Samsung’s position at the top of the smartphone market is becoming more and more precarious, as the company has been losing startling amounts of market share and profit in recent months. The reason for this, according to some of the company’s former executives, is that it has no idea what it’s doing when it comes to software. Gone are the days when a company could sell a smartphone almost entirely through its specs, which is what Samsung specializes in. Nowadays, consumers are looking for a smooth software experience, useful features, and as little bloat as possible, which anyone who’s owned a Samsung smartphone will tell you is something the company sucks at providing.
Efforts to revive its once stellar smartphone fortunes may be doomed if Samsung Electronics cannot overcome its dominant engineering culture, according to serving and former executives and those who have dealt with the company. This culture, they say, has stymied many previous efforts to develop software and service platforms to support the smartphone business. In the past year several such services have closed down, at least one of them within a year of being launched. “There’s a lot of distrust of top executives who can actually implement stuff that is more of a software and services offering,” said one person familiar with the company’s inner workings. “It’s still ‘we know how to sell boxes, we sell boxes’.” Growth in handset sales is slowing as the smartphone market matures, and without its own distinctive software, content and services, Samsung has little to differentiate itself from other Android phone makers selling similar devices at lower prices. Samsung points to the launch of its mobile payments service, Samsung Pay, and its home control “internet of things” platform, SmartThings, as among the signs it has learned from its past. But this may not be enough.