Thursday, March 14, 2013

Did Samsung Jump the Shark w/ the new Galaxy S4?

The new Samsung Galaxy S4 has finally been unveiled and along with the phone, it also reveals how hard Samsung is trying to be different. 

Breaking free from Android
The free OS is an effective way for them to sell phones but its also a burden as the Galaxy brand is popular because of Android software & Samsung's hardware.  The S3 is the best selling Android phone because of the hardware & distribution channels, not any Samsung-specific features. They are struggling to add value beyond their hardware.   

They don't want you to buy the Galaxy S4 because its the best Android phone, they want you to buy it for its Samsung-only features. There's no value in building commodity hardware.

All the wild features they conjured up, such as the Air Gestures, Air View, and varied camera options, was done to differentiate from Android.

It doesn't work - just as it didn't work for HTC or LG either.  Consumers don't care for them, they are smarter than that.  Did you ever find yourself in the scenarios below?

Samsung Galaxy S4 Air View
Did you want your phone to automagically pause a movie playback when you looked away? 
The Galaxy S4 can do that.

Did you want to scroll through a page by hovering your finger a few millimeters over the screen rather than taking the effort to actually touch the screen and swipe?
The Galaxy S4 lets you do that.

Ever felt the need to take photos from both the front & rear camera simultaneously for a picture-in-picture effect?
The Galaxy S4 satisfies that need.

What's more useful to you? An innovation like Google Now or the features above?

Structural Challenges
This focus on software imply a structural change in Samsung's approach. They want to emulate Apple's famed ability to connect with the consumer and deliver a symbiotic hardware-software combination that brings the human interactions to the fore.

Unfortunately, letting users hover their finger over the screen to scroll does not cut it.

Samsung has dominated the Android scene because of their ability to manufacture & distribute class-leading hardware with high margins not because they understand the user's needs. These gimmicks heralded as innovations in the S4 indicate how much more Samsung has to invest in understanding how users interact with hardware.

The farther they stray from their strengths, the more opportunity they give Google to gain ground with their Nexus line of smartphones. Google understands users and they can massage Android to do things that Samsung can't even contemplate.

Ultimately, who do you trust when it comes to the software on your phone: Google or Samsung?