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Samsung looks to rebound from disappointing sales with new Galaxy S6 phones

03/18/2015 10:16 EDT | Updated 05/18/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Samsung says it wanted to start over from scratch for its forthcoming new smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.

While loath to call the predecessor, the Galaxy S5, a flop, the South Korean company admits the plastic-bodied phone — which was marketed as a more rugged dust and water resistant device — missed the mark with many consumers.

"I don't think that was true in every market," says Ken Price, vice-president of carrier sales and marketing for Samsung Canada, when asked why sales slumped for the S5.

"I think we were successful with the S5. We're not at liberty to share numbers but we wouldn't view the same thing for Canada. What we'd say was, we pressed on things we thought the marketplace was telling us ... and what the market told us was, increasingly, they were looking for something that felt more premium.

"So we feel confident we did some things to listen, respond and adjust our strategy."

Samsung is now talking up the sleek design of the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge, made with "premium metal and glass."

Price said Samsung also made a conscious effort to streamline the preloaded software on the new phones, unlike previous Galaxy devices that felt bloated in comparison.

"I think we looked in the mirror, so to speak, and said you know what, we're going to make sure everything in there has a reason and in fact we've taken things out that no longer, we felt, had utility."

The Canadian Press sat down with Price and Vlastimir Lalovic, director of product marketing, to discuss the upcoming launch of the new phones, which are available in Canada starting April 10.

CP: You have 30 seconds with a consumer, what's your pitch for them to consider a new Galaxy over an iPhone?

Lalovic: I would go with the design, because we're using premium materials, we used Gorilla Glass 4 on the back and front, so this is the most durable glass material that is available today on the market. And our metal used in our devices is 50 per cent stronger than any other devices.

CP: With the new design, users can no longer swap out the battery as they could with previous Galaxy phones and there's no longer a SD card slot. What effect will those changes have on sales?

Lalovic: This kind of question we took very seriously, we have access to how many of Samsung's customers actually purchased additional batteries and I can tell you it's a very small number.

Price: I think that's changed over time because the batteries have become better. Even on the Galaxy S5 we had faster charging and the battery capacity had improved, so over time we noticed the demand for replacement batteries went down.

CP: To what extent will emerging Chinese smartphone makers (such as market-leader Xiaomi) influence the Canadian market?

Price: Samsung is a humble company that at one point had three per cent of the marketplace in smartphones and had to earn its way. The one thing about Canadians — and you can ask the folks in Waterloo this too — they want world-class products and a great value. And if you don't deliver that, no matter what country you're from, you're not going to be successful. Will there be a chance for one of those manufacturers to emerge? That'll depend on their ability to do what Samsung has done in terms of thinking about the user experience and being able to aggregate scale around that. It's not easy to do. It's not obvious to us who will be the next contender that would come up that way but I think it'll have to be more than (just) a sheet of glass and putting Android in there, Canadians are more discerning than that.

CP: What did you think of the recent Apple Watch unveil and its impact on Samsung's Gear watches?

Price: From our perspective, we're onto our third generation (of smart watch) arguably, depending on what you count, so we've got lots of experience based on what we've done. Looking at what Apple's done, I'm not sure they've done anything new, I think they've done it for their base, within the context of Apple customers. I'm not sure they've done anything to excite people outside of that base, based on new functionality or new ideas.

— This interview has been edited and condensed

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