Samsung Galaxy overload: With GS III, Sammy needs to slow down

By JR Raphael (@jr_raphael)

Samsung Galaxy S II

Say the words "Samsung" and "Galaxy," and you're practically guaranteed to grab the attention of any Android fan in earshot. Samsung has managed to build a powerful brand with its Galaxy line of phones and tablets, and it's no wonder: From the smashingly successful original Galaxy S to the superb Galaxy S II, Samsung has delivered standout products that consistently rank at the top of their class.

Now, the tech world is buzzing with anticipation of Sammy's next big Galaxy adventure: the Galaxy S III, Samsung's still-under-wraps sequel to its Galaxy S II device. Aside from the usual spate of unsubstantiated rumors, we don't know much about the Galaxy S III at this point. One thing we do know, however, is that it won't be unveiled at this month's Mobile World Congress event; in a statement released to TechRadar Wednesday morning, Samsung said its Galaxy S II successor will be introduced at "a separate Samsung-hosted event in the first half of the year, closer to commercial availability of the product."

All this talk over Galaxy S III timing got me thinking about Samsung's strategy for smartphone and tablet launches -- and in some regards, how little sense it seems to make. More than anything, it got me thinking: Man, I hope this is the year Sammy finally gets it right.

Samsung, of course, has been doing quite well in terms of sheer sales. But one area where it hasn't been doing so well is avoiding confusion about its products and making its existing customers a priority.

Samsung Galaxy Overload: The Confusion

Exhibit A: the confusion. One month after launching its AT&T Galaxy S II phone, Samsung introduced a slightly beefed-up sibling: the AT&T Galaxy S II Skyrocket. Then, last month, it announced another updated version, the AT&T Galaxy S II Skyrocket HD.

At the same time, rumors are now swirling that a new "Galaxy S II Plus" phone is about to debut. In some countries, a "Galaxy S Advance" phone is on its way to store shelves. And that's all just looking at one little corner of Samsung's Android galaxy. With all the slightly-different variations of phones Samsung keeps tossing out, it's getting impossible to keep track.

GigaOm's Kevin Tofel hit the nail on the head when, discussing the new Galaxy S Advance, he wrote: "Hey Samsung: Aren't there enough stars in the Galaxy?" Choice is great, and producing innovative and interesting devices is obviously a good thing. When you're releasing barely-updated versions of your existing phones, though -- some of which have barely even been on the market themselves -- all you're doing is overwhelming potential buyers and pissing off the people who bought the previous, now outdated-feeling iterations.

Samsung Galaxy Overload: The Customers

That leads us directly into Exhibit B: the customers. As Samsung throws phone after phone into the market, it seems to be leaving itself little time to focus on supporting and maintaining its ever-expanding array of devices. Just ask anyone who's ever owned a Galaxy-brand phone (with the exception of the Google-controlled Galaxy Nexus).

Case in point: the Android 2.3 upgrade. Gingerbread, as the platform is known, started rolling out to phones in February of last year. Sprint's Galaxy S didn't see the software until November; Verizon's version of the phone was on hold until December. AT&T's edition received it just last month, meanwhile, and T-Mobile's original Galaxy S is still waiting -- a full year later -- to get its taste. (Don't even mention the Galaxy S Ice Cream Sandwich saga.)

Those phones aside, Samsung's Galaxy Fit, Galaxy Gio, Galaxy Mini, original Galaxy Player, and Infuse 4G are all still on the Gingerbread wait-list. It's pretty much an exact repeat of the mess we saw with Samsung and the Android 2.2 upgrade one year earlier. To be blunt, Samsung excels at making products but sucks at supporting them.

Samsung Galaxy Overload: GS III and Beyond

So back to the Galaxy S III and Samsung's smartphone future. In the past weeks, both Motorola and HTC have announced they'll produce fewer phones in 2012, focusing instead on developing and marketing a handful of core products. Following those announcements, there's a glaring white elephant in the virtual room.

Samsung: We're all looking at you. You've become a leader in the world of Android smartphones; now it's time for you to take the responsibility seriously and stop jerking around. You've got a killer brand you've built up with your Galaxy line of devices. Releasing 20 bazillion near-identical variations only serves to dilute it, especially when it results in an embarrassingly bad level of ongoing support for each individual device.

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By all means, give us killer phones like the Galaxy S II. Give us interesting innovations like the Galaxy Note. But then use your resources to continue caring about those devices and the people who bought them, rather than churning out incrementally updated hardware every 15 weeks. You've said you want to make consumers feel passionately about your brand. Creating standout products only gets you halfway there; the other half comes from continuing to impress people after they've bought your devices.

Make 2012 the year you finally master that skill, Samsung, and there'll be no limit to how brightly your galaxy shines.    

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

Article copyright 2012 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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