Samsung replaces head of mobile design

Samsung logoReuters is reporting that Samsung's head of mobile design, Chang Dong-hoon, has changed roles at the company amid poor reception of the Galaxy S5. Dong-hoon was in charge of the Galaxy line during its rise to the top of the market, and the company now sells twice as many phones as Apple. His leadership also corresponded with the period during which Samsung was accused of taking most of its design cues from Apple, and he recently testified at Apple v. Samsung II.

Samsung has always been great about getting the latest big screens and speedy parts out to consumers, but the design and materials choices have always felt like an afterthought. Over the last three years, Samsung's phone design has barely changed at all—just look at the lineup of the Galaxy S3, S4, and S5, above. Critics (present company included) have offered the same criticisms of 2014's Galaxy S5 as they did of 2012's Galaxy S3: the plastic feels cheap, and TouchWiz is bloated and ugly.

Samsung replaces head of mobile design

Before the launch of the Galaxy S5, Samsung's Executive VP of Mobile gave an interview to Bloomberg that placed the blame for the Galaxy S4's disappointing sales on the design of the device, which the executive called too similar to the Galaxy S3. When the Galaxy S5 was unveiled, though, the design was just as close to the S4 as the S4 was to the S3. The one change Samsung did make, a new back design, was widely ridiculed for looking like a Band-Aid. In our review, we felt that the S5 design was a step backward from the S4, and the new hardware features—the fingerprint reader and heart rate sensor—didn't work.

In a statement to Reuters, Samsung spins the move as just a position change, saying, "The realignment will enable Chang to focus more on his role as head of the Design Strategy Team, the company's corporate design center which is responsible for long-term design strategy across all of Samsung's businesses, including Mobile Communications," but the Reuters report pins the move on the Galaxy S5's reception. Samsung's VP of Mobile Design, Lee Min-hyouk, will be taking over design leadership.

As we learned with Google's purchase of Motorola, smartphone design is not an nimble process that can be turned around overnight. If Samsung does decide to go in a new direction with its design, don't expect to see any changes for about 12 to 18 months. Thanks to carrier contracts and supply chains, smartphone OEMs have to plan out their lineup "pipeline" at least a year in advance. We'll check back in a year.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5, Samsung, smartphones

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