Internal Samsung memo talks 'crisis of design', iPhone UX

By on August 7, 2012, 4:30 PM

The second week of the Apple vs. Samsung trial kicked off yesterday with an unexpected new piece of evidence highlighting how the rise of the iPhone influenced Samsung’s product design. Namely, an internal memo in which Samsung’s head of mobile communications JK Shin described the difference in user experience between Samsung and Apple smartphones as “a difference between Heaven and Earth.”

Shin makes this observation while comparing their 2010 Samsung Omnia to the original iPhone released in 2007, asking another executive things like “Do you know how difficult the Omnia is to use?” and “can you honestly say the Omnia is better?” Shin says that "influential people" that have come across the iPhone are saying that "Samsung is dozing off,” and notes how his company had been following Nokia closely when an “unexpected competitor" comes out of nowhere to deliver the Apple iPhone.


Samsung Omnia II vs. Samsung Galaxy S vs. Apple iPhone

Hardware design and build quality of Samsung products weren’t as much of a problem, although Shin asks “not to create a plastic feeling and instead create a Metallic feel.” His real beef was with usability and the user experience, however, noting how they were experiencing a “crisis of design”.

Although the memo didn’t explicitly indicate that Samsung would just copy the iPhone, it’s clear they felt the pressure to do something similar. As the image above shows, Samsung’s devices began to adopt a markedly different user interface and user experience sometime after this. That said, the memo suggests that one area where they did want to differentiate themselves from the start was in offering bigger displays.

When everybody (both consumers and the industry) talk about UX, they weigh it against the iPhone. The iPhone has become the standard. That’s how things are already.

Do you know how difficult the Omnia is to use? When you compare the 2007 version of the iPhone with our current Omnia, can you honestly say the Omnia is better? If you compare the UX with the iPhone, it’s a difference between Heaven and Earth.

All this time we've been paying all our attention to Nokia, and concentrated our efforts on things like Folder, Bar, Slide, yet when our UX is compared to the unexpected competitor Apple’s iPhone, the difference is truly that of Heaven and Earth. It’s a crisis of design. The world is changing, and the flow of change isn’t something that you can have come back again by going against the flow.

Read the full memo (PDF)




User Comments: 17

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Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Funny, to anybody but a lawyer, that probably comes across as Samsung being smart, gauging consumer interest and desires, and readily admitting their product needs drastic improvement to compete.

avoidz avoidz said:

Isn't this how most competitors go about developing their products? Look at what's popular, what is trending, and try to imitate and improve upon that? Why would you say to your designers to make something the opposite of the standard and what people are liking? Apple is just trying to eliminate competition in the courtroom with this stupid lawsuit.

psycros psycros said:

Isn't this how most competitors go about developing their products? Look at what's popular, what is trending, and try to imitate and improve upon that? Why would you say to your designers to make something the opposite of the standard and what people are liking? Apple is just trying to eliminate competition in the courtroom with this stupid lawsuit.

The reason Apple wants to do this so badly is because their competition can easily undercut them. If someone else releases a product that's <I>just enough</I> like an iPhone/iPad with a considerably lower price, the upstart gets the sale. When the courts rubber stamp vague design patents like "a rectangular screen" and similar prior art, their not just blocking future innovation but also showing approval for Apple's continual theft of IP. The favoritism that's been shown to this company by the courts, the media and the "creative" communities over the years is astounding.

Guest said:

Bottom line: competition is good. However, not at the expense of one company copying everything another company is doing. And all Samsung has done since the launch of their SG series is copy Apple. If they'd innovated their own stuff, I don't think Apple would have sued them; that is, not to this level. Apple does sue a lot, but in turn, they've been sued too since they beat the competition with the iPhone.

I wish these patent lawsuits wouldn't happen, but I don't blame Apple if all Samsung's done is copy everything they've done. If it was you that spent all of this time doing the research and development and spending the millions of dollars developing it from concept to final product, you'd do the same to protect your investment as well.

Guest said:

I hope they both lose, and neither gets a dime from the other, and they both have huge legal bills to pay and they learn to stop competing in the courts, and focus on competing in the marketplace. Almost makes me wanna buy Nokia or Sony. Almost. Come on Windows8+Nokia !

ReederOnTheRun ReederOnTheRun said:

Isn't this how most competitors go about developing their products? Look at what's popular, what is trending, and try to imitate and improve upon that? Why would you say to your designers to make something the opposite of the standard and what people are liking? Apple is just trying to eliminate competition in the courtroom with this stupid lawsuit.

The reason Apple wants to do this so badly is because their competition can easily undercut them. If someone else releases a product that's <I>just enough</I> like an iPhone/iPad with a considerably lower price, the upstart gets the sale. When the courts rubber stamp vague design patents like "a rectangular screen" and similar prior art, their not just blocking future innovation but also showing approval for Apple's continual theft of IP. The favoritism that's been shown to this company by the courts, the media and the "creative" communities over the years is astounding.

Yeah, that's pretty much exactly how the competitive market is supposed to work. Competition keeps the prices reasonable for both consumers and producers. Apple knows their products are way over priced and other companies are releasing better stuff, so they are just trying to patent everything they can (even stuff that doesn't exist) so they are the only ones who can develop the technology. Basically Apple is trying to get in monopoly conditions before people figure out their stuff really isn't that spectacular anymore.

The funniest part is that Apple founded their business on that strategy. Taking existing technology and improving it. Now they are trying to prevent anyone else from improving on their technology ever again.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Isn't the crux of Apple's suit that Samsung used its position as the manufacturer of some of the iPhone's components to use that to convey to them an undue advantage in making their own phone?

If the memo's showed that Samsung is taking prototypes and using them to design their phone, that would be understandable.

But they're referring to a commercially available iPhone. As everyone has pointed out, which company DOESN'T use the products of their competitors to try to make their product better?

RajeGera RajeGera said:

It reminds me of CEO of Coca Cola company way back in 1950's(I dont xactly remember the name of CEO)when comapny was loosing battleground with Pepsi.CEO asks the managers..whos our competitor?Answer was pretty obvious.Pepsi.He surprised everyone by saying.NO.All those companies which quenches the thirst of the consumers are our competitor. and eventually vending machines were deployed first time to meet the purpose..

Guest said:

Guest said:

Bottom line: competition is good. However, not at the expense of one company copying everything another company is doing. And all Samsung has done since the launch of their SG series is copy Apple. If they'd innovated their own stuff, I don't think Apple would have sued them; that is, not to this level. Apple does sue a lot, but in turn, they've been sued too since they beat the competition with the iPhone.

I wish these patent lawsuits wouldn't happen, but I don't blame Apple if all Samsung's done is copy everything they've done. If it was you that spent all of this time doing the research and development and spending the millions of dollars developing it from concept to final product, you'd do the same to protect your investment as well.

All I can say is WOW

How can you think that a rectangular shape can be patented. I don't remember patent lawsuits in mobile world until APPLE came in . All phones they looked similar : small 2" screen with a small keyboard .

APPLE wants monopoly in the market. I will not be surprised if in USA and Canada will actually happen .

It is getting ridiculous .

Guest said:

It is not they can be undercut. It is others can charge a more reasonable price and make $50 profit per device versus $350 dollars profit per device. And the sad thing is the people who buy apple products do not care they are being overcharged.

MilwaukeeMike said:

You guys are right about price competition, but it't not very relevent in this market because every phone is bascially the same price because of carrier subsidies.

As everyone has pointed out, which company DOESN'T use the products of their competitors to try to make their product better?

That would be RIM (aka, Blackberry). Seriously though... there's a difference between using and copying. Siri in a Samsung would be copying because it would confuse a consumer, but allowing your phone app to open when you click a phone number in a text is just convenient design. Finding the line in the middle is the hard part, and Apple seems to think anything in an iPhone/iPad belongs only to them.

Guest said:

It seems we need more cooperation and less competition. Stop fighting each other and work toward helping each other. We have too many ego centric people and too many rewards for them. Friendly competition is good, it instills an entity to do their best, crushing the competitor simply destroys the ecosystem the allowed all to grow in the first place.

Guest said:

Why do people say it's overpriced. If people buy it, that means it is priced correctly. If it wasn't for Apple, Samsung would still be delivering crappy product. Still, I don't believe it's copying as much as delivering what the marketplace wants.

Ultraman1966 said:

Wow, if analysing how a competitor's product is better and how you can take parts of it for inspiration is a crime then every company in the world that makes a product is screwed legally speaking.

Guest said:

Someone please tell me what Steve Jobs did that was not already invented. Touch screen was invented in the 1950's by Xerox. Cell phone have been around for ages now. Besides propriety software, what is he being sanctified for? Someone please tell me.

ReederOnTheRun ReederOnTheRun said:

Isn't the crux of Apple's suit that Samsung used its position as the manufacturer of some of the iPhone's components to use that to convey to them an undue advantage in making their own phone?

If the memo's showed that Samsung is taking prototypes and using them to design their phone, that would be understandable.

But they're referring to a commercially available iPhone. As everyone has pointed out, which company DOESN'T use the products of their competitors to try to make their product better?

Well, at least how I am seeing it, Samsung actually tried other designs after the iPhone but eventually realized the people wanted a clean, minimalist looking phone which would leave the maximum room for the biggest screen possible. Given that those conditions are popular they did what they had every right to do: make a product the people want. Yeah It looks kind of like the iPhone, but how much variation can you make in a supper thin phone with the biggest screen possible? Saying that Samsung is copying Apple to me is like a TV manufacturer complaining everyone is stealing there big rectangular screen on a stand idea.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Saying that Samsung is copying Apple to me is like a TV manufacturer complaining everyone is stealing there big rectangular screen on a stand idea.

Agreed. But, the big difference here is that no ***** granted a TV manufacturer a patent on the "big rectangular screen on a stand" concept. I really think this entire lawsuit is just another example of how screwed up our patent system has become, and how easy it is for a company to abuse it in an anti-competitive way.

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