The new Galaxy S11 design is Samsung's smartest decision in years
This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The iconic home button was Samsung at its best
Let’s start things off by leaping back in time to four years ago. Samsung was at the top of its game with the well-received Galaxy S6 and the much-loved Galaxy Note 5. Budget and mid-range products weren’t receiving quite as much attention but commercial results were still very strong.
Interestingly, though, the great sales performance had little to do with long lists of impressive specifications such as the ones we see today – Samsung’s cheaper phones were quite lackluster in that sense at the time – and instead had a lot to do with brand power.
Samsung has always invested millions into advertising to maintain awareness among consumers. But four years ago, it was also benefiting massively from a unified design made up of a physical home button and centered rear camera that made all Galaxy-branded phones instantly recognizable.
Any advertising money spent on promoting the latest flagship phones was, as a result, also being used to indirectly promote the unified design. This meant the brand’s cheaper devices were benefitting, sales were receiving an indirect boost, and marketing budgets could be spent more efficiently.
The last three years have been design chaos
Fast forward two years and we arrive at the Galaxy S8. The smartphone marked a huge milestone for Samsung because it was the first to ditch the physical home button. However, it also signaled the beginning of what have arguably been three years of chaos in the design department.
The first twelve-month period – 2017 – saw Samsung use a new design on its flagships alongside the usual one on its mid-range and low-end models. This strategy wasn’t necessarily a bad one but it wasn’t as efficient from a marketing standpoint as the previous one.
Samsung then spent 2018 refining its flagship designs with only minimal design updates to the front and an attempt to differentiate Galaxy S and Galaxy Note-branded models by adopting different camera setups on each.
The South Korean giant simultaneously started to modernize the look of its mid-range phones by ditching the physical home button. Halfway through the year, though, it drastically switched up the rear panels with an entirely new layout, therefore ditching any efforts to achieve a consistent design language.
This year, Samsung started to find its feet again but didn't yet implement the perfect plan. Its newly updated Galaxy A series has benefitted from a fairly unified design but it’s arguably one that doesn’t really stand out from the crowd, therefore defying the point.
The premium segment, on the other hand, has seen Samsung inconsistently use the Infinity-O display with different punch holes on each phone paired with totally different camera setups once again. The fact these phones look nothing like the Galaxy A lineup hasn't helped, either.
Samsung's 2020 design strategy is exactly what's needed
This brings us to the present day and why Samsung’s plans for 2020 are exactly what it needs right now.
The design presented Thursday on the Galaxy A51 and Galaxy A71 is expected to be carried over to the Galaxy S11 and future Galaxy A models. That means all Samsung phones will soon have a unified design that consists of a centered punch hole and a rectangular camera module in the top-left corner. Effectively, it's the modern-day equivalent of the old physical home button and single rear camera setup.
It might not be everybody’s cup of tea but the combination is quite unique by today's standards and should soon become synonymous with Samsung smartphones across the globe unless every other brand starts to copy them, something that seems quite unlikely at the moment. Effectively, it's the modern-day equivalent of the old physical home button and single rear camera setup. But perhaps more importantly is the fact that it’s future proof.
The rear camera positioning means Samsung can keep adding cameras whenever necessary without it severely affecting the size of the battery or needing to move the entire module as it has done in the past. Additionally, the centered punch hole can continue to be used for several years until the transition to in-screen cameras has been completed.
Samsung is essentially planning a restart of the unified brand strategy that originally turned it into the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer all those years ago. And in a market that’s increasingly saturated and intense, that can only be a good thing because it’ll boost overall recognition and improve the efficiency of its all-important marketing campaigns.
Another benefit is the fact that it'll allow the company to better compete in the premium segment with Apple, who also employs a unified design, while also giving it an advantage over Huawei, who is always switching up designs and relies mostly on its ability to churn out devices with decent spec sheets and low prices.