Samsung execs address Galaxy S6's fight for supremacy

In discussion with South Korean journalists, Samsung's JK Shin and Younghee Lee explore the battles ahead for the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, both from Apple and China, and deny similarities with the iPhone 6.

Juan Garzón/CNET

BARCELONA -- Samsung's launch of its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge has stolen the spotlight at the annual Mobile World Congress trade show -- and Samsung has much riding on that.

After a tough 2014 for the South Korean electronics giant, this year's flagship smartphone launch is more important than ever. Apple was resurgent at the end of 2014 with its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and Chinese competitors seem to be gaining fast on the South Korean pack leader.

With all this front of mind, JK Shin, Samsung's co-CEO and head of mobile, and Younghee Lee, Samsung head of mobile marketing, sat down with South Korean journalists the day after the company's Unpacked event in Barcelona to answer their questions.

ZDNet Korea was in the room and translated key answers on the design choices for the Galaxy S6, the competitive landscape it launches into, and when we might see Samsung's next wearable.

Question: Starting with the Galaxy Note Edge, that [curved edge] design is expanding. Do you have a concrete plan to expand usability?
Shin: We plan to capitalize on that fact that the Edge is formed from a flexible display, rather than a regular edge. It is still in the early stages, but we plan to open our SDK and API to put more features on the edge. We believe the S6 Edge will get off to a much stronger start than the Note Edge. After Unpacked, reactions to the S6 Edge were very positive so we believe sales will increase [compared to the Note Edge].

Chinese smartphone makers have previously copied Samsung designs. [Chinese smartphone maker] Xiaomi is catching up fast and there are similarities in its growth trajectory to Samsung. What is your strategy against this situation?
Shin: There is that sentiment more or less in the industry. We always try to find futuristic material and designs that makes us stand out against our competitors. Some companies just copy others. We try to differentiate by using construction methods that are difficult to copy. I think our manufacturing prowess and quality has been best in the industry for a while now. Samsung Electronics' smartphone really has nothing lesser than any other manufacturer's.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy S6 Edge's curved edge seems to have fewer features [compared with the Note Edge]. Why?
Younghee Lee: The edges of the Note Edge and S6 Edge takes up different spaces and serve different purposes. We did try to optimize the S6 Edge features that were previously on the Note Edge. We studied the pros and cons that customers found with the Note Edge, and used only the optimized features for the S6 Edge. We put in a lot of personalisation, such as choosing five contacts to show on the edged sides or allowing color changes on the edge's alert feature depending on the person. These are all very intuitive features and different to those on the Note Edge.

What are your thoughts on the design similarity with iPhone 6 that some have pointed out?
Younghee Lee: After seeing the real thing, do you really think the S6 looks like iPhone 6? If you look at the real thing, it is really not the same, and we have deeper color tones. There is a different texture and durability [to the S6] which shows a different design DNA and language.

It is rare to openly target a competitor at a public event such as Unpacked, but you chose to attack [Apple]. Was that a strategic choice?
Younghee Lee: We've wanted to send a short and crisp but strong message. We chose [calling out Apple] for the strongest impact in the shortest time frame. Comparing the power of cameras and durability with a rival gets our point across easier.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There is some analysis that Samsung faced difficulty in China because it fell behind Apple. How competitive will the S6 and S6 Edge be in China?
Shin: When we launch the S6 and S6 Edge in China we expect to garner a lot of market share in the high-end market segment. We started offering pre-orders after the Unpacked event and the S6 has been on most of the online sites out there. We can measure how our high-end flagship product will affect the market [from the pre-orders] and I think we'll have a better start than last year's Galaxy S5. When we launch on April 10, it will be better than the previous year.

There was expectation of a wearable unveiled alongside the S6 and S6 Edge. It seems a smartwatch is missing and LG and Huawei are pushing them. When will we see a new product?
Shin: Samsung put [wearables] aside for MWC because in the past there was too much talk around them. So we wanted to focus on the S6 and S6 Edge, and launch a wearable when we are ready. I hope [our competitors] tried hard and launched good products. Preparations for a Galaxy-branded wearable is going well, but the launch date is a secret.

ZDNet Korea's Cho Mu-hyun contributed to this report.

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