Leading Samsung’s line as they seek to stay ahead of the game
The world’s top Android smartphone maker will be introducing its pay technology to see off competition
Head of Samsung mobile in the UK and Ireland, Conor Pierce: “The S6 has really been crafted around the feedback we’ve got from consumers. We have to learn from our success and learn from some of the lessons from the past.” Photograph: Ian Gavan/Getty Images.
Conor Pierce has been head of Samsung Mobile in the UK and Ireland for just under two months. Once Nokia’s vice president for the UK and Ireland, then Microsoft Mobile Devices UK and Ireland, he left the company last October. In February, it was announced he had been appointed vice president of Samsung Mobile for the UK and Ireland.
It’s been a busy few weeks. First there was Mobile World Congress, at which the company unveiled its new flagship phone, the Galaxy S6. Then there is the company’s forthcoming payments technology to take into account, with Samsung Pay going into direct competition with Apple Pay in trying to win over the mobile sector.
It’s a significant change in pace for Pierce. While the Nokia brand name is disappearing from Lumia handsets, Samsung is the top Android smartphone maker.
Pierce acknowledges that it’s a very different place to be, and notes that Samsung as a company has been through enormous change. “It’s a good time to start, a new beginning for us,” he said, praising the “incredibly agile, ambitious” company.
“It’s an amazingly optimistic company, and I’m not just talking about my portfolio within IM, but consumer electronics and Internet of Things and smart things. There’s a massive amount of energy and hope and optimism about what we can do for the market.”
Samsung is the top smartphone seller in western Europe, beating rival Apple by a considerable margin. But Pierce says the company isn’t content with that, turning its attention to the Internet of Things and how smartphones can help fuel that strategy.
“That is the next big wave in our business,” he says. “Partners, retailers, app developers, they’re all keen on understanding how this Internet of Things will evolve. There are many different definitions to this elusive internet of things.
“One day they’ll all be connected, and your smartphone Galaxy device will be the remote control.”
But it’s taken its foot off the pedal in terms of the speed of new releases in the smartwatch sector. Ironically, it comes at a time when renewed attention is on the devices, with the launch of the Apple Watch.
At Mobile World Congress, the company failed to show a single new device to add to its existing models. Instead, it said, it was pausing development. Apple, meanwhile, is set to take pre-orders for its watch in the UK, US and seven other countries from next week. But Pierce isn’t fazed by the upcoming battle.
“We’re on our third generation of wearables, it’s nice to see our competition try to catch up with us after a while,” he says. “Having said that though, it’s all good. The more competition in that space, the more awareness in the market, the more consideration that people will have for this. You’re generating a market, we’ve been doing that for a number of years now. We actively encourage more competition.”
Although he doesn’t give any hints about what is coming, he says Samsung won’t be sitting still with the market.
While we are still waiting for any indication of when Apple Pay will come to Ireland, Samsung Pay will be launching in Europe and Ireland, probably towards the end of the year. The US and Korea will get the service first, with a summer launch pencilled in. But regardless of when it makes its way to Irish stores, Pierce is confident that the technology will be well received.
“It works with 90 per cent of POS, retail, cafes, shops. That gives us enormous competitive advantage, but that’s not enough; it actually allows users to adopt the technology,” he said.
It uses a technology known as tokenisation, which gives each transaction an individual unique token that is time-based and linked to that transaction.
But the main advantage that Samsung Pay could offer is that, for retailers at least, it doesn’t require any special equipment to accept. Unlike Apply Pay, which uses near field communications to carry out transactions, Samsung Pay also uses something called magnetic secure transmission. That means it can generate changing magnetic fields over short periods of time, which can then be read by existing credit card readers. It essentially works the same as if you swiped a magnetic stripe card – in the days pre chip and pin – through the machine. It only works at distances of about three inches, and the transmission of the data has to be initiated by the user.
It’s off the back of technology acquired when Samsung bought Loop Pay earlier this year. Loop Pay requires a special card to use, though it’s not yet clear if that will be necessary when Samsung debuts Samsung Pay. The Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge, about to go on sale, will be the first handsets to work with the new payment service.
“The S6 has really been crafted around the feedback we’ve got from consumers,” explains Pierce. “We have to learn from our success and learn from some of the lessons from the past.”
Part of that comes in the design, with a metal body and non-removable battery for the handset.
It’s not just about looks though. Everything from the camera to the battery technology has been looked at. And the S6 supports wireless charging, which has struggled to gain much of a foothold here to date, but could be about to become a little more mainstream. Even Ikea is getting in on the act, announcing a few weeks ago that it would begin producing furniture with integrated wireless charging.
“The days when you plug your phone are numbered. I love that,” says Pierce.
For a full review of the Galaxy S6, see Tech Tools