The company believes a shift to a more connected and ‘concierge-like’ experience is needed to combat our smartphone-obsessed society
We need to return to being the masters of our technology and stop being slaves to our phones, says Samsung’s head of mobile for the UK.
Following increasing unease from technology insiders and development experts that young and old alike are becoming increasingly addicted to smartphones, social media and the constant need for messaging, Samsung’s head of mobile in the UK says that something needs to change to stop the constant heads-down relationship we have with our devices.
“Ultimately what we want to try and do is create more of a heads-up lifestyle,” Conor Pierce, Samsung’s vice president of mobile and IT in the UK and Ireland, told the Guardian at the launch of the company’s new Galaxy S9 smartphone.
“Let’s not spend our life looking at these devices. You look around and everyone is doing it, leaning over [their] phones. Let’s make the device be the slave and we’ll be the master – let’s turn the roles completely on their head.”
Samsung is currently locked in a duopoly with rival Apple for dominance of the smartphone market. But as the number of people who already have a smartphone reaches saturation point in developed nations such as the UK and US, and global smartphone sales start to plateau, the nature of what success looks like and what is needed to achieve it changes.
“Samsung has the opportunity to reshape the market in the UK, rather than just to keep driving more and more volume, because in a saturated market that’s just not sustainable,” said Pierce. Instead, the Korean electronics firm intends to leverage its vast portfolio of devices, from fridges to cookers, vacuums and TVs, as well as its SmartThings Internet of Things platform, to shift the game towards a more intelligent, connected future that frees us from phone obsession.
“When your smartphone becomes your remote control or your concierge, knowing where you are, what you want when you walk up to your house, for instance, you can create a very different world,” said Pierce. He envisions phones doing much more on their own, such as turning on the lights, setting the heating and messaging your loved ones to say you’ve arrived home safe as you step in the door, turning from an attention-seeking device to one that frees us from needing to manually command things.
Google has a similar idea, allowing your phone to increasingly respond automatically to messages, for instance.
“It will enable people to revert to what we should be doing: being eyes-wide-open looking around at the world, rather than having this constant view just into the palm of your hand,” said Pierce.
Currently, 76% of Samsung’s portfolio can be interconnected, with the goal of all Samsung products being connected by 2020, and two-thirds of UK households, 27m, have at least one Samsung device. But Pierce is aware that the Internet of Things is currently a disconnected mess of uncooperative devices and brands, wrapped in worries of privacy invasion.
“What I’m really looking forward to is making sure that not only customers have the best mobile experience, but also the best connectivity experience,” said Pierce. “Through our SmartThings open alliance, we’re bringing a ubiquitous, convenient experience in which users can control their privacy, as they need to be able to do, regardless of brand, to make it all a really joyful, easy, trusted experience for real people.”
Whether it will be possible to wean people off checking their constant barrage of messages and social media posts remains to be seen, but the shift towards a more automated, predictive experience is already underway. Last year was the start of artificial intelligence being baked into smartphones, and in 2018 the use of AI will only expand as smartphone manufacturers struggle to differentiate their devices.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Lead image: ‘You look around and everyone is doing it, leaning over their phones,’ said the company’s VP for mobile and IT in UK and Ireland Conor Pierce. Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images/Westend61