Samsung isn't good at software. Who cares?
Samsung is one of the world's leading smartphone manufacturers, but is it also a good software developer? A new study from Strategy Analytics suggests that the answer is "no," as many consumers ignore its applications for similar software found in the Google Play Store.
The study has been used to condemn Samsung's applications as "bloatware" that users ignore in favor of other solutions. That's a worthwhile point. But this phenomenon isn't unique to Samsung's devices, and it would be interesting to see if other smartphones fare the same.
Many applications serve the same function as the software that comes with each smartphone. Some allow their users to check their email. Others allow them to jot down a quick note. Still others allow them to message their friends, manage their portfolios, or mind their calendars.
The ability to switch between those applications at will is a triumph in modern computing. People are no longer restricted to the software that ships with whichever device they purchase, and the reliance on cloud services allows them to keep their data in sync without any effort.
Strategy Analytics claims that many Samsung smartphone owners spend over an hour each month browsing the Google Play store. That isn't an hour spent doing anything of importance with their smartphones -- that's an hour spent entirely on searching for new apps to download.
The lack of interest in Samsung's applications might disappoint the company, which has long tried to create its own smartphone ecosystem, but it means little to everyone else. If anything, the interest in third-party apps when serviceable first-party options are available is inspiring.
Some of the world's largest technology companies can't create applications that best those from small companies or independent developers. Does that mean that Samsung's app efforts are wasted? Maybe. Does that also mean that other developers are doing something right? Yes.
Reactions from around the Web
The Verge covers the study:
The Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung is working on improving its software chops:
The app failure is a significant challenge for Samsung as it tries to build user loyalty independent of the Android ecosystem. 'Obviously, Samsung’s dominant position in the market is an ideal vehicle to drive own-branded content services across its installed base, but Samsung should develop a differentiated set of apps that will resonate with its key user base,' Strategy Analytics vice president Barry Gilbert said in a press release. In other words: make better apps.
In an interview earlier this month, Wonpyo Hong, president of Samsung’s Media Solution Center, which is responsible for developing apps and services, called software “critical,” noting that the company had more research and development engineers focused on software than on hardware.
At the same time, Mr. Hong acknowledged that “from a consumer perspective there is room to improve to deliver a unique experience,” promising to focus more on that area.
Aggressive and creative marketing has helped make Galaxy devices the best-selling smartphones in the world, and while the company typically loads up its devices with its own apps, that hasn’t translated into any affection for those services. TechCrunch isn't surprised about the study's findings:
Here’s why I don’t find that surprising: Samsung’s apps are the only ones from a major Android OEM that actively send me scurrying for alternatives even when I’m just using a device for a brief period to review it for the site. Generally speaking, I’m a fan of stock apps and enjoy that Android lets you use third-party apps instead of the default options anyway (hello is my current favorite for SMS, for instance). But with others, including HTC, I’m often happy to stick with what’s provided rather than actively seek out other options if it’s only for a couple of weeks.Engadget notes that it's hard to delete Samsung's apparently-shitty apps:
If you used a Samsung app recently it was possibly a mis-click, according to a Strategy Analytics survey of 250-plus Galaxy S3 and S4 users. While Samsung recently trumpeted100 million users for ChatOn, for instance, the report said US users spent a mere six seconds per month on the app, compared to, say, 151 minutes on Instagram. The rest of the suite fared little better, with users spending no more than seven minutes per month on all its apps combined. By contrast, users stayed on Facebook for 11 hours and Google's three most popular apps for 150 minutes on average. If accurate, that would be a stinging rebuke, given that Samsung's apps are pre-installed on most of its devices and can't be removed easily -- unless, ironically, you're in its home country.