Android Headliner: Will Samsung's Focus Be Software With D.J. Koh At The Helm?

At the end of last month, Samsung made some big changes to their top executives in an effort to shift things into a more positive and profitable direction for the smartphone division of the conglomerate, which saw them replace J.K. Shin as the head of Samsung Mobile with Dongjin Koh. Shin is still very much in the picture, but he will no longer be the CEO of the company. Instead, he will focus more on the future of the mobile division, while Koh is set to take on the immediate tasks at hand which include promotion of the Galaxy S7 and increasing sales for their smartphone division as part of the day to day operations. With Dongjin Koh now at the head of the table, it raises questions if we'll see a more software-focused approach to mobile devices from the company as Koh's responsibilities before this change out included overseeing both the KNOX security software and Samsung Pay. Although not necessarily due to Koh's direct influence, we have also seen Samsung's TouchWiz UI become less cluttered with fancy features and look to a more simplistic design. Will Koh's presence as the new CEO see a continuation of this kind of approach to future software versions, and if so, is this a good thing?

Many people may not be familiar with Dongjin Koh as he was never in a majorly public role at the company, yet he has had plenty of involvement in the stuff happening behind the scenes. As stated he oversaw operations for Samsung's KNOX security software and Samsung Pay, but Koh is also said to have led the development of two of Samsung's biggest devices this year which were the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy Note 5. Although neither was as big of a success of the Galaxy S III from years ago, they are both great devices and have done well enough under the leadership of Koh for Samsung to finalize a decision on putting him into the main leadership role officially. Now that Koh is overseeing day to day operations, it should be interesting to see what kind of changes are provided to consumers with Samsung's upcoming flagships. There has already been much speculation about Samsung's immediate future smartphone endeavors being more heavily focused on providing better experiences through software as opposed to drastic hardware changes, and that is quite likely going to be the case. What still remains to be seen is whether or not Koh will be able to help usher in a new era for Samsung by offering a more meaningful and exciting software user experience compared to past devices.

With apps like Samsung Pay now available, it's possible that Samsung's mobile division is taking a step in the right direction. While it is not the only mobile payment solution available and it isn't as compatible with as many phones as something like Android Pay, it could be considered the most convenient of mobile payment options, since it can be used at any retailer where you can swipe your credit or debit card thanks to the magstripe technology that powers the software. This is a truly meaningful software solution that consumers can get plenty of use out of, especially at a time when mobile payments are beginning to rise in popularity. Continued moves like this could give Samsung the edge it needs to slide by competitors, and even though a new, fresh, approach to hardware design this year has certainly garnered lots of positive attention from critics and consumers alike, it wasn't enough to win Samsung back a large portion of marketshare. Samsung will especially need to focus more on delivering unique and meaningful software experiences with brands like Apple, Xiaomi, Meizu, OnePlus, and others attacking them on the hardware front. Software will have to be Samsung's ace in the hole to push them further ahead of the pack, a way to differentiate themselves and propose more value to consumers over their competitors, and Koh just might be the person best-suited for the job so long as he can give Samsung's device software a lift.

When it comes to meaningful software, one only needs to look at the latest iteration of Samsung's multi-window offering on the Galaxy Note 5 to find another function that many people can see as not only intriguing but also useful. Navigating between two apps or multiple apps is not necessarily a difficult thing on other devices, as the recents button makes it pretty easy to switch back and forth between apps that you're currently using. It's much simpler to multitask though if you could have two apps open at once. This is something many Android users have been begging for for years, and Samsung has been offering it on its Galaxy devices since it was first advertised on the Galaxy Note II. It's obviously been a popular feature as they have continued to bring it back year after year all the while doing what they can to refine and improve upon it along the way.

Samsung has also made some noticeable changes to the overall software experience of the TouchWiz UI with this year's devices, opting for a lighter skin that still displays Samsung's unique flavor of Android, but also evokes a design that lines up more with Google's Material Design aspects. It's these changes that are likely having a lasting effect on consumers who have had experiences with past Samsung devices which for better or worse, had a negative connotation with laggy and slow performance. This shift to a stripped down software skin compared to previous generation devices in the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lines has seemingly delivered a nice boost to the performance of the software, allowing for a much smoother and faster experience with nearly every aspect of the device.

As Dongjin Koh was the lead on software like Samsung KNOX, it's quite possible that he could direct the mobile division to focus more on making the security solution a more widely adopted service. According to Samsung, KNOX is doing quite well, as the company reported breaking the 1 million download mark for their myKNOX security app towards the end of October of this year with a decent 4.1 rating in the Play Store. This shows there's still room for improvement but also that the app and service it provides to businesses is being well-received, and with Koh now overseeing day to day and focusing on lifting smartphone sales, getting more Samsung phones in the hands of businesses through the benefits of KNOX could be one side to the overall focus on software.

The Internet of Things could also be a largely untapped well of success in regards to software for Samsung. Our smartphones and other mobile devices are becoming more and more connected, and Samsung has already stated they have a grand vision for making just about everything we own a smart and connected device. To turn this vision into a reality though Samsung will need to focus heavily on software to allow our smartphones to talk with various things inside and outside of the home. While it won't be immediate, Samsung believes that in just five years consumers will be able to connect to just about anything they own to their smartphone for an enhanced experience. Products like Samsung's Smart Things hub would be an integral part of the equation in making this happen, as would the software features and apps that would need to be in place on Samsung's devices that allow for this type of communication with the hardware. Samsung showcased a recent visualization of what this might look and feel like back during IFA.

 While it's still rather early in regards to Samsung's leadership changes, it's evident that beefing up the hardware with newer, faster, and more powerful specs and features isn't gaining Samsung back the customers that they have lost and are eager to win back from their competitors. Not as much as they would like, anyway. New and improved hardware is certainly not a bad thing and it is important, and a change here and there in the design of the hardware isn't a bad thing either as the designs for this year's flagship were a major shift and widely accepted by many consumers and people in the industry, but Samsung's largest opportunities for a revival of smartphone sales growth lie with software in helping consumers enrich their lives. Samsung's phones need to perform better and more smoothly while also offering user experiences that matter to consumers, yet may not be available via other products. If they can nail down meaningful software to combine with the new and improved, elegantly designed hardware, they could more easily see more growth in their smartphone sales numbers.

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About the Author

Justin Diaz

Head Editor
Lover of food, craft beer, movies, travel, and all things tech. Video games have always been a passion of his due to their ability to tell incredible stories, and home automation tech is the next big interest, in large part because of the Philips Hue integration with Razer Chroma. Current Device: Google Pixel.