This man knows why the Galaxy Z Fold 5 isn't full of big changes – and it actually makes sense

Patrick Chomet Samsung VP and Head of Customer Experience
(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

The smartphone you hold in your hand is the result of an endless series of choices. It's the answers to questions about design, function, pre-installed applications, new features, and old ones. It's all the stuff that adds up your experience, the customer experience.

If there's a single person focused on what it's like to use, say, a new Samsung Galaxy Z fold 5 and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, it's Patrick Chomet, Samsung's EVP and Head of Customer Experience. 

Chomet, who sat down with me at Samsung Unpacked in South Korea, focuses on product design and feature experiences as well as the choice of features, apps, and partnerships that help make them.

"We pride ourselves on saying, 'I want the best music.' So we need to work with Daniel Ek at Spotify," said Chomet.

Working closely with design and product teams. Chomet helps define products and manage key partnerships like the one with Google. Even though Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones competes with Google's Pixel line, the two companies have thousands of employees working together.

Plus, as two very large companies, it's fairly easy to keep apart the parts that shouldn't be talking. 

"We happily compete," smiled Chomet, "We call it co-competition."

Competition vs. Rationalization

Samsung Galaxy Design Prototypes

Patrick Chomet works closely with design to realize customer desires. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

But that competition has sometimes led to confusion. Many Android partners, like Samsung, produce duplicate core apps for, say, Messaging, Web Browsing, Photos, and Email. How does allowing those things to continue the relationship and "co-competition"?

"10-to-15 years ago, Android was the core OS for a lot of OEMs, and it's fair to say many OEMs were seeking to reproduce every app to differentiate," Chomet told me. "That phase is gone," he said, "Differentiation is not being different, differentiation is being better."

1There is an abundance of great ideas but "much more than the customer can understand or marketing can market," he said.

Samsung now focuses, said Chomet, on assets where they have something customers want. "In the future, we will see more rationalization." He pointed to examples like Chrome now being the default browser on US devices, and the integration of RCS in messaging, a charge Chomet personally led.

That said, there will still be cases where Samsung and Google both have something. All Samsung Galaxy phones currently ship with both Google Assistant and Bixby. Chomet said that if you have more Samsung devices, you'll get more out of Bixby and if you have more Google smart devices, the Assistant might be your choice. In other words, there's reason for them to coexist on your Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Serial killer

Patrick Chomet, VP and Head of Customer Experience

Chomet knows when to say, "no." (Image credit: Future)

Chomet's job involves identifying the right features or partners to bring in, but also what to leave out.

"I have a funny job here," said Chomet. "Sometimes I'm called the 'serial killer'. My core innovation is mostly killing," laughed Chomet. However, it's an important role. There is an abundance of great ideas but "much more than the customer can understand or marketing can market," he said.

Chomet focuses on what's meaningful to people, which is easy if you follow what they've been doing.

Many of the choices Samsung makes or Chomet guides it to make are based on anonymized customer telemetry, which is gathered through Samsung account holder usage data. 

They know, for instance, that Samsung users use Samsung Notes on their Galaxy phones, so Samsung invests in that. Similarly, Samsung account holders are big Samsung Smart Thing users, so there's an investment in that.

When not to change

I wondered though how Samsung and Chomet's interpretation of user needs synced with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and its dearth of changes as compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 4. I offered Chomet my theory, that the foldable market is so small that, for most people, the category is entirely new. Why race ahead of customer needs you don't yet even understand?

"You're spot on," said Chomet, adding, "Most people, you are right, will be new users so they look at this thing in its own right."

Chomet also defended the lack of feature updates, explaining that what Samsugn did do was based on customer requests.

"The feedback from existing Fold users is that there are no issues, an amazing device, we love it, 'please guys keep doing it.' Second, “Can you make it thinner and lighter?” which we did. Third, 'Can you improve speed?' which we did with CPU."

There were also requests around productivity and software, which have seen some usability updates.

"We need to change what needs to be changed," he said.

Following an innovation path

Chomet, though, wanted to make it clear that the product teams are not simply picking and choosing new directions with each product iteration. The arc of vertical Samsung product development is long and, it seems, crystal clear.

There is for each Samsung product category a mid-to-long-term identity and direction, said Chomet, who outlined the key identities for each of Samsung's current core categories:

  • Galaxy Buds: perfect fit and intelligent audio
  • Galaxy Watch: fashion, health, and sleep
  • Galaxy Z Fold Fold: productivity and big-screen viewing
  • Galaxy Z Flip: fashion and personalization

"We invest in a very clear product direction, so it's not 'sleep this year' and something else next. We do not change identity every year, which makes it easier for people to say, 'In which direction should I innovate?'" explained Chomet.

Sometimes, the innovation is not quite ready or comes slowly. Chomet held up the new Galaxy Z Flip 5 and said "For five years, I wanted this."

However, what Chomet envisioned wasn't a foldable device, it was an ultra-compact, square, single-screen phone. Chomet acknowledges that they didn't do it because it didn't work as a product.

"Three years later we have that concept of the compact device. When the technology is ready, it becomes meaningful," said Chomet who held up the Flip 5 again and smiled, " I feel vindicated, I told you we need a compact device."

Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.