Insight: Samsung: "fast executioner" seeks killer design

Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:05pm EDT
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By Miyoung Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - When Samsung Electronics rushed its first smartphone to market in a panicky response to the smash-hit debut of the Apple iPhone, some customers burned the product on the streets or hammered it to bits in public displays of disaffection.

Complaints ranged from dropped calls and a clunky touchscreen to frequent auto rebooting and a dearth of applications.

"It was just awful," said Kim Sang-uk, 27, who bought the Omnia in late-2009 just before starting his first job. "I just wanted to throw it away, but couldn't because I was on a 2-year contract. It was the kind of phone where you'd say 'no', even if someone gave it to you for free."

Samsung Mobile President JK Shin admitted it was a tough time. The company had seen a 1 trillion won ($885 million) profit in its telecom sector in the first quarter of 2010 halved in the following quarter after Apple Inc's latest iPhone took the market by storm.

"We were facing a really serious crisis," Shin said later.


Yet on the 9th floor of Samsung Electronics headquarters in Seoul housing the mobile division's design center, Lee Minhyouk said he was not feeling the heat. Samsung Mobile's vice president for design and his team were already working on its next smartphone, the Galaxy, and this would be truly a worthy opponent to the iPhone.

Samsung has sold 44 million Galaxy units since its launch in June 2010 on its way to displacing Apple last year as the world's top-selling smartphone maker. Its success evolved from the Omnia, said Lee, who at 40 is the company's youngest senior executive.   Continued...

An employee poses with Samsung Electronics' Galaxy phones at a store in Seoul March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji