The Friday Interview: Gary Twohig, Samsung Mobile

25 Apr 2008

Samsung has supplanted Motorola at No 2 in the global mobile market and is making strides in the consumer electronics space. Gary Twohig (pictured) is the new country manager at Samsung Mobile.

Making it from the middle of the list of mobile manufacturers to No 2 in the world is a major feat. How did Samsung do it?
I think the company is very ambitious. There are a lot of very technologically advanced areas within Samsung such as memory chips, flat-screen TVs and sound and vision, and there are many basic technologies there to create great products.

In recent years, there has been a focus on better co-operation among the various technology divisions, which leads to better substance and a focus on design and style.

There was a conscious decision to invest in the future and keep up with the trends in the marketplace.

What did Samsung do right that Motorola failed to do in order to defend its position?
I have over seven years’ experience in the mobile industry, having spent five years working for Virgin Mobile in the UK and the last two with Samsung.

What I can tell from what has happened in the mobile market, particularly at the low end of the market with pre-pay (where Motorola had an edge), is no one wants to buy cheap phones anymore.

People want more from their products. Although pre-pay is still important to the Irish market, there is a definite shift towards the middle to high end, where Samsung’s heartland was.

The iPhone from Apple has influenced the form factor of mobile phones. Does this threaten Samsung?
The iPhone isn’t the only touchscreen phone on the market. There is a definite growth in these types of products. But the iPhone has an expensive price point and by default is quite niche. We don’t see it as a threat.

We have devices coming on stream that are different. For example the Armani phone has a touchscreen, a 3-megapixel camera and is the size of a credit card. Another flagship phone that will be hitting the market this year is the F480 touchscreen phone with our Magic Touch technology. It comes with a 5-megapixel camera and will be half the price of what you would pay for an iPhone.

We’re not worried about the iPhone, but it’s good people will be more educated about touchscreen devices.

What trends are you seeing in the business and corporate markets?
More and more manufacturers, including Samsung, are going to target the market currently dominated by personal digital assistant (PDA) devices like the BlackBerry.

Another emerging trend is that while 3G has been around for some time, manufacturers haven’t really been focusing on making attractive, stylish devices.

How would you sum up the Irish mobile marketplace?
Every market is different but my view on the Irish market is that it is very, very competitive. The consumer here is very savvy in terms of pricing and the different tariffs on networks, which is reflected in the various network market shares.

However, while Irish consumers have a lot of choice from a network perspective, I don’t think they have much choice from the mobile manufacturers.

By John Kennedy