Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) has seen better days. The Korean tech giant continues to be the world's largest smartphone manufacturer, but ever increasing competition has taken a toll on its profits -- down 60% last quarter.
When it released its original Galaxy S, Samsung was arguably the only handset firm offering a quality Android smartphone. Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) mobile operating system was available on many other handsets, but none compared to the Galaxy S and its immediate successors, perhaps the only legitimate alternatives to the iPhone.
But the market has changed -- other handset vendors have caught up. Samsung's Korean rival, LG, has seen its share of the smartphone market grow -- up to 30% in Korea -- led by stylish and powerful handsets like the LG G3. Motorola, under Google's temporary stewardship, has remerged with critically acclaimed handsets like the Moto X. In China, Xiaomi's dirt cheap (yet powerful) Android phones have taken the market by storm.
To regain its position, Samsung needs the Galaxy S6 to be hit -- slight improvements just won't cut it. According to SamMobile, the company is taking its next flagship seriously, building an entirely new sort of phone from the ground up. It remains to be seen what Samsung will do with the Galaxy S6, but there are a few changes the company could make to spur sales.
Get rid of TouchWiz
Samsung's version of Android -- TouchWiz -- is quite different than the standard, stock version of Android found on Google's Nexus devices. Although all Android phones offer similar functionality, Samsung's interface is noticeably different than other Android devices.
Most tech reviewers have found fault with Samsung's software, arguing that it's often confusing and serves to undermine the high-end hardware powering Samsung's handsets. Samsung has loaded TouchWiz with numerous features that, while sometimes useful -- multiwindow, quick toggles -- are too often useless or poorly implemented -- smart stay, eye tracking.
Samsung also loads its Android phones with its own apps. Some are novel -- Milk Music -- but most are just low-quality alternatives to Google's. S-Voice, for example, is Samsung's answer to Siri. But Google Now -- Google's alternative -- works better and is much more powerful.
Samsung may have included so many of its own apps in an effort to keep its customers loyal -- other Androids don't offer S-Voice -- but in practice, it may have accomplished the exact opposite. Including so many duplicative, low-quality apps weakens the overall user experience
Putting pure, stock Android on its Galaxy S6 could be a mistake, but Samsung's phone would definitely benefit from fewer heavy-handed modifications.
Offer something unique
If Samsung wants to set its phones apart, it should play to its strengths. One way to do so would be to embrace its advantage in OLED technology.
Samsung's Galaxy Edge offers a curved display -- something no other handset can match. It's been dismissed as somewhat of a gimmick, and it may be. But the curved edge is a byproduct of Samsung's long-standing commitment to OLED display technology. LCD panels, used in many other handsets -- including the iPhone -- are nearly impossible to curve.
According to an analyst at IHS (via phone Arena), Samsung's Galaxy S6 will, like the Note Edge, sport a curved display. That should set the phone apart from its rivals, and entice buyers intrigued with the possibility. It could also lure in software developers to take advantage of that curved display, as a flagship Samsung phone is likely to see more adoption than the experimental, limited release Note Edge.
Smarter hardware choices
Samsung's build quality has been the bane of many tech pundits. While rivals have embraced glass and aluminum, Samsung has stuck to creaky, often cheap-feeling plastic backs.
There is growing evidence that Samsung is beginning to rethink its approach to build quality. The Galaxy Alpha, released in September, is a Samsung phone built out of premium materials. Unfortunately, it's not really a flagship -- its screen and camera are lesser quality than those found on the Galaxy S5.
Extending that design language to the Galaxy S6 should help, but Samsung would also benefit from other improvements. Its fingerprint scanner is difficult to use and fails frequently; its built-in heart-rate sensor is a novel concept, but seemingly useless.
Specs offered by Samsung's phones are usually unmatched, but the exterior of its phones often fails to do the internals justice. A better looking phone with more functional hardware could win over critics.
Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.