Over the last few years Samsung has come under fire time and time again for what many claim to be “cheaper looking” plastic designs. As companies like HTC push arguably more attractive aluminum designs onto the market, many have called for Samsung to change up their design language.
To be fair, Samsung has responded by bringing us minor changes such as switching to a faux leather plastic backing on the Galaxy Note 3 and introducing the new dimpled back design with the recently launched Galaxy S5. But where’s the ‘premium’ redesign we’ve all been waiting for, and what is with Samsung’s infinity for plastic?
Getting Back to the Basics
Those that are most critical of Samsung will tell you that the plastics used on Samsung devices are simply cheaper and/or easier to produce, allowing the company to maximize profits. In a recent interview with several key Samsung designers, Engadget dove into the topic a bit deeper to get a better understanding of Samsung’s software and hardware design choices with the Galaxy S5.
Galaxy S5’s software and hardware design decisions all centered around the idea of getting back to basics
Engadget spoke to three designers and Samsung’s director of product marketing, who all stood behind the idea that the Galaxy S5’s software and hardware design decisions centered around the goal of “getting back to basics”. This meant focusing less on adding more features to the GS5 and focusing more on making existing Galaxy S features as useful as possible. This effort also included improving the camera and other elements, while scaling back some of Samsung’s existing software features.
Samsung says that their reason for going back to the basics was simple: It’s what their customers wanted.
Ahead of the GS5, Samsung researched over 3000 Galaxy S4 users globally and had the permission to follow many of these participants 24 hours a day for several days at a time. During this period, Samsung learned a lot about what Samsung fans wanted from their phones and want they didn’t. Samsung used this information to scale back a lot of the extras found in the TouchWiz software.
But why stick with plastic?
As for the outer design? Samsung’s designers indicate that their aim with the device was to provide “usability, friendliness and a more humanistic design”. Senior Product Designer Dong Hun Kim said that the company looked into all kinds of designs and materials for the Galaxy S5 but ultimately felt that metal wasn’t right for the Galaxy S line. The big reason was that metal is supposedly cold and heavy, while plastic is warm and “has a pleasing feel”.
Our major aims were usability, friendliness and a more humanistic design. We wanted something with a pleasing feel ... and better grip. If we used metal, we felt the designs felt heavy and cold. But with plastic, the texture is warmer. We believe users will find the device both warmer and friendlier. This material was also the best at visually expressing volume, better at symbolizing our design concepts. Dong Hun Kim Samsung Senior Product Designer
Samsung’s user experience designer Jeeyeun Wang notes that a smartphone is more than just a piece of technology, it is “a fashion product” and that the company wanted something warm, vibrant and colorful. This is why Samsung ultimately decided to offer four colors right at launch: white, black, blue and copper gold. Of course many will argue that the dimpled look isn’t exactly “fashionable”, though this is obviously a matter of personal taste.
Honestly, we agree that going back to basics and focusing on creating a “fashionable product” is a great approach, but did Samsung really accomplish either of these goals? Sure, the Galaxy S5′s software was scaled back compared to the Galaxy S4, but it’s still TouchWiz. And on the outside? We might have a more colorful design that’s waterproof and potentially more durable — but it’s still largely the same as always.
Of course, not everyone has a problem with Samsung sticking to what they know and it’s important to note that the Galaxy S5 has sold rather well so far. So let’s leave the question to our readers:
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