Dear Samsung, it’s time to reignite the Innovation Spark!

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From smartphones and memory chips to the latest home appliances, for decades there has been no bigger innovator in electronics than Samsung. The company started as a small export business in 1938, and has shown no signs of stopping ever since. That’s 86 years! During this long tenure, they have consistently pushed the boundaries of what’s possible to make. But for a couple of years, we’ve been hearing this argument that Samsung has ‘lost its innovation touch’. This raises the question: Will Samsung start innovating again?

Samsung’s Innovation Evolution

The Rise and Plateau

This initial bravado still sets Samsung apart from its competitors: the electronics arm of the company was formed in the 1960s and has since then grown as a separate behemoth. By the 1980s, Samsung had a fully functional in-house Research and Development vertical that looked at future technologies, and these were rewarding. By the turn of the century, Samsung was already working on LCD technology and feature phones, eventually evolving into smartphones.

The Galaxy series alone proved that Samsung could compete in the smartphone design stakes with the big players. Along with big AMOLED displays, multiple cameras, and stylus support (in the Galaxy Note versions). It was Samsung’s designs that heralded wide phones and big screens from flagships like the Galaxy S6 Edge to the almost phablet-sized Galaxy Note Edge. They didn’t stop there and launched the Galaxy Zoom, a smartphone and a point-n-shoot camera hybrid, along with the first smartphone with a variable aperture lens. Samsung even managed to bring foldable phones to market with the Galaxy Fold lineup which was earlier a distant dream.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

In 2017, after winning over its conservative Korean audience, it took Samsung’s AI effort, Bixby – an ‘intelligent’ voice assistant – into the English-speaking markets, though still far behind the crowded AI landscape dominated by the likes of Alexa, Siri, and Google Home.

During the last few years, however, not everybody has been so impressed with Samsung. The company has faced criticism for what some perceive as a lack of groundbreaking innovations. This is partially true when we look at the Galaxy S series products, as the market matured, Samsung faced stiffer competition, and incremental updates replaced groundbreaking leaps to keep the shareholders happy.

Here’s one of Samsung’s biggest critics being very vocal about the lack of innovation

ALSO SEE: Samsung Z Flip 6 specs revealed

Competition and Pressure

The competitive environment that Samsung operates in is one of intense competition in which its competitors, for instance, Apple, Huawei, OPPO, and Xiaomi, go to great lengths. Perhaps pressure to just keep pace with maintaining a stable market share and having more and more innovative products may take a more conservative approach. There has to be a balance between risk and reward, which we presume is probably why, recently, there has been a trend towards incremental improvement.

They did bet big on foldable, however Folding phones remain a niche market, and the competition from Chinese manufacturers like Huawei is intense. That said, they do have a lead in the western markets where iPhones are the dominant force.

Samsung Foldables

Course correction: Research and Development Investments

Samsung kept its faith in R&D investments through the turbulent times of the pandemic. In 2023, it announced it would invest $200 billion in the next three years in expanding R&D and manufacturing capabilities. Such a vast commitment suggests that innovation is still valued at Samsung and in for the long haul, even if the fruits from such investments are not visible now.

ALSO SEE: 10 Best smartphones under Rs 10,000

Areas Where Samsung Can Innovate

Foldable Technology

Samsung made strides in the Fold and Flip form factor through its Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip series making giant leaps over others within the foldable smartphone market. However, the full potential of Fold and Flip has not been fully realized by the company. The Z Fold model efficiently replicates the laptop model and with the whole Windows on Arm moment, Samsung can make big moves in the space. At the same time, the company can find means to bring the fold lineup to more accessible price points. That said, to boost global sales, Samsung will have to differentiate the upcoming Z Fold6 and Z Flip6 from the competition, something they have not been successful with in the last 2 fold generations.

Beyond Hardware: Software and Services

Innovation is not just about the hardware; its software ecosystem- One UI, Bixby, and SmartThings- has some promise. Stitching these seamlessly across a broad portfolio of devices could create a cohesive user experience. Services like Samsung Health, which, per insiders, could take center stage with the launch of the Galaxy Ring and Knox, can be wealth generators for the brand in the long run.

Samsung SmartThings

Artificial Intelligence and IoT: The Next Frontier

AI and the IoT represent fertile ground, and Samsung’s view of the future strongly emphasizes them. Their investments in AI could lead to more intelligent, more intuitive devices if they proved to be successful in integrating AI in more profound ways into their products.

Galaxy AI

Also, such expansion of its IoT ecosystem would seamlessly connect a wide range of its products as a result-from smartphones to home appliances. The imaginable idea in the future is that, your fridge orders groceries and your TV adjusts the lighting based on your mood; part of it has already turned out to be a reality right now.

ALSO SEE: More Samsung Galaxy Ring information emerges before launch

To sum it up

While Samsung’s innovations of late have not been particularly innovative, at least compared to its past. With the amount of R&D in strategic focus areas, the company certainly has the potential to continue leading the pack in innovation. They certainly have the wherewithal and the talent to make a comeback. Focusing on AI and sustainable practices sets them up nicely for the future. Whether or not they can reclaim their “first mover” crown is up for debate, but one thing is for sure: Samsung will continue to be a clear leader, molding the technological future for years to come.

Yogesh BrarYogesh Brar
Exploring the depths of the Data world by day and journaling about tech by night. Often quoted by international publications like The Verge, GSMArena, India Today, and NDTV Gadgets360 for the latest stories on consumer tech. Living and breathing on the Internet.

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