13 February 2003 — PMN — Ocean Observations, a user-centred design consultancy based in Stockholm, has completed a 12 month project contributing to the design of a new Samsung handset interface. Samsung engaged Ocean to research European cultural attitudes and conduct studies in Sweden, Italy and the UK.
Ocean tested user’s attitudes to bright, complex Asian interfaces and contrasted them with the relative simplicity of Nokia and Sony Ericsson’s early colour products such as the 7650 and T68. Working with Samsung’s London-based design office, Ocean specified the interface for a colour-screen product which is scheduled for release later this year.
Sofia Svanteson, CEO of Ocean Observations, told PMN that they had tried to capture a broad understanding of European culture by speaking with users in Northern, Central and Southern European countries. She was unable to release details, but said the new interface would be significantly different to the typical ‘3 x 3’ icons found in most European and US handheld products. However, it would avoid the colourful excesses employed by some Far Eastern manufacturers, while maintaining certain Samsung-specific design elements.
“It is both flattering and overwhelming to be chosen as a partner when one of the world’s most successful companies is scanning Europe for experts to cooperate with,” added Svanteson.
“To facilitate emotionally and functionally fitted mobile phones to local European customers, Samsung was looking for a local user interface consulting firm in Europe. We were lucky to find a proper firm, who could deliver a solution based on those means,” commented Ph.D. Byeong C. Hwang, Senior Researcher and Manager of Samsung Electronics Mobile Human Interface Team.
PMN: This underlines Samsung’s commitment to building its market share in Europe, and challenging Nokia in particular. The vast majority of handset sales in Europe are now part of the replacement cycle, and this has made user interface an even more critical part of the overall experience. Ocean’s research is helping Samsung to develop its user interface into a key sales differentiator.
With the handset not yet announced, Ocean’s Svanteson was understandably vague about the exact nature of the interface, but the overall message is clear – user interface is going to be the next major battleground in the mobile telephony business. This can be seen in the importance attached by Nokia to its Series 60 initiative and the way in which Symbian has stepped back from involvement in the interface (see yesterday’s comments in ‘BenQ licenses Symbian OS’).