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

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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)

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