[Interview] A Lifestyle Band with Style – The Story Behind “Charm by Samsung”

on May 27, 2016
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Charm by Samsung (“Charm”), a stylish lifestyle band by Samsung Electronics, was launched earlier this month. The wearable monitors daily activity levels and also uses LED notifications to alert users of incoming calls, text messages and push notifications from selected apps. But unlike other existing devices of its kind, Charm boasts a stylish design that makes it stand out as a fashion accessory more so than an electronic device.


Assistant Manager of Product Planning Areum Ko and Senior Designer Myungkyu Kim explain the story behind the development of Charm.





Q: Tell us a bit about the beginning developments of Charm, and the value you intended to deliver with it.


Areum Ko: Charm is a stylish fitness tracker aimed at women, a demographic that accounts for almost half of activity tracker users. We worked hard to design this wearable to be a fitness tracker people can feel free to wear and use in their daily lives—one that doesn’t feel like an electronic device. Therefore, Charm was designed to resemble a piece of jewelry that can be worn with other accessories such as bracelets or a watch.


We also took notice that there are many consumers who are interested in wearables and willing to adopt new technologies, but are reluctant to do so because they couldn’t find the right one which provides intuitive user experiences with optimal features and minimal design.



Q: What differentiates the Charm from existing wearables?


Areum Ko: The current wearable market consists of smart watches and fitness bands. Charm falls somewhere in between the two. We intended to position Charm as a lifestyle band that’s more stylish than existing wearables, but still offers convenient features such as alerting users of smartphone notifications.


It’s small and lightweight, making it comfortable to wear. Also, it looks more like a fashion accessory, while other fitness bands tend to look sporty.




Q: Were there any challenges that surfaced during the development of Charm’s features?


Areum Ko: It took more time to develop Charm than it takes to develop a typical smartphone! While creating and planning the concept of the device took some time, the real challenge was packing all the functions other smart bands provide into a significantly smaller space. In fact, Charm is one of the smallest devices we’ve ever made.
We had to design the entire algorithm from scratch to pair it with a smartphone via Bluetooth, and to track steps with three accelerometers. In addition, we developed a 17mhA battery to reduce power consumption so that the device can last for two weeks on one charge. Charm is not just a small and stylish band but an integration of Samsung’s numerous technologies.


In the planning and designing stage, we studied various fashion brands’ websites to understand accessories as much possible. It was during this time that a top executive spotted me browsing an online shop, and asked what I was doing. I explained my thoughts—the concept of a new product, market conditions and consumer needs. He liked the idea and encouraged us to push forward with the project. Finally, we began to plan, design and develop the new smart band in earnest and before we knew it, Charm was born.



Q: How did you come up with the design?


Myungkyu Kim: To research trends, I subscribed to various magazines targeted at women and focused on fashion. I visited numerous shops and luxury brand stores, and tried on countless accessories—necklaces, rings, bracelets, cuffs, scarves. I might have even bought a few.


I’ll never forget the look on the salespeople’s faces when Charm’s lead designers—two very manly man—entered a small shop and began trying on women’s accessories.




Q: What was the main focus of the design?


Myungkyu Kim: Since our main target was women, we wanted to add emotional value rather than focusing entirely on technology or specifications. So, we concentrated on fashion and lifestyle to design an accessory that is minimal and compact with the design concept, “Real Daily Accessory.”


People often add an accessory or two to complete a casual outfit. This was the idea behind the design of Charm—an accessory you can wear all the time. We also wanted Charm to be sophisticated enough to match more formal looks. Our goal was to create a comfortable accessory that can enhance any look and be worn in any setting.



Q: What were the reasons for selecting the materials and colors of the main body and straps?


Myungkyu Kim: Charm is the first accessory of its kind, and we designed it to inherit Samsung’s mobile design DNA and identity.


While designing it, we took inspiration from the designs of our flagship smartphones when choosing materials such as the glass of the face of the device and the metal on the sides of its body, as well as the colors—black, gold and rose quartz. We worked hard to deliver a harmonious look when mixing these materials, careful to not put too much emphasis on any individual part.


Areum Ko: Regarding the straps, we purchased as many materials—from leather to fabric—as possible from the subsidiary materials market, made samples and tested them. The final decision was made after carefully considering consumer comfort and the requirements of mass production.



Q: The design of Charm’s charging cradle and packaging is also unique. What was the main focus when designing them?


Myungkyu Kim: When it comes to charging cradles, making charging, connecting and disconnecting as easy as possible is of the utmost importance. Charm can last 14 days on one charge, so the frequency of using the cradle is low compared to other electronic devices. However, we wanted to make the charging experience even easier. Now, you can simply charge your Charm without detaching the strap from the main body.


Areum Ko: Samsung has its own design identity when it comes to mobile device packaging. However, Charm’s main target is female consumers, so we designed an entirely new package which highlights the beauty and accessory-like look of the device.



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