Is Samsung stuck with one design and is that a bad thing?
If you have read my last few editorials, you’ll notice I get a lot of inspiration from the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. That is because it’s awesome and apparently inspiring. So good for it. Last week on the Weekly, a comment was made by one of the hosts (I honestly don’t remember who) about how Samsung design is stagnant, which amounts to basically the same phone over and over again. There’s a reason it is called “Samesung” by detractors. That sent my little brain flying down a number of paths, paths that I will lay out here for you. Welcome to my mind. Please wipe your feet.
First of all, if Samsung is locked into a particular design philosophy, where does the act of locking come from? Is it locked to the same design paradigm by the big wigs at Samsung who think it looks nice? Is it locked in by the consumer who expects that all Samsung phones will have a particular look? It’s an interesting question, which I think comes back to the expectations Samsung built into the consumers. It’s almost both of their faults. Samsung built a number of phones with the same design philosophy which then translated into consumer expectations of that design philosophy so it almost becomes a self-fulfilling thing and fulfills itself…itself.
A cornucopia of devices
But this is Samsung here, people. Samsung, who goes through devices like candy. Samsung has garnered a reputation that screams “Screw it, let’s give it a go.” Samsung has made phones with pens, tablets with pens, tablets and phones without pens, eight cores, four cores, round and flat. I’m frankly surprised that we haven’t actually seen a circular phone at a trade show yet. What about a ball shaped phone? That’d be very Samsung, now wouldn’t it? But the funny thing is, no matter how large the pile of devices ejected from Samsung’s bowels gets, the same phones always rise to the top. Those phones are the ones that “look like Samsung phones.”
The GSIII, the GS4, the GS5, the various Notes, all those with the physical button at the bottom, flanked by the two other capacitive keys, and bearing the same roughly rectangular shape, rounded corners, and a removable back of varied, but not that varied material. That’s a Samesung all right. Even their tablets emulate these exact features to the point where they look like phones photoshopped to look like tablets. But that’s ok, because Samsung sells a ton of them every year.
It’s for a reason
The design isn’t all that bad either. A lot of phones look like that, and with good reason. Because it’s simple and efficient. Some people don’t like Samsung phones, and they’re entitled to their opinions. I personally have nothing against them expect for the fact that they’re pretty predictable and a little boring. The GS5 did have some cool stuff this year – waterproofing was a big one for me. But from a strictly design standpoint, it was very much the same as last year, and the year before that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It is what it is.
That being said, that’s not a bad rut to be stuck in. If I found something that was as successful as Samsung’s phones, I know I wouldn’t want to change it much. Sure you want to keep up with the technology – new innards, maybe some new materials or manufacturing techniques, but for the most part, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. There’s another pretty successful company that’s kept largely the same design philosophy – almost moreso than Samsung – called Apple. The iPhone is a perennial big seller that hasn’t changed much over the years. There’s a good reason for that. I don’t know if it’s psychological, or physiological but those darn things sell a ton too.
There is something to be said for consistency. It makes people comfortable. People fear change. So once a product proves to be hot, treading that line between familiar and advancement is a tenuous journey. Samsung may well be stuck in a rut with their design paradigm. But again, it’s a pretty good rut to be in. In the meantime it affords Samsung the possibility of throwing other things against the wall to see what sticks while it maintains its “core” of products that consumers continue to buy and buy and buy. Maybe someday Samsung will break that mold. I can’t imagine why they would, but maybe. In the meantime, we’ll continue to watch what Samsung offers, and we’ll probably bored by it.