Samsung Boots Galaxy Smartphone Design Boss

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Samsung's mobile design division has a new leader. The man responsible for the company's new Galaxy S5 smartphone, Chang Dong-hoon, resigned following the near unanimous criticism of the flagship phone's all-plastic design.

Chang recently offered to resign and was replaced by Lee Min-hyouk as head of the design team within Samsung Electronics Mobile Communications division.

In an official statement, Samsung announced the "realignment enables Executive Vice President Chang to focus more on his role as Head of Design Strategy Team, the company's corporate design center which is responsible for long-term design strategy across all of the Samsung Electronics' businesses, including Mobile Communications."

For the past three years, Samsung has been the repeated target of worldwide patent lawsuits concerning the design of the company's extensive line of smartphones based on Google's ( GOOG) Android operating system. A California jury awarded Apple ( AAPL) nearly $120 million last week in the latest patent-infringement trial.



But Thursday's announced move appears to be a reaction to the repeated condemnation of the company's continued use of plastic outer shells for its smartphones. Reviewers complained that the latest designs for the Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy Note 3 models look and feel cheaper than what competitors have been producing. One reviewer commented that the S5's gold-colored, dimpled plastic back cover looked like a Band-Aid.

Despite plastic's superior transparency for passing cellular signals, products by rivals including  HTC and Apple have had few problems utilizing metal and glass in their designs. Those other smartphones also look and feel more expensive than Samsung's plastic handsets.

Samsung may have the last laugh though. In a number of international markets, the company sold twice as many Galaxy S5s on the first day of sale then it did the S4 model when that model went of sale a year ago. Samsung now sells twice as many smartphones as Apple.

In our review. we found the Galaxy S5 to be a wonderful Android smartphone although we thought the design to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The new phone inside is laden with large amounts of Samsung-branded applications including a slew of new health-related titles designed to match the company's latest line of smartwatches.

According to Reuters, Samsung's new design chief may not assume power and overhaul the way the company designs smartphones. Lee, now 42, became Samsung's youngest senior executive back in 2010, based on his role designing Galaxy smartphones. He acquired the nickname "Midas" based on his reportedly "golden touch" with these devices.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York .

To submit a news tip, send an email to tips@thestreet.com.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's Senior Technology Correspondent.

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