“Samsung tweaks Android to enhance the user experience”

Vineet-Taneja,-country-head,

After the immensely successful Galaxy Tab 2 series, Samsung has launched its successor-the Galaxy Tab 3 devices-in the Indian market. The company is well aware that the Android platform can take it places. Hence, it is banking on it in a big way. With these devices, the company promises to offer an all-new Android experience to users in India. In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Diksha P Gupta from Open Source For You, Vineet Taneja, country head, Mobile & IT, Samsung India  talked on topics ranging from how the company is playing with Android, to the Samsung Galaxy S4, stock Android, Windows Phone, et al. Excerpts:

Q: A lot of tablet makers are now targeting the enterprise and education segments. Can you share your strategy for this market?
Apart from those who just want to buy tabs, there are two segments of users who are approaching us in a big way. One is the institutions that want to buy tabs and include them as a part of their enrolment kit. The second segment comprises people who have education content to offer. A lot of education content providers are reaching out to us to offer their content on our tablets, to attract students. We believe that a tablet PC is a great device for students. You still need a laptop for heavy-duty computing but when it comes to consumption of content, for which the user wants to surf the Internet on-the-go or to read an e-book, a tablet is the perfect device. We understand from the market that if we can offer good content on the tablet, there will be more takers for the devices.

On the enterprise side, the tendency is for companies to customise their own solutions. Some of the enterprises have started using tablets for their field force, including their sales and marketing guys, where the devices are used as an aid in selling products or services to their customers. So overall, I think there is enough traction from both the education and enterprise segments.

Q: Do you offer special pricing for the education segment?
We do not give any subsidy as such, but we do have several offers including the EMI scheme to help students buy our devices. In cases of a B2B deal, when an institution is placing a bulk order, it does get special pricing.

Q: A majority of data usage is via smartphones and laptops. How do you plan to drive data usage with these tablets?
Our job is not to grow data. That is the consequence of using a device. But I can say that the larger the screen, the better the data consumption. So a tablet is a great device to drive data consumption from an operator’s perspective, which is why we partner with the operators. In the case of Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, we have joined hands with Vodafone.

Q:If you look at the current market, there are smartphones in the range of 14.7 cm (5.8 inch)- 16 cm (6.3-inch) screen sizes. Don’t you think they are a challenge to the 17.7 cm (7 inch) tablets?
The good thing is that it was us who created the 14.7 cm (5.8 inch) and 16 cm (6.3 inch) screen size. So we don’t mind the competition within the same family. But having said that, I believe that the screen size is the big differentiator in the smart devices category. Right from 7.6 cm (3 inch) to 16 cm (6.3 inch), there are different consumers who want different screen sizes. There are youngsters and enterprise people who prefer large devices, which help them for their entertainment on-the-go or for official purposes, respectively. The differentiator is that if they want to use only one device, they go for something like a 14.7 cm (5.8-inch) device, because they can enjoy both functionalities on the same product. But there are some people who like carrying a smaller phone along with a tab for other purposes. As market leaders, we want to make sure that we give all the options to the customers.

Q: Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 was one of the most successful tablets in the Indian market. What are your expectations with Tab 3 and how do you plan to position it?
Yes, Galaxy Tab 2 was one of the most successful products that we have introduced and we hold a 62 per cent market share, in terms of value, with this device. We are hoping that with Tab 3, we will take that even further and grow the market even faster. As a part of providing value to the customer, we are offering Rs 20,000 worth of free content with Tab 3. So a user is buying a device worth Rs 17,000 and is getting content worth Rs 20,000 for free.

Q: Do you consider it a threat when Google announces a version of your device, like Samsung Galaxy S4, with stock Android? Those devices are being well-received because people actually want pure Android. Does that mean consumers do not want manufacturers’ modified software on their devices? That they want great hardware with pure Android?
There are different types of customers with different preferences. We believe that we have to address a very large segment of the market. That is why we launch products that appeal to different segments, which require a smartphone for as low as Rs 5000, and not just to the niche audiences like techies. We firmly believe that we have to reach out to a person who may not have a technological bent of mind but can operate our devices with ease. Customers want a good UI and experience with great hardware. That is what Samsung has perfected over the years. This is why the Galaxy series is a market leader in many countries across the globe, including India. So, yes, there will be some versions that some customers may like but looking at the overall market, I think we are doing a reasonably good job with our version of Android. Also, unlike in any other industry, this is one industry where hardware and software together make the magic happen. We do lots of research prior to creating software. We spend 8 per cent of our overall revenue on R&D just to perfect that art of making the hardware and the software work together, and I believe that is a very important differentiator for us.
The second and the most important part of the game is selling the products. To sell a large number of these exciting devices, you require skills in retailing and after-sales service. Samsung has developed these skills in a robust way over the last 3-4 years.

Q: Why does Samsung feel the need to tweak the stock Android?
There is a lot of layering that we like to do in the software to enhance the experience, which is based on the feedback that we get from our customers. Second, we have established a benchmark with our TouchWiz UI. What we have seen is that people switching from one Samsung device to the other want that TouchWiz experience to be with them. That is also one big reason why we want to have the modifications and make our customers comfortable with the technology.

Q: One of the persistent complaints against the Galaxy Series of devices is that they come with the same look and design. We see only the screen sizes changing, and you claim that the magic is between the hardware and the software. We agree that the magic is there, but having the same design again is surely not a good idea. When do we see a new or different design in the Galaxy series?
Let me answer this with an example. People talk about Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 sporting the same look. If you keep the two devices together, Galaxy S4 is much slimmer and a little larger in screen size as compared to the S3. So, there’s a big design change that has happened in between the two devices. A lot of work is done in bringing about a slimmer device. So I would say that we are constantly working to evolve the design.

Also, we differentiate between the devices on various levels. While you may not see a dramatic change in the design elements of a device, but there are other factors which have evolved a lot, like the S4 cover for example. It is a simple and user friendly innovation. The attach rate, which means the number of people who buy the S4 cover along with the device, compared to that of S3, is considerably higher, so much so that we have started giving it along with the S4, just because it is an important differentiator. Having said that, I would like to reiterate that Samsung as a company has succeeded because we listen to the consumer and we take this feedback as a guide for our future devices.

Q: For the free apps that you are offering with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3, did you conduct some developers’ engagement programme to develop apps for the device?
We have a specialised content development team that has tie-ups with developers, who create content for our devices. We reach out to them through forums, through Google and also directly, and engage them to work with us.

Q: Market experts opine that Samsung Galaxy S4 cannot do as well as Galaxy S3. What do you think?
I would differ on that. Samsung Galaxy S4 is doing phenomenally well both globally as well as in India. We have very high aspirations with Galaxy S4 and it continues to deliver results accordingly. So I would not say Galaxy S4 is not doing well in the market. If I compare S4 with S3, I think S4 has grown much above where S3 was.

Q: You had launched a few Windows 8 devices some time back. How were they received in the market?
Quite frankly, we work on the basis of customer feedback. We work on several platforms including Windows, Android and Bada. But the reality is that, right now, Android is the preferred platform in the market. With over 70 per cent market share, Android is the clear choice among customers and we are addressing that audience. So, going forward, if customers want Windows Phone devices, we will give these to them. Right now the reality is different and there are very few takers of Windows Phone devices in the market.

Samsung has launched the Galaxy Tab 3 311 (20.32 cm/8-inch screen) and Galaxy Tab 3 211 (17.78 cm/7-inch screen) in India. The Galaxy Tab 3 series provides consumers with various ways to view, listen, create and share meaningful events and special content.Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 311
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 311 is available in two variants with 3G (voice and data) capability.
Equipped with a 20.3-cm (8-inch) WXGA display (189 ppi), it comes with a resolution of 1280 x 800. With a depth of just 7.4 mm, this slim device is comfortable to hold and light to carry around. It runs on the latest Android Jellybean 4.2 and packs a powerful 1.5GHz Dual Core processor with 1.5 GB of RAM.

The tablet offers the ‘Multi Window’ feature that allows the user to work on two apps simultaneously by splitting the screen into two (like watching a movie and chatting at the same time). Another feature called ‘Pop-up Video’ allows a small video window to be played over any part of the Tab’s menu, while the ‘Smart Stay’ feature tracks the user’s eyes to keep the screen on for only as long as it is being watched. ‘Reading Mode’ technology optimises the display to deliver the perfect illumination and tone for comfortable paper-like readability in a variety of lighting conditions. These features together add to the ‘smartest screen experience’ amongst tablets. It is packed with a 5 MP rear camera, 1.9 MP front camera, and has 16 GB internal memory that can be expanded by up to 64 GB with a MicroSD card. The device also sports a powerful 4450mAh battery.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 211
This tablet sports a 17.7-cm (7-inch) WSVGA display (168 ppi) and has a compact, one-hand grip form factor, which means that users can hold it comfortably for hours as well as store it in a pocket or small bag for reading and entertainment while on the go. The sleek and stylish design encompasses a thinner bezel than the previous Galaxy Tab 2 (17.7 cm). Powered by a 1.2GHz Dual Core processor and 1 GB of RAM, the device allows for faster downloads and sharing, while providing easy access to videos, apps, games, and the Web, as well as supporting the smart screen feature of ‘Pop-up Video’ available on the Tab 3 311. It packs in 8 GB of internal storage that can be expanded by up to 32 GB, and a powerful 4000mAh battery. It comes with a 3-MP rear camera and a 1.3-MP front camera. Combined with the latest Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), it allows users to share photos, videos and life’s special moments through a few quick taps and swipes.

What both tablets offer
The Tab 3 series comes preloaded with a bouquet of services like ‘My Education’, ‘My Offers’, ‘My Games’, ‘My Music’ and ‘My Movies’. ‘My Education’ gives consumers access to 2000 e-books, 1000 learning videos, educational content for school children, and preparatory material for entrance exams to professional courses. ‘My Offers’ makes available, at the click of a button, the best local offers from 350+ brands and 25000+ merchants in India. Twenty-five edutainment games and 20 HD games are available for users to download on the Tab 3 series.

The ‘My Music’ application gives users access to 500,000 Bollywood and international songs, while ‘My Movies’ allows Tab 3 users to stream trailers, videos and movies from over 2000 selected catalogues. As an introductory offer, the company is also making available a digital wallet of up to Rs 20,000 free for Tab 3 users to access and buy paid content from the Samsung mobile application store.

Pricing
The MRP of the Galaxy Tab 3 models being launched in India is as follows:
Tab 3 211 (17.7 cm/7-inch): Rs 17,745
Tab 3 311 (20.3cm/8-inch): Rs 25,725
Tab 3 310 (20.3 cm/8-inch, Wi-Fi only): Rs 21,945
The Samsung Tab 3 series comes with an introductory offer of 2 GB/month data, free for two months from Vodafone. The offer is valid on the post-paid platform. With the launch of the Tab 3 series, Samsung now has a range of five tablets, which are available in the price range of Rs 17,745 and Rs 38,840.

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