Samsung pins hopes on Galaxy S6 phone


Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea

When Samsung dubbed development of its latest smartphones “Project Zero,” it was sounding a note of desperation as sales tumbled and it lost pole position in the crucial Chinese market to rivals Xiaomi and Apple.

The results of its overhaul, the flagship Galaxy S6 smartphone and the S6 Edge, go on sale in 20 countries today. Samsung, which said “Project Zero” signified starting from scratch, is hoping a revamped design, a more-intuitive interface and less clutter will help claw back lost market share.

They are Samsung’s first flagship products to hit shelves since its mobile business suffered a 40 percent slump in earnings last year. It retained its position as the world’s top selling smartphone maker last year, but was the only top-five smartphone maker to sell fewer phones. In the final quarter of 2014, it slipped marginally behind Apple in sales, according to Gartner, a market- research firm.

Consumers and media were head over heels over Apple’s new iPhones with bigger screens, while the plastic foundation of Samsung’s Galaxy models was increasingly derided as looking cheap. In China, Samsung was unprepared for the sudden popularity of cheaper smartphones made by local manufacturer Xiaomi.

As part of its rethink, Samsung replaced executives in its mobile team while keeping the CEO and streamlined its various moving parts. So far, the changes seem to be paying off.

Pre-launch reviews praised Samsung’s decision to ditch a plastic body and replace it with glass and metal for the new phones. The company also seemed to finally heed persistent complaints that its phones are too complicated, and it trimmed the dauntingly long list of apps that cluttered screens.

The Galaxy S6 is expected to set a sales record for the Galaxy series of phones, Lee Sang-chul, head of mobile marketing at Samsung, told reporters. Meeting demand for the Galaxy S6 Edge, which features a screen that curves halfway down the sides, will be difficult because of a limited supply of the curved screens, CEO Shin Jong-kyun said.

Analysts said the Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge will help Samsung regain some of its lost ground in China, the world’s largest smartphone market, but probably won’t propel it back to No. 1 nor outshine Apple in the high-end market.

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