Samsung is having a lot of success with lower-end mobile phones. According to reports, they sold almost 69 million units in the fourth quarter of 2009. When it comes to smartphones though, their presence is not so significant. The chart below shows market growth for smartphone makers. Of the manufacturers listed in this chart below, Samsung performed the poorest. The reason for this is fairly obvious to me, Samsung is not prepared for prime time.

Smartphone Market Share

Smartphone Market Share

Their different divisions bring down potentially awesome devices before they’ve fully had their chance.

Samsung Region/Language Divisions

Samsung Region/Language Divisions

The chart above shows the different Regions/Language divisions in Samsung firmware across several devices including mobile phones.

Samsung Network/Carrier Divisions

Samsung Network/Carrier Divisions

The chart above shows Samsung’s codes for different networks/carriers. All these different networks/carriers/regions/countries have different versions of firmware for each device. Each have different approval systems, different teams spread across different countries and carriers. Often, the teams in some regions/carriers are completely unaware of developments made in other regions; that’s the extent of how bad the situation is.

As I was updating my 3year old iPod Touch with the new firmware a few days back, it dawned on me. The firmware updates for Apple are the same across the different devices and they are published at the same time in all the regions. The same can not be said for Samsung. You may argue that Samsung has far more devices, they are on more platforms, in different industries etc. but at the end of the day, it comes down to whether or not they are delivering to the consumer. If they can’t handle the load like their competitors can for those reasons, they should probably opt out of this industry.

For dumb-phones, washing machines, dish-washers etc, Samsung’s approach works just fine. Dumb-phones for instance rarely need updates and the people who use dumb-phones usually don’t expect or even look for firmware updates anyway. The smartphone arena is a whole different ball game. People who use smartphones are normally tech savvy, they know their way around technology, they follow trends and developments in technology and they always want to be on the cutting edge. When a company makes a smartphone, it should be a commitment. A commitment to keep driving innovation and keep supporting it and updating it as new trends and new needs arise. It’s not enough to just release smartphones then just sit back and watch them fly off the shelf.

The massive divisions in Samsung are not ideal for smartphones. In this regard, Samsung is the worst company to buy a smartphone from if you wish to get updates. They may make updates for their smartphones as discussed in my meeting with them but these updates may never actually get to anyone as in the case with the Samsung i8510. For this device, the last official update was released to the public in March 2009 yet the last update I’m aware of was released in November 2009. That means there were people working on who-knows-what, fixing bugs and such for more than 8 months for absolutely nothing? The division system is ridiculous. To date, several regions have not received any official updates at all. For instance; Australia, Netherlands, Poland, India and Croatia barely got any updates if at all. What’s the point of investing in a Samsung smartphone if Samsung has more prongs than they can deal with. If they are incapable of properly supporting, updating, developing and perfecting their devices for all regions, then they are not worth anyone’s time.

The first thing that I was asked when approaching Samsung representatives was “which region are you from?”. That’s the single most important question to them because of the divisions. Even when I wanted to submit my report, divisions were a problem. The issues discussed were generated as a joint effort, input came from i8910 users from all over the world but they wanted to address me alone, in my region.

This is not to say that other companies like Apple, Nokia and HTC for example don’t have these regional/carrier divisions. It’s the extent to which these divisions affect the users of Samsung phones. If an update for the UK comes today, there’s no guarantee that an update will ever come for India. That’s not the case with other smartphone manufactures. Users of smartphones from other makers don’t have to wait for updates that will never come in a region where the phone was officially launched.

It is because of these divisions that no one from Samsung officially responded to the report/petition. No region wants to take the load, they all think it’s some other region’s responsibility. The technical manager I spoke to knows everything there is to know (which is why we had the meeting), but he was not giving an official response. He too is waiting for Samsung HQ to formally respond. I’ve added a signature counter for the petition on the sidebar so we can easily track the number which is slowly approaching 4000 signatures.

It’s all about updates to keep up with the competition in the smartphone arena. If a smartphone manufacturer is unable to effectively deliver updates in a timely manner, it will lose the game to those who can.

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