That’s right, a favour. How? Well, they released the S4, that’s how.
I’m serious. The anticipation of an upcoming mythical super-phone was doing far more damage to Apple and others because nobody was really sure what Samsung was going to offer as a follow-up to the hugely successful S3.
Now that it’s all out in the open, the mystique of the threat is gone and it’s become painfully obvious that Samsung is no different than anyone else trying to top itself time after time. It’s become near impossible to satisfy the expectations of the consuming public.
The super-spec days are all but over. There’s only so much engine one can stuff into a phone without having to wear a harness to carry it. The minimum specs that the public expects are already above what the software and peripherals can make use of. It’s become more of just bragging rights to keep adding cores or pixels per square inch.
One of the only directions that anybody can take to set themselves apart is in the software and user experience. Apple found this out with the IPhone 5. All spec change and no software wows equals meh.
Fortunately for Apple, now that they’ve seen Samsung’s cards, they still have 2 of their own they can play: The bigger screen that everyone seems to think is key nowadays and the I-Bargain phone.
Their biggest challenge to overcome is going to be media and consumer perception right now. And that one is going to be a little tough.
Not if, but when, they do these 2 things, they are going to be met with a barrage of capitulation taunts of course. They have a tricky line to walk. If they are seen as giving in to every fad that whips by, they are going to lose some credibility but on the other side of the coin, they need to address the changing market in a timely fashion.
The key for Apple is to address these issues on their own terms. Jony Ive needs to come up with some spectacular I-Treats in the user experience along with a stunning aesthetic modification that is distinctly Apple. If they do that, they can maintain their cool factor and stick to their core (pun intended) philosophy of widening margins and not trying to compete on volume with Samsung and others. They will never win that battle with only 1 or maybe 2 new handsets on the market every year, nor should they try to.
So how did Samsung do Google, HTC, Sony and others a favour? Glad you asked.
If you happened to watch that gag inducing debacle Samsung called a launch event for your new Life Partner (hrrp..sorry, threw up in my mouth a bit there. Yes, they referred to a piece of tech as your next Life Partner), you might’ve noticed how much they gave credit to Google and Android for their wonderful OS that is the foundation of Samsung’s success.
For those that didn’t see it, I’ll tell you; They didn’t. At some point, I knew that the S4 was going to be offering Jelly Bean 4.2.2 but I don’t think it was from the event. I was multi-tasking so I think I picked it up off Twitter or something.
That omission certainly makes it clear that Samsung has every intention of attempting to ditch Android and it’s advertising royalties in favour of it’s own OS, Tizen or Tissue or whatever it’s called.
From Samsung’s perspective, that’s a fairly smart plan. Except for one thing; Android is an excellent OS with a massive ecosystem of it’s own already established, and it has some pretty loyal enthusiasts.
I think Samsung is kidding itself if it thinks they can just replace Android with all it’s S-Stuff. Samsung has convinced itself that they have done well because of their special additions. And sure, they’ve had a few extras that have stuck but not enough to attribute it’s huge success to.
If you take the pulse of the user forums and comment sections of articles (I’m a doctor, that’s what I do), you get the impression that Samsung has been successful in spite of all the S-Wares. Plus the fact they’ve made some appealing handsets that also run Google’s Android OS.
It will be very interesting to see Samsung’s first experiment with their own OS more than likely later this year. Of course, they aren’t stupid enough to drop Android outright without testing the waters first.
When you start looking at forum posts and comments, you see that there are 2 somewhat distinct groups of high-end Samsung users: The first is the majority, the general phone buying public that really doesn’t care about specs, operating systems and such but want a good, cool phone for a reasonable price.
The second group is much smaller but in the long run, they have the most sway in deciding what’s cool and what’s not. And they pass that on to the first group eventually.
Samsung really owes it’s success to the culmination of those 2 groups for the last while. The stars have been aligned in Samsung’s favour and they put out a decent phone on a cool operating system.
After last night’s showing, where obviously, Samsung has adopted the “See What Sticks” formula that has worked for them on the hardware side and applied it to the software side. Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t quite work the same way.
That second Android group has, up ‘til now, just shrugged it’s shoulders and accepted all the additional superfluous software as an annoying fact of life that they can just get rid of as long as the phone is good.
Even the majority of those users were in disbelief at the amount of stuff Samsung has crammed into the OS. This group also does not fool easy. They know all too well that most of what Samsung is selling as their own unique magic is available as optional apps they can install if they choose. They do not take well to having it forced on them. (see – Apple and it’s closed ecosystem for an example)
This group lusts after the most pure form of it’s beloved OS, or the least tinkered with. This is why Google’s own Nexus line has been successful; it’s the OS stripped down and pure the way it was designed to be.
This second group will tolerate some cool features if they are a true enhancement to the experience but judging the bulk of the S4’s extras, they are savvy enough to know that there’s a lot of gimmick there that will either not work properly, might be neat once or twice, or will never be used.
I mentioned HTC because I seemed to see a lot of comments from people who are now turned off of the S4 but are attracted to the try-hard underdog of the upcoming HTC One.
I did see some other options in there such as Sony’s Experia, LG’s Optimus G, or the next Nexus phone from Google but what I find interesting about the possibility of it being HTC that benefits most is because of the focus they put on aesthetic design of the One.
It makes me wonder if perhaps Samsung’s argument for using cheaper plastic materials in the build of their S phones is starting to wear thin with consumers. Samsung claims they use materials that are quicker and easier to get for the sake of turnaround of the product, which I believe is no doubt true but…do you really want to hear that your new cool phone is cheaply made on purpose?
If that is the case, then HTC and Apple, who’s primary focus has always been build quality and attention to detail, stand to gain from Samsung’s flippancy.
Having said that, it most likely wont’ have it’s biggest impact just yet. I’m sure the S4 will sell quite well. But there’s also quite a lag between launch and release so who knows what will happen before then.
On a completely separate note that I’m sure has absolutely nothing to do with Samsung’s magnificent event from last night, Apples stocks were up over 2% today.
- Dr. Hannibal Moot