Last week we had the chance to sit down with Ryan Bidan, Director of Product Markting at Samsung Mobile, as part of our ongoing Android Insiders series. The Galaxy S III is one of the largest Android product launches of the year so we wanted to talk about the Galaxy brand and what it represents to consumers.
We also chatted about TouchWiz, unlocked phones, and customer loyalty programs, so check out the full interview below and let Samsung know how much you appreciate them taking the time to sit down and talk with the Android community.
Android and Me: The messaging for the Galaxy S II was “Screen, speed, and content.” What should the Galaxy brand represent to consumers?
Ryan Bidan: For us the Galaxy brand is our flagship brand. I want it to be defined to consumers as the best Android device experience period. In this case we happen to be talking about the Galaxy S III, our flagship Android phone.
A year ago when we were talking about the Galaxy S II, part of it was the market was in a very different place and what we needed to do with that launch was something different. We basically brought out a world beater phone that decimated the competition. It was hands down the best Android phone across the line and did a great job.
I think the market has changed quite a bit in the last year. I think there are a lot of really great devices out there. For most consumers this idea of “speed and screen”, those kind of factors, the speed particularly and the power of the hardware are becoming less relevant of a differentiator. You move from this place where it was megahertz, gigahertz, and cores and now we are trying to move beyond that. Is my quad-core really better than a dual-core from the next generation?
What we are trying to do here is define Galaxy S III as being the flagship device experience in totality from design, performance, and on-device software. I don’t want you to worry about what’s going on under the covers. We make all the components. It’s the best device available for you and it’s going to have the best experience.
Yes, its got a great screen and lots of power under the hood, but what I want you to think about is how great it feels to use, how fluid it is, and things we have done with the software.
AAM: How important is Samsung’s content ecosystem to the success of the Galaxy S III?
RB: On the content side, it’s a bit of an open market for us. So you’ve got Google’s offerings, a lot of 3rd party offerings, carrier offerings, and in some cases you have Samsung’s offerings. For us it has always been about providing choice for the consumer. So in markets where there aren’t any 3rd party providers or markets where there aren’t solutions to provide that kind of content, we’ve gone out and done some of those.
Obviously the US market is very mature in terms of content delivery in a lot of ways. There are lots of incumbents in those markets, so our strategy has been more likely to work with them than provide solutions against them.
So that’s part one. Do I think that Samsung’s content ecosystem is important for the success of this device? Absolutely. I think a big part of the device experience today, the expectation around the device experience, is that ‘I’ve got my content. I can enjoy my content.’
And for Samsung, having various components of the ecosystem, it becomes how can I share that content. Whether it’s with my TV, or my tablet, or across other devices.
AAM: Specifically, I’m curious about Samsung’s Game Hub. I saw Samsung preview some new games at their Unpacked event like Gameloft’s Asphalt 7. Do you think we will see Game Hub in the United States?
RB: I think gaming as a content solution is very important. Do I think we need to provide great gaming solutions for our customers? Absolutely. Will that be in the form of Game Hub or some other way to deliver that content? I’m not 100% sure right now.
AAM: For a customer that purchased the Galaxy S II and loved it, what do you see as the key reasons to upgrade to a Galaxy S III?
RB: If I was talking to a specific user I would totally dig into what they are doing with their device today and tell them how much more awesome the Galaxy S III is. In general I think the things to look for are best in class hardware, a great camera experience - we got the 8 megapixel shooter and all the advanced features like burst shot and zero shutter lag, and we now got the HD screen with the 4.8 inch 720p HD Super AMOLED display. It looks much better and has more information on the screen. And you now have Ice Cream Sandwich and the latest Samsung enhancements to it.
AAM: What is the future of TouchWiz going forward? There is no mention of TouchWiz in Samsung’s online marketing for the Galaxy S III. Is Samsung going to devalue it?
RB: My take on it, and the way I have characterized it is actually the opposite. What we are trying to do is not separate TouchWiz as a separate element, so much as help consumers understand it’s part of the Samsung device experience. It’s not this add-on, but it’s deeply integrated into how you experience this Samsung device.
Whether it’s lock-screen customizations, or gesture UX, or any of those kinds of elements that we have gone and extended, those kinds of additions to Ice Cream Sandwich that we think are interesting – that for us is now part of your Samsung device experience.
I don’t think calling out TouchWiz as a separate application or having it thought of as this separate thing is particularly useful.
AAM: How do you see the market for unlocked phones in the US evolving over the next couple of years?
RB: It’s a challenging one because the issue has always been the market in the US, or North America, is so very different than the rest of the world – the position of the carriers, subsidized devices, and all that kind of stuff.
I think unlocked devices are very interesting, but I think it’s very much an enthusiast audience at this point. It’s those people who would be willing to import the phone from overseas anyways. When we are talking about something like a Google Experience device, like the Galaxy Nexus, it is a very focused kind experience that [consumers] are looking for.
How do I think about the unlocked thing? From a consumer point of view I think it would be great to see more unlocked phones. I don’t think the North American consumer is necessarily ready for the market to become that kind of unlocked device market.
We expect our phones to be subsidized. We expect to go in a store and spend $199 or $299 for a flagship device. If we started going in and had to bear the true cost of what those devices were, the model might not be that appealing at the end of the day.
AAM: Why should a smartphone buyer be loyal to Samsung, versus going out and getting the latest, greatest smartphone?
RB: We are changing what we talk about with the Galaxy S III and defining a specific Samsung experience. What we are doing is trying to define and communicate reasons why you want to come into the Samsung ecosystem, but then also stay there. Things like unique features on our devices, great design, unique ecosystem opportunities, and [Samsung's] other device offerings.
I want to get you in the door with a great device experience. The Galaxy S III looks fantastic, runs awesomely, and has a lot of cool features. Then you see all the other things that you can do with your device, that you can only do with Samsung, whether it’s gesture UX, S Voice, AllShare Play, S Beam, that you can’t do with any other device.
AAM: Have you ever considered doing a customer loyalty type program or is that something you leave up to your retail partners?
RB: It’s interesting because we are making this transition to wanting to be closer to our consumer. So when I talk about things like wanting to deliver a Samsung experience, I mean to the end user. I want you to have a relationship with your Samsung phone regardless of what carrier you are on.
As part of that it means us needing to get closer to how those devices are actually delivered to consumers in the retail model and what that purchase process looks like. We are absolutely looking at all kinds of options around customer retention, loyalty, and trade up. Do I have anything to announce today? No, but it’s definitely something we are thinking about regularly.
AAM: Thank you for your time.