Samsung Galaxy S5 design chief steps down

Chang Dong-hoon resigns after reviewers yawned at Samsung's latest flagship smartphone. His replacement is credited with the Galaxy design.

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Josh Miller/CNET

The head of Samsung's mobile design unit, Chang Dong-hoon, has resigned following criticism of the company's latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S5.

Chang has stepped down in favour of the company's vice president of mobile design, Lee Min-hyouk.

"The realignment enables Executive Vice President Dong-Hoon Chang to focus more on his role as Head of Design Strategy Team, the company's corporate design center which is responsible for long-term design strategy across all of the Samsung Electronics' businesses, including Mobile Communications," Samsung said in a statement to CNET.

Lee, 42, one of the company's youngest senior executives, began as a car designer in Samsung's ill-fated joint venture with Renault in the 1990s. His promotion does not seem to reflect a rejection of the Galaxy design philosophy, given Lee's key role in crafting Samsung's most prominent phones.

Lee was widely quoted two years ago at the outset of Apple's charges that Samsung was "slavishly copying" the iPhone maker's work. "I've made thousands of sketches and hundreds of prototype products (for the Galaxy)," he told Reuters at that time. "Does that mean I was putting on a mock show for so long, pretending to be designing?

"As a designer, there's an issue of dignity. (The Galaxy) is original from the beginning, and I'm the one who made it," Lee said. "It's a totally different product with a different design language and different technology infused."

The Galaxy S5 was largely seen as a minor upgrade to the S4, however, and stuck with its practical plastic chassis. "With the exception of a few nonessential hardware and software additions -- like the fingerprint scanner and novel heart-rate monitor -- and a few design tweaks, you're pretty much looking at the same phone Samsung released in 2013," CNET's Jessica Dolcourt wrote in her review.

"At the end of the day, the Galaxy flagship feels like it always has: like plastic," Dolcourt wrote. "That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if Samsung is at all striving for loftier ambitions, it hasn't reached the heights of HTC's luxe brushed aluminum or even Sony's sleek style."

Nevertheless, it's still a highly rated piece of kit -- earning four and a half stars from CNET -- and reportedly sold twice as many handsets on its first day of sale than its predecessor. UK retailers reported the phone was a key driver in selling 4G LTE contracts.

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