I had a meeting with Samsung Technical Manager Chris. The meeting lasted a total of 4 hours – that’s right 4 hours and we discussed everything in the report, point by point.
Update 1: I’ve made a few changes as suggested by Samsung to clarify some of the points.
Update 2: I’ve moved to a new website so you can follow up on the latest comments and updates for this post here
First off I have to say I was thoroughly impressed. The meeting left me with a whole different perspective on things. I’ll go point by point discussing each of the points mentioned in the report and Samsung’s response, so here goes!
Change log for updates: This is available from Samsung on all updates. You can get in touch with Samsung for the change logs.Usually there are hundreds of changes, most too technical for the average Joe to understand. They make an effort to highlight the important things mostly to do with the UI (user interface) because these affect how users interact with the phone.
Updates for all regions: Samsung is continuously making updates. So far, there have been heaps of updates developed for the i8910. Only about 4 (a really small fraction) have been released so far. Samsung has an extremely strict quality assurance team that has to go through each and every detail with great care. The amount detail in each report for each update is staggering. They check everything from spellings to audio quality, to video quality and beyond.
(Updated) Thing is, updates are region/supplier/carrier specific, even for generic firmware. In order for an update to be pushed in your particular region, Samsung in that particular region has to know that you want an update. If someone in the UK for instance complains about a certain thing and an update is available, the update is pulled or requested to resolve the issues for the UK only. If Samsung HQ reckons the update is necessary for all regions, they inform each of the subsidiaries in all regions. Each will then discuss with operators and HQ to decide whether to apply it or not. If you have any problems with your device, contact Samsung in your region so they look into it.
Over The Air updates (OTA): Supported but only for small patches. We’ve only had big updates so we haven’t seen any of these. It also has to do with the carrier; whether they can support updates over the air and they can handle the amount of data required. i8910 firmware typically occupies a lot of memory. Even over WiFi it would take a long time to transfer that much data.
User Data Preservation: For small updates it’s already there. For the large updates like the ones we get, backing up all the data then transferring it back means that the update can take ages. It’s just not practical, so back up all your data before each update and restore it later.
Camera problems: At the time when the i8910 was released, the camera hardware included was the latest and the best. Samsung is aware of the problem with HD frame-rate but says these are the same issues across the board. The same problems can be replicated with other devices.
(Updated) Auto-focus in video is something they are looking in to. There wasn’t enough demand for this feature so they excluded it but it is possible. Even if it is applied, the quality of the video remains pretty much the same so it’s no use.
The settings for the camera were the optimum settings decided on for the i8910. They are looking into the n86 settings discussed in the report.
The feature to activate the camera in video mode has been passed on to product design for consideration.
Web browser: The problems with the web browser were noted and you should be getting a fixed web browser in the next update.
Slow operation: They are working on new methods(algorithms) for the operation of the phone. The old methods used were OK at the time when the phone was in development but they are working on new techniques to keep up with the competition. You should see improved performance in the upcoming update and future updates.
Java(Updated): Java can not be updated. In fact, the process is so complex and time consuming it would be easier to release a whole new device.
Space on C: drive: The solution is just to install everything on mass storage, they can’t free up any more without compromising.
Customization: Things like the options on the bottom row and the swipe programs are nominated with several factors to consider. A large factor is the carriers, each part of the UI is decided upon by the carrier and approved for particular regions. Ease of use and innovative or distinctive features are also favored over practicality. So in a nu shell, they may consider some customization options but it’s not likely to change.
Themes: Fevves suggested Carbide UI plugin and full themes specification. Samsung responded that Carbide is third party software so they can’t guarantee compatibility. Also, there are heaps of compatible themes available in the Samsung Fun Club. Even though, Chris mentioned that they might make a program that’s specific to the i8910 that allows users to make compatible themes. They might, time will tell.
Lack of Support: Pretty much out of Samsung’s hands. The phone isn’t that popular so third party developers aren’t really attracted to it. Samsung admits that it’s really unfortunate and they’ll try to do what they can.
Widgets: They are region specific. Some regions have more than others. They are continuing to work on more widgets.
Kinetic Scrolling: Coming in the next update.
Email Configuration: Not coming, too many changes need to be made. At the time of release the feature wasn’t as common.
FM Transmitter(Updated): It’s there! But it was not developed for the phone. It was considered in early product planning phase, however, due to strict regulations in some regions as Samsung was targeting global launch, it was removed. Samsung has low end handsets which have FM Transmitting, but those product are developed to support FM Transmitting. FM transmitting was never advertised by Samsung.
Screen saver: Battery drain, most manufactures choose not to include any screen savers for this reason.
Physical music controls(via volume rocker)(Updated): Samsung appreciates this suggestion and they will review this concept and apply it for future models.
VoIP: Conflicts with a lot of carriers. There are many free third party apps like Fring that have this feature.
Front camera access(Updated): People rarely use this feature outside of video calls. None of Samsung’s recent models support this as the quality is not great.
Call recording(Updated): i8910 device specification doesn’t include it.
Time-lapse video: They have forwarded this to the development team. They are considering it.
Support of other languages: Samsung doesn’t have enough resources to support as many languages as they would like to. As they expand more, support for more languages will continue.
WMV/WMA support: The formats are quite popular but they are part of the the few that are not supported. Samsung is not promising any future support of these formats.
Video editor(Updated): It was there initially in pre-release firmware but due to time to market, failure rate and not being a must have, it was removed. You can only do so such on a mobile phone, video editing requires quite a lot of processing power. They didn’t feel the feature did justice to the i8910
Portrait QWERTY: It was initially included but feedback from early models showed there were too many complaints. In the end they had to scrape it off.
Voice Commands: Notoriously difficult to implement without problems. There are many accents and a lot of work has to been done developing recognition solutions for each region. Ffor this reason, they excluded it from design phase.
Handwriting Training(upadted): Handwriting recognition in the i8910 is a feature that’s so well developed that there is no need for a training program. Training software was popular in the early days when the technology was still premature. Now it’s not necessary.
VPN (updated): i8910 is not designed for business portfolio, unfortunately VPN is not supported.
Torch function(Updated): Samsung said that this feature couldn’t be accommodated from the design level. Samsung does have many devices which support torch function. For high end devices that have more functions, it’s expected that a torch will consume a lot of battery power so it wouldn’t be an ideal feature. It’s expected and more common in lower end models and generally not found in smart phones. It would be very ideal to fully pack all functionality into a single device, but it’s not practical.
Threaded SMS: They said it’s unfortunate this feature was not available when i8910 was developed. Again it would take a lot to develop something like that. We have to rely on the Free-iSMS forever!
Kies: The Kies Application at Samsung Apps website is not made for Symbian.
Alternative Operating Systems: It is possible to have these on the device. Problem is that the work required to do something like that is equivalent to developing a new product all together. So no, it’s not happening.
Ok, that’s it. If I left out anything please feel free to ask, the meeting was very long and I learnt a lot of things. I must say kudos to Mr Chris Kim for having the patience to listen and address every single issue on the report. I met several other Samsung employees there and the whole experience was simply awesome. Thank you.
As you might know my i8910 is dead. I should have been upgraded to the latest firmware dated 29 December 2009 today. This is the update that will be pushed to everyone very soon, its already there but it’s probably awaiting approval. I was given a loaner so I can try reproduce some of the issues and test drive the new firmware. I haven’t tested it too much but Kinetic scrolling works like a charm.
I now have a deep respect for Samsung and their operations. Their approval/ quality assessment system may be really strict but that’s why their products are really good and generally bug free. I’ll update you on more progress.
An important point to note is that Samsung is divided into regions then countries and carriers. I’m based in New Zealand where the i8910 wasn’t even launched. It’s a lot that Samsung even considered what I had to say. If you have issues with your device, make an effort to at least point Samsung in your region/carrier to the report/petition and indicate that you want an update with such and such features in case they are not aware. Updates won’t just come by magic for your region if no one complains. Approach Samsung, they won’t bite.