I tried to start this article off by posing a thoughtful question, but after a little consideration "What makes a smartphone a smartphone?" didn't seem like a very good question to ask; the answer is pretty obvious. A smartphone is made of two components: the hardware and the software. I don't think there is any surefire answer whether one is more important than the other, because one without the other means it's not really a smartphone. We already know this.
Arguably, some manufacturers are better at creating software than others, just as others are better at making hardware than others. For the most part, it's a personal opinion whether a customer likes the software or hardware of a certain device, but at the end of the day those personal opinions are what make or break a company. For Samsung, money would tell you that they've been doing splendidly. Despite how well they've been doing so far, climbing to the top of the ladder is half the battle; staying at the top is the other half of the battle.
If you've been interested in the smartphone industry for very long, you're likely familiar with Samsung's work. Most of their phones are made from a polycarbonate plastic material, which in turn makes the phones feel very light. For many, this light feeling is associated with feeling cheap. This is where the controversy starts regarding Samsung phones: Why are people paying a premium price for a phone that feels cheap? While this is still a controversial subject regarding the Galaxy S devices, the Galaxy Note 3 seemed to have addressed this issue by using pleather backing. Although the device's back housing is still made of plastic, it was made to look and feel like leather. Whether it was the solution consumers were looking for when they mocked what Samsung's phones were made out of or not might not be of concern anymore.
Samsung's latest move seems to be geared towards innovating the software aspect of their phones and less focus on their hardware, in a statement made by Samsung Chairman Lee Khun-hee during a meeting in South Korea this past Thursday.
Hopefully this is the right move for Samsung. In my opinion, I think both aspects need to be worked on, but I also don't have millions of dollars on the line. I suppose I can see why Samsung wants to innovate the software rather than the hardware. If the hardware was really an issue for people, it probably wouldn't sell as many devices as they have. The software is what people want to see innovated. We've seen both with Apple and BlackBerry (especially BlackBerry) that you can change the hardware as much as you want but without changing the software in the right direction along with it, you're not going to have customers flocking to your devices.
Now, Samsung has seemingly been innovating its software for the past few years anyway. Although the features they've included in TouchWiz have been described as "gimmicky" on more than one occasion, I'm fairly confident that more than a few people did like those features. I'm not sure whether I think Samsung only needs to focus solely on software and not on hardware, but it will certainly be interesting to see if they can come up with something that people don't see as gimmicky in the long run.
It will certainly be an interesting year for Samsung as we watch and see if they're able to keep and build on the empire they've built.
Readers, we want to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think that Samsung should only focus on software and not on hardware, just on hardware and not on software, or should they focus on both? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!