expense-account lunch would take minutes to spin that plastic is the material of choice for an expensive electronic device because it is lightweight and robust.

Mr Chang’s decision to fall on his (plastic?) sword can probably be ascribed to the pressure-cooker insanity that drives manufacturers to produce ever-more complex devices to meet some imagined fashion trend.

Here are some more examples of how vendors are chasing down the dream of market dominance with the (non-existent) perfect phone.

Last year Huawei launched to great fanfare the Ascend P6. Huawei devices CEO Richard Yu proclaimed: “We want to challenge the market, challenge ourselves and challenge the innovation of the industry.”

The P6 was the world’s thinnest Android smartphone (as if thinness was the grail of device design).

Recently Huawei blew a small country’s debt on taking around 600 hacks, journalists and bloggers to Paris for the launch of the Ascend P7.

The P7 has a revised front camera and some extra photo-editing software because, says Mr Yu,  “consumers always want high-quality selfies”.

They what?  Perhaps the main reason people will want a mobile telephone is because of its ability to connect to voice and data without the  battery dying.

But LG recently assured us that consumers really wanted a phone with a curved screen and its buttons on the back.

HTC said people are longing for a “beautiful, luxurious phone” clad in a one-piece aluminium case.

Sony reckoned what they want – what they really really want, is a gadget that is waterproof and dust proof and the Xperia range was built to survive a sandstorm and being dropped in the loo.

“Nah,”, said the Lenovo-owned Motorola, punters just want a cheap phone.  So last week they brought out the £89 Motorola E.

If Samsung, LG, Sony, Huawei etc would like to offer me a consultancy fee I’d be happy to tell them stop worrying about technology-obsessed writers and reviewers. They might find there is a greater desire for a phone with a bigger battery than the the ability to take selfies underwater or in a sandstorm.