New star added to Galaxy series
Galaxy S4 has an improved camera and is compatible with ISPs across the world
The Galaxy S4 launched here last week epitomises Samsung's goal of making the best smartphone in the world through constant hardware, technology, software and ecosystem improvement.
"The smartphone benefits people with ease of use, fun and companionship and the Galaxy S4 has all these features. We try to bring the best smartphone to the market. The Galaxy S4 is a flagship product for us," said Gregory Lee, president and CEO of Samsung Asia.
The company has been focusing on innovation globally and regionally. Andn the Galaxy S4, which combines of beauty and advanced technology, will be available by the end of next month in 155 countries with 327 operators worldwide, he said.
Last year, Samsung led the smartphone market with a 42.5-per-cent market share, as per GFK. Global sales of Samsung's mobiles last year were rose 31 per cent to US$187 billion, while its regional sales surged by 63 per cent and Asian sales by a whopping 123 per cent.
Globally, the company delivered 43 million Galaxy SIIIs and 10 million Galaxy Note IIs.
"We will continue to build on this momentum for the next Galaxy," he said.
Smartphones are a critical focus of the company's mobile phone business and it will continue expanding it. The smartphone leader needs to have the best technologies, especially in terms of screen and processor, and the ability to put all those things into a thin design. The best software and ecosystem are also really important.
The design of the Galaxy S4 is fundamentally that of the Galaxy SIII, but better. This version carries software that allows people to use the phone around the world, and includes features such as S-Voice and camera functions that are easier to use.
The camera function is an important feature because people take a lot of photos with a smartphone, and the Galaxy S4 camera has better software. It is social-media ready and easy-to-use.
"We have the best hardware and are working on improving the software. Our interface is very smooth compared to competitors," he said.
The Galaxy S4 offers software-enabled features including S-Health as well as sound and shot, smart scroll and pause, air view, temperature and humidity sensors, and IR gesture. It has a five-inch Super AMOLED full-HD screen with 441ppi. It has two cameras, one with 13 megapixels and the other with two megapixels. It is 7.9 millimetres thick and weighs 130 grams.
So far, every S series has outdone the previous one. The previous series had almost doubled the number of units shipped.
Local content and service are important
Besides hardware, Samsung also focuses on local content and local service, especially in a market like Thailand. Users in Asia can enjoy local contents like books, songs, videos, movies, local maps and local community. There are a lot of local applications and local content that can be brought to the smartphone.
"That boosts our market size and market position," he said.
In Thailand, Samsung has a great team and high market share and is doing well on the "brand". It will continue to roll out more smart and creative programs to engage consumers as well as try to deeply understand what consumers want and need.
"We want to become the best Thai-friendly local smartphone. We have a lot of work in the local market. We want to work with local developers to encourage and improve the local content and applications through the local team and local partners as our ecosystem," he said.
Service in Thailand is really good but that does not mean that Samsung will not improve the quality further.
The company is working hard to improve the quality of service in Thailand all the time.
"Generally, Thai customers are satisfied but we have room to improve our service," he said.
Samsung must continue to improve devices and differentiate its software and services, analysts say.
Jan Dawson, chief telecom analyst at Ovum, said the Galaxy S4 features a slightly larger screen, an improved camera and beefed up processor power and memory.
"The Galaxy S4 is a worthy successor to earlier members of this line, and will doubtless sell well," he said.
However, there are couple of key challenges Samsung faces. First, having innovated rapidly over the last several years to push itself to the top spot in the world smartphone rankings, Samsung now faces the same challenge as Apple. That is, how to continue to improve its devices year on year when existing phones are already top of their class, and there aren't any obvious shortcomings.
Second, how to set Samsung's devices apart from other devices that share the Android operating system that provides so much of the functionality.
As rivals such as HTC and Sony up the specs of their devices and provide better hardware, it becomes more and more important for Samsung to differentiate on software and services.
Time to avoid gimmicks
The improvements to eye tracking and addition of S Translator and the hover feature and so on are good steps in this direction, but they can be seen as gimmicks rather than game changers. At this point, Samsung appears to be trying to kill the competition with sheer volume of new features.
There should be something here for everyone, even if most of these new features won't be used by most buyers.
For now, Samsung can likely rely on its vastly superior marketing budget and the relatively weak efforts of its competitors in software to keep it ahead.
However, competitors will catch up, as Samsung has caught up in many ways with Apple, and Samsung will need to continue to stretch.
It also needs to build a stronger set of content offerings that cross its various platforms, so that it can extend its leadership in smartphones into the tablet space, and give consumers a reason to buy into an "all-Samsung" experience with their consumer electronics.
"Overall, there are lots of features, but based on past experience most people will never even find them on the device," he added.