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Samsung report card: How did the phone-maker fare in 2015?

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Two years ago, it seemed that Samsung's position as the smartphone world’s biggest player was unassailable.

Today it finds itself at a crossroads, struggling with falling profits from its mobile division and facing a fight at the top–end from Apple and an event tougher battle in the budget sector from Chinese mobile makers.

So, how has it faired over the past 12 months? And what can it do better in 2016? We take a look.

Successes

samsung galaxy s6 edge packshot

For all that Samsung's profits are in decline, 2015 nonetheless saw it release its best ever smartphones.

The Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S6 Edge Plus are game-changers. They use stunning curved displays to great effect and have reinvigorated a smartphone market that has become synonymous with staid, conservative design.

Quite simply, doing something different with a slab of metal and glass is hard when these days it’s all about the software is a hugely impressive feat.

The regular Galaxy S6, which featured a premium metal build and impressively long battery life, was great too.

And, of course, just as important was that all these phones came with specs we could get behind, with impressive cameras, a fuss-free version of Android and fast performance that only Apple’s iPhones can hold a candle to.

Simply put, they’re the best phones to ever run Google’s operating system.

Failures

JK Shin head of Samsung Mobiles

One big miscalculation stands out this year. But it’s a whopping error which Samsung’s head of mobile, JK Shin, has paid for with his job.

At launch, Samsung made a huge play of the Galaxy S6 Edge, but made it abundantly clear that it thought it was a niche proposition next to its flat-screened Galaxy S6 stablemate.

Consumers didn’t agree and were desperate to snap up the curved screen phone. There was just one issue: Samsung hadn’t made enough.

That meant sales were nowhere near what could have been expected, leading to a slump in quarterly profits that hit not just the mobile division, but the company as a whole.

Overall, Samsung has not managed to sell its best smartphones in the numbers it needed to keep up its fight with Apple.

In the courtroom, it’s been on the end of more losses in its patent battle with Cupertino.

Throw in a failure to include the latest software from Google in its newest Galaxy A handsets and you can see why it’s announced that it’s appointing a new CEO to oversee its smartphone charge in 2016.

Areas for improvement

Samsung logo at booth

Samsung needs to start selling more phones, and fast.

Yes, it’s still the world’s biggest mobile-maker. But with profits falling and Apple set to release a wholly rejigged iPhone 7 in 2016, it needs to come flying out of the blocks.

Word is that the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge will be out as soon as February, with more of the latter ready to go to meet demand.

Its budget phones also need to do a lot better in China, hence its Galaxy A range hitting China first.

But without the latest version of Android, those phones leave Samsung open to accusations that it isn’t interested in delivering the best possible experience.

And the only way it'll ever deflect those criticisms is to make speed up roll out of Android updates.

Grade:

C - great phones, but efforts at the top need to be made to ensure future phones get out quicker to meet demand.

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