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Opinion

“Restless Innovation”: Why Samsung experiments on its high-end “Galaxies”

Samsung is the top Android OEM worldwide, and, like all important companies, receives its share of ridicule from critics. In years past, critics have labeled the Korean manufacturer one who “throws something against the wall to see what sticks,” referring to Samsung’s constant experimentation with its products.

Take the Note Edge, for example: some critics chide Samsung because the company emerged with a Note Edge last year, only to forgo a Note Edge 2 this year. “Why does Samsung do one thing this year and do something new the following year?” some say. To some consumers, the only way to behave as a tech company is to make a product, tweak it here and there (but not too much), and release a new one each year. Some in the tech field chided Samsung for its Galaxy S5; then, Samsung turns around and releases a Galaxy S6 edge – only to receive more criticism: “What’s the purpose of an edge on a smartphone?”

So, let’s put the question out there: “Why does Samsung experiment on its high-end ‘Galaxies’?” Why does Samsung experiment at all, when all consumers want is a great device, slightly tweaked, that looks good and runs good, has vanilla Android, and gives fast updates? Why even experiment with TouchWiz when Samsung should just “take cues from Motorola and leave the software experience to Google”?

The answer is simple: because, should Samsung fail to experiment, the Korean manufacturer would abrogate its role as a tech company. Tech is ever changing, and innovation only comes through change. Tech companies embrace the change and create breakthroughs in innovation with experimentation.

Think of the scientist: what does the scientist do? He experiments. Scientists adhere to what is known as the scientific method, by which they 1) make a hypothesis or assume a theory, and then 2) experiment and test out their working theory. No scientist finds himself or herself with a working theory in the first experiment.

What do chefs do? They cook. They are often known for their famous recipes, but those recipes don’t arrive without experimentation. Chefs often stumble onto an award-winning recipe through trial and error. The famous statement “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” assumes that making mistakes and continuing forward in the face of them is the key to success.

Cooking is a science of its own, as are art, music, and sports. Artists don’t learn how to draw or paint without making mistakes. Great musicians don’t rise to prominence without having missed a piano note in a recital once or twice in their careers. Sports athletes often endure a missed free throw in a college basketball game or the NBA before winning a championship ring three years down the line. Mistakes are the stepping stones by which we learn how to proceed in the things we do. Mistakes are how we grow as human beings. Those who never make mistakes never grow.

And the same can be said for tech companies. Those that focus on “getting it right” the first time never grow. Sure, they may make great smartphones and wearable tech. Sure, their tech may be well-designed, and may even net them billions of dollars. Sure, lots of consumers may even prefer the products of such a company over its competitors – but the company will never live up to its responsibility as a tech company. And any company that loses its reputation in innovation forfeits its respect as a tech company. If experimentation is key to innovation, and a company never experiments, it will never innovate.

So, when critics attack Samsung’s experimentation with its smartwatches, for example, they forget the circular Gear S2 exists because of Samsung’s other smartwatches (Galaxy Gear, Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear S) and the lessons learned from those former ones. When they attack Samsung’s Note Edge, they do so, forgetting that it took the Note Edge to produce the stunning Galaxy S6 edge and S6 edge+ with Samsung’s Apps Edge (and the Galaxy Note 5 with its borrowed “edge” design on the device’s backside) that will provide additional functionality down the line.

When critics knock Samsung’s experimentation, they knock Samsung’s innovation. And to knock Samsung’s innovation is to take away the best products on the market – those we would never have experienced if Samsung wasn’t the “quirky” tech company we all know and love. Additionally, to knock Samsung’s innovation is to take away the progress of the market, since Samsung’s achievements have, in many ways, lifted the smartphone industry as we know it.

Don’t take my word for it, listen to Samsung:

Back in 2011, Samsung had found success with the first Galaxy S, so we were excited about the potential of the S2. But, we also felt that there were so many consumers out there that wanted a product that just didn’t exist. We were missing something big. And that’s what led to the first Galaxy Note. It was a breakthrough, not just for us, but for the entire industry. We faced some doubt and market skepticism (and that’s kind of an understatement); at the time, 3.5 and 4-inch phones dominated the market, but we summoned the courage. We believed in the Note. We knew there was demand for a bigger display, a larger canvas that made more possible. It turns out we were right. – Justin Dennison, Galaxy Unpacked 2015, 43:08-44:03

Just two years ago, at CES, we revealed a new concept: flexible display technology. We believed in that concept, so we bet big on an immersive screen that was beautiful and useful. And we have been so happy with the response from customers; they love the dual-edge experience. That’s how we stay ahead of the curve: we listen, we learn, and we take a risk. We push ourselves to be first and others join us. The technologies make life better; that’s true with the big breakthroughs, but it’s also true with steady worker progress. When we develop better cameras, higher-resolution screens, batteries that charge faster and last longer, that not only lifts Samsung; it propels the industry. –J.K. Shin, Galaxy Unpacked 2015, 37:11-38:22

I believe that Samsung has an important role to play in advancing technology in our daily lives. We push ourselves hard; we take a step forward and then another. And if we get there first, others will follow. That’s how we transform society for the better. That’s how we make life easier, simpler, and more productive. That’s what relentless innovation means: offering what’s next now. –J.K. Shin, 10:42-11:22, Mobile World Congress 2015

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Thisath R
Thisath R

I can’t get over what an amazing article this is.
So well written, so well backed up, it’s just so convincing too.
We need more articles like this in thr mobile world.
Deidre, I’ve read a few of your articles lately, and you my friend are a gift to this site. Keep your amazing work up!

vpoulios
vpoulios

Make a phone with 5.5 inch screen, 32 gb memory , sd card, 3500mah removable battery, s view cover support , note 5 design and it will sell like nothing in the past

randyckayy
randyckayy

Samsung should take the same pledge HTC took for their latest phone: to update Abdroid 15 days after the launch of a new version. I thing Samsung users will appreciate more this fact than all the experimentation that Samsung does in its laboratories (while very necessary anyway).

alan4195
alan4195

I think you meant ‘abdicate’, not “abrocate”.

🙂

n900mixalot
n900mixalot

The problem is that when something works, Samsung drops it. The Note Edge works, and what do we Note Edge owners have to show for it? No Edge Panel app store like Samsung promised and the software has said is coming for more than a year. No Edge 2, instead the S6 editions which do not have the S-Pen. The Gear S is the same. We had breaking cradles all over the place and Samsung never took ownership. We have Lollipop being installed on them but they haven’t seen any significant update since … I don’t even know. Samsung builds… Read more »

arbit1002
arbit1002

For once I agree with your article ☺. Samsung is clearly the innovator in hardware. Actually, in some parts of software too. If the software experience had been left to Google, no spen apps, no multiwindow, no tablet specific apps, no blocking no one click integration between emails, tasks and calendar, and so many other things. What they need to do is bring the same innovation mindset to software and user experience. Touchwiz has great features, but needs much more optimization. Their services are here today and gone tomorrow. That is what is really killing them in the market. The… Read more »

drewr81
drewr81

I don’t find anything wrong with samsung releasing phone after phone so quick like this. I think it keeps them ahead of their competition. And I love samsung products and I’m an adimint samsung user been using their phones since the a series. The only thing I think they could change is maybe starting a program for people like me who have owned numerous phone models, a program where say you own a note 4, when the note 5 came out you’d be able to upgrade to the new model if your phone is still in good condition.

TheSparda
TheSparda

Samsung likes to experiment, and we get exciting products, but we also expect a level of consistency and commitment to these products. These products lack the software support such as getting the latest firmware. Even their flagships like the galaxy S series gets late firmware updates and the note gets it even later. The note is something that they are proud of, but they do not support it enough. Then, they made touchwhiz which is a resource hog, even in its smaller, lighter form this year. RAM management is an issue, and many people keep their apps open for convenience,… Read more »

Nine54
Nine54

Yes, and that consistency helps build brand loyalty. A smartphone is a commitment, and when customers make a commitment to a device, they want to know the company is making a commitment to them as well, especially when the company has the ability to add more value and utility even after the sale (via software). But Samsung is getting a reputation for treating customers not on the latest flagship as second-class citizens.

mar11974
mar11974

FM radio? I have owned phones in the past with FM radio (only worked with headphones) and never used it. Everyone leans towards mp3’s or streaming music. I currently have a GS6 and it is by far the best phone I’ve ever had (performance, screen resolution, camera and battery life). I used wireless charging with my GS4 with the official back cover and it was hard to find cases to fit; with the GS6 it’s built in and I can use any case. I haven’t missed having an sd card one bit, I store everything using cloud storage and an… Read more »

Nine54
Nine54

I don’t think anyone is knocking innovation or suggesting Samsung stop experimenting. But, some consumer don’t want to be guinea pigs for half-baked features that ultimately end up being dropped. That development effort could be better spent improving features that already exist. Sometimes it’s important to be first, but other times it’s more important to be “right.” Apple isn’t the first to implement a lot of technologies, but it’s often the first to do so in a thoughtful way that encourages adoption. And then Apple continues investing in the feature to further refine the experience. This is the reason why… Read more »

harinsheth
harinsheth

They inmovate air view and air gesture then why did they remove … they should have encourage dev. To develope apps or games exclusive works via these features…

Btw how much samsung may have paid you good amount for this article….

Martin R.
Martin R.

Harinsheth stop with you obnoxious comments please. Paid for good articles, really?! This is how she thinks about this. And opinion pieces are pieces of mind of the writers.

Why should Samsung pay for this? If you don’t like Samsung please go buy an Apple instead.

harinsheth
harinsheth

I am also blogger in india…promoting different apps…app dev.s always give us extra amount to promote…you will also get…

MARTIN R. … YOU LIKE APPLE … BECAUSE GIVEAWAY CONDUCTED BY UNBOX THERAPY ON YOU TUBE, I SAW YOUR COMMENT TO GET IPHONE 6S… AND I DID NOT COMMENT THERE..THIS MEANS I LOVED SAMSUNG…BUT ITS LOVED…NOW NOT..OWNING NOTE 4 AND HAPPY WITH IT…NOT ABOUT SOFTWARE ONLY…YOU BETTER BUY IPHONE 6S URSELF AND DO NOT OVER REACT HERE…

Martin R.
Martin R.

I indeed replied there, I have such a person that is called a mother…

harinsheth
harinsheth

Go outside home..do work/business … get money…buy it…your mom will double happy…if you are not capable of that then be happy with what u have…also why u want iphone for mom why not s6 or any other or z3 ir core or mega or any sammy…also do this type of giveaway freebie make you happy ?
If you think you win it and then sell it then its ok..btw use of that machine will never give good exp.

Sebastian Shaw
Sebastian Shaw

Samsung is making nonsense in recent years
First they remove fm radio with s4 saying people use online radio more but that does not enough reason to remove fm radio
Secondly they remove sd card with s6 and then reduce the battery with note 5
They are starting to produce iphones of android world and real comsumer dont want that

BingoSeasons
BingoSeasons

Exactly…

rasikh007
rasikh007

i have been a Samsung fan since launch of s2 .i used s2,s3 ,s4,note 2 and note 3 .but i don’t seriously want to buy any more Samsung phones as there phones are over priced lack simple features which simple phones even have and last not the least updates are slow full of bugs and battery life very very poor

ThaiM
ThaiM

It’s not innovation if they remove innovative features to be like iPhones. What kind of nonsense is this?

losteagle
losteagle

No one want to stop Samsung innovations, but it’s equally importat for a company to learn from its mistakes. A right way would be to listen more customers than market analyst opinions. Note 5, in my opinion, it’s a clear example of a mistake.