LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILITY LIVE, ATLANTA: Samsung’s North America boss wasted no time in addressing the fallout from its Galaxy Note 7 drama, admitting that 2017 will be a huge rebuilding year for the smartphone giant.
“We’re going to work very hard to gain consumer trust and regain our brand,” stated Gregory Lee, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America. “2017 is going to be a tremendous brand and confidence rebuilding year for us.”
The battery overheating issue was the first topic addressed by Lee in his keynote appearance, who was clearly keen to stress the progress the vendor has made in recalling the device. “We’re at 80 per cent of recalling the product,” he noted, adding that Samsung continues to investigate the cause of the problem.
“Now that we have recalled the product twice we are looking at every aspect of the product and process to make sure we can say with every confidence we know exactly what the problems are and how to prevent them going forward,” added Lee.
While the Galaxy Note 7 embarrassment naturally dominated Lee’s discussion, the exec also provided insight into how the company sees the world of connected devices evolving.
“We try to make the best device in each category, and now we’re trying to connect them all,” said Lee, before warning that there is a concern that consumers now have too many products to choose from.
“We’ve introduced so much that some consumers are tired. For example, with the smart home, they are saying it’s too expensive, too many products. So getting the right value proposition for the consumer is important.”
Lee wants to see Samsung and the industry offer interoperability across various smart consumer devices, and a simpler user interface. He cited the company’s acquisition of AI-developer Viv as a way the company is trying to add a voice interface to its connected devices. “Those things, including better battery life, have to come to play in order to solve the problems for innovation.”
And Lee admitted there is still much work to do in the wearables space. “We’ve had some success with watches. We’ve set modest goals with watches, not super high, and so because of that we think we’ve had some success. But we recognise there’s still a long way to in terms of battery life and accuracy of fitness measurements. Ultimately we’ll get there and there’ll be a big watch space.”
He reflected on the problem of a “fatigue” around these kind of devices. “The complexity of use, difficulty in connecting to WiFi,” are holding back growth, he stated.
Lee is also excited about the “tremendous” potential of 5G technology. “It’s a huge enabler, it’s hard to imagine what all this could bring,” he said. “We’re starting trials in 2017. It’s a game changer compared to 4G – instead of the 3-6 fold improvements we saw with 4G we’re going to see 20-50 times improvements in download speeds.”
Lee sees video playing a major role in 5G, with consumers downloading movies in seconds. Remote surgery and telepresence are also visions of the future he is excited by. And all this will be driven by the “improved economics” that 5G will offer the industry.