Samsung i8910

Bright Future?

The Samsung i8910 was announced at the Mobile Wold Congress 2009 and officially launched around the world some time in May 2009. At the time it was announced, it was not short of innovation. Being the first mobile phone to boast a 3.7″ AMOLED display, first Symbian phone with a capacitive screen, first mobile phone to support OpenGL ES 2.0 and the first mobile phone with HD video recording. Add to that an ARM Cortex-A8 600 MHz processor with a Hardware Graphics Accelerator, 256MB RAM, an 8 Mega pixel camera and a compass just to mention a few of the highlights. Some of these features are the same as, if not better than the features seen in mobile phones that have been launched lately. The Sony Ericsson Kurara for instance, set to be launched some time this year has a 3.5″ LED display, S60 v5 and pretty much about the same features as the i8910. According to an early leak(Russian), the Kurara offers nothing that hasn’t been seen before on the i8910.

Sony Erricson Kurara, offering nothing new

The Omina HD has had at least a 6 month head start against this device. It has the upper hand, or does it?

Samsung Mobile Innovator was launched in late 2008 as:

“a new program enabling mobile software developers to create applications for use across all Samsung S60 devices for the first time.”

It was launched just in time for the arrival of the i8910. To date, there are only 12 applications available for download for the i8910 at the website, more than a year on. This has been attributed to poor sales and lack of developer interest as a result. Despite that, Samsung went on to unveil the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD Gold Edition, a moved that puzzled many. Interestingly, in the Gold Edition launch article, GSM Arena called the phone an

“extremely popular… multi-media monster”

The price of the phone has gone down significantly since its launch. In some regions, such as my own, you can get the device for about half the initial price. From a consumers’ point of view, that’s very appealing. It’s features are comparable to newer models that are on the market now, making the i8910 an easily relevant smart phone.

3.7″ AMOLED display – similar to the Google Nexus One(January 2010)

ARM Cortex A8 600MHz processor – similar to the Motorola Milestone(Droid)(November 2009)

8.1 Mega-pixel Camera with HD video recording capability- similar to the rumored Sony Ericsson Kurara(to be announced)

Its ground breaking features are the driving force behind its longevity. The technology though may be inferior to the current crop of devices, as shown in my previous article on the displays, and other areas. The i8910 is an example of risk taking and pushing technology to the limits. To date, it’s the only smart phone with HD video recording capability. The HD recording feature may not be perfect, probably because it was ahead of its time, but it’s there, taking full advantage of the phone’s hardware. The phone may fall short in the applications arena, but the HD video recording and playback make use of most of its power, to the extent of almost failing with HD video recording.

So, clearly the phone has some firm footing, but if Samsung is to re-launch it, what would they need to do? Put Symbian^X? Not necessarily I think.

Symbian 4 not happening

Symbian^4 not happening for the i8910

Some of the UI elements of Symbian^4 have just been detailed and I have to say, I’m not really impressed. Skimming through the document, I noticed they don’t really mention much that’s new. An extract from the document released says:

User interface design solutions that exist for other operating systems are similar in the following respects:

–       HTC Hero and Motorola Droid, both on Android, have a Homescreen with movable Homescreen widgets; however, each has one multi-panel homesceen page, whereas Symbian Foundation has independent unique pages

–       Palm Pre’s WebOS eliminates Exit commands, but instead of saving state and releasing memory it keeps applications running

–       iPhone has a flattened application library; however, it is displayed to the user exclusively as a manually organized grid, whereas the Symbian Foundation application library is an alpha-ordered list with multiple filtered views.

Right… not as revolutionary as I would have liked. I was expecting something more daring, adventurous and funky like the new Symbian Foundation theme. I was expecting to be blown away with something like this..

Symbian^4 as I imagined it

But that’s just me. In my opinion, Touch Wiz running on the i8910 with Symbian^1 works ok for now.

Of the issues in the report, Samsung has only managed to address about 27% of the problems and features suggested. The ~73% percent or so of the issues and features that are not being addressed are enough for a product relaunch. I mean killer features like a torch, threaded SMS, video editor, fm transmitter, VoIP, multi-touch etc. are enough to make a whole new product. Instead of launching a whole new product, they can just re-launch it. In my meeting with Chris, he mentioned that the i8910 missed out on a lot of these features because they were either not yet popular or they were not yet developed. The device is capable of supporting the features, it’s not the technology that’s the problem. The problem is resources for carrying out such a project.

It is not unheard of that users have had to pay for new updates. The iPod Touch is one such example. Apple charges for new updates for the iPod Touch because they introduce

“significant enhancements to a device that has already been launched.”

Adding 30 or so new features, fixes and enhancements is a mammoth task. iPod Touch users paid $10 for about 20 new features in the 2.0 update and another $10 for the 3.0 update. Apple unveiled new iPods/iPhones to coincide with these releases. Samsung could potentially use that same approach when launching the i8910 Gold Edition. People who already have the device can pay a small fee, and the new devices can come with the new features on board.

Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen. New devices are going to come out and leave older devices like the i8910 behind eventually, that’s the way it’s always been.