Internal Memo Reveals That The iPhone Caused “Crisis Of Design” At Samsung

An internal Samsung memo, filed as a part of evidence in the Apple-Samsung trial, reveals some very interesting information about the situation at the Korean company after the iPhone released in 2007.

The memo was sent by Samsung’s head of Mobile Communications, JK Shin, and was basically a realisation of the revolution that Apple was starting with the iPhone.

AllThingsD, which obtained a copy of the memo, reports:

It’s a memo that Samsung didn’t want admitted into the trial, and until now had kept it out. But this morning, when Samsung legal counsel John Quinn mentioned the “crisis of design” moment in a question to Samsung strategist Justin Denison, all bets were off, and the memo was in.

“Influential figures outside the company come across the iPhone, and they point out that ‘Samsung is dozing off.’ All this time we’ve been paying all our attention to Nokia, and concentrated our efforts on things like Folder, Bar, Slide,” Shin wrote. “Yet when our UX is compared to the unexpected competitor Apple’s iPhone, the difference is truly that of Heaven and Earth. It’s a crisis of design.”


“Do you know how difficult the Omnia is to use? When you compare the 2007 version of the iPhone with our current Omnia, can you honestly say the Omnia is better? If you compare the UX with the iPhone, it’s a difference between Heaven and Earth.”

Some other interesting bits from the memo:

“Quantity isn’t what’s important, what’s important is putting on the market models with a high level of perfection, one or two Excellent ones.” [Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?]

“All the carriers tell me, Hey JK! Your phones have great technological prowess and everything’s great. But it’s hard to sell them as high-end phones. That’s because we spent all our subsidy funds on the iPhone and can’t give a penny in subsidy to your phones, so of course your phones will be expensive and then it follows that they won’t sell.”

“… the iPhone’s emergence means the time we have to change our methods has arrived.”

The memo describes a situation that most likely would have replayed across all mobile phone manufacturers after the iPhone released. Companies like RIMMicrosoft lived in denial for quite a long time, until loss of marketshare hit them hard.

It is well known that phone manufacturers were forced to reboot their product development strategies to better compete with the iPhone, but such a candid admission of this fact makes for a fascinating read. AllThingsD has the memo in its entirety.

See also: Microsoft exec admits Windows Phone 7 was a response to the iPhone.