Samsung Mobile Chief Shares His Vision

Partnerships, innovation and agility more important than ever

I read the blog post by TM Roh, the recently appointed head of Samsung’s Mobile Communications division, with interest. Having been in the role for only six months, he couldn’t have taken the reins at a more turbulent time.

In his article Mr Roh acknowledges how our lives have changed in “unimaginable ways” since the pandemic hit, and underlines his belief that tech companies need to embrace the growing responsibility and opportunities emerging from these challenging times. Rather than referring to the “new normal” as we so often hear these days, he calls this period the “next normal”. I have a sneaky suspicion that we could even see this phrase used in future Samsung advertising campaigns or at least in forthcoming launches.

Mr Roh’s blog post is primarily a teaser for the widely leaked upcoming launch of the Galaxy Note 20 devices, but tellingly, it refers to “five new power devices” coming on 5 August. His comment about “living life to the fullest with these devices in your hand and your ears, and on your wrist” is another hint that in addition to new smartphones, Samsung also has some upgraded earbuds and a new smartwatch up its sleeve.

I’m keen to see how Samsung achieves its vision of having a more closely integrated set of devices. This is a trick that Apple has pulled off to great effect, making its Apple Watch and AirPods attractive, and high-margin, additions to the iPhone and locking in users more than ever. Samsung should be at the point where it can deliver a similarly enticing experience.

Turning to the impact of the pandemic, it’s encouraging to see that Samsung has worked quickly to develop a social distancing app on the Galaxy Watch (see here). There was probably little Samsung could do to deliver major updates to its devices — for example, adding a temperature sensor to a wearable device — given the long lead times on product road maps. However, the company certainly appears to be ramping up its work on crucial areas such as collaboration and partnerships.

With its Galaxy S20 smartphone series, Samsung deepened its partnership with Google to optimize the video calling experience of Google Duo. Both companies will definitely have seen growth in traffic over the past few months, so this was a timely decision.

Mr Roh also suggests that Samsung’s relationship with Microsoft will continue to expand. This will probably build on the interaction of Samsung’s Galaxy devices with PCs and laptops powered by Windows 10 through the Link to Windows solution and Your Phone app. Or Samsung might choose to zero in on the growing opportunities to work with Microsoft’s Xbox business.

Gaming, in particular, is an area where I expect to see more news, as 5G networks and remote gaming promise to significantly improve the experience. Microsoft recently announced that its Xbox game streaming service, known as Project xCloud, will be offered as part of its Xbox Game Pass from September 2020 at no extra cost to users who sign up to its Game Pass Ultimate membership.

There’s little question that Samsung will keep heavily investing in 5G technology and devices with flexible displays. The company has spent considerable sums to become a clear leader in both areas and certainly plans to use its position in these markets as a competitive differentiator over the next 12 months. As Apple readies for the launch of a 5G-enabled iPhone, Samsung not only has to assert itself in the premium smartphone space, but also needs to push 5G deep into the lower tiers of its Galaxy A series.

Mr Roh’s boldest promise is arguably in his closing remarks, where he highlights Samsung’s commitment to “deliver experiences that help customers do more with less” and put them “at the center of the Galaxy experience”. This is an ambitious goal, and it’s going to be interesting to see what the head of the mobile unit and his division have in store for us at the Galaxy Unpacked launch event on 5 August and beyond.