Yesterday I was fortunate enough to go to a product launch event, a Samsung Galaxy launch event. Thanks to being in the UK it meant I could help out the network sites a little, and experience the launch of the most hyped product outside of the Apple world. The Galaxy SIII was all set to be the next “iPhone killer” and possibly the phone that finally challenges Apple’s smartphone in the market place.
Now I know, many of you will jump on me for saying this, and I’m prepared for that. Read until the end before jumping on the hate wagon. But, once again, Samsung “slavishly” copied our favorite company. During the event S Voice was announced and billed as an intelligent “personal assistant”: sound familiar? Now, granted, Voice Actions for Android already exists, and by all accounts, is a decent service. It can link in with the most relevant services (maps, calendar, phone etc.). However, Samsung thought it best to create its own S Voice system that can wake your phone up, take a picture, and all the rest. Best of all, it responds, like Siri does.
Then, there was AllShare Cast, with AllShare Cast Hub. Think AirPlay and Apple TV, and your 99% there. Along with the highly specced phone, Sammy announced a few proprietary accessories that help achieve an ecosystem feel, where all the hardware is in tune with other bits of kit (C Pen, Flip Cover, Dongle). The Hub plugs in to a HDMI equipped TV or projector, and allows users to stream media content from their GSIII, in a very Samsungy way.
Sure, you may be thinking that’s only two small things. There’s more. Samsung also announced a service called “Scan and Match” which scans all your music, and matches it in the cloud. At this point I laughed in disbelief – out loud. Needless to say, I got some funny looks from the guys next to me, but I was genuinely stunned.
Now, before you get all hot under the collar about how all these services existed before Apple: I know. It’s not that these services are in existence that annoys me. I get that it’s part of the new age whereby all our content is held centrally in the cloud, and streaming to TV is something that all products will be doing too. It’s more to do with the fact that Samsung is trying to create its own hardware ecosystem based on proprietary accessories and exclusive services. They’re not open to everyone, and will not work between different manufacturer’s devices. It’s a Samsung-only club. Like Apple.
Sammy could easily have helped Google adapt, and grow the Voice Actions service. But instead, developed its own branded S Voice feature. They could have made the AllShare Cast a feature that’s compatible with other manufacturer’s equipment. Even the launch event – although highly charged, and much noisier than an Apple keynote – was formatted similar to one of Apple’s releases. They even had a “one more thing…” at the end to announce that Samsung was going to start selling these phones in Samsung PINs (bespoke mini-stores made of glass).
I can hear the Apple haters already: “At least Samsung doesn’t pretend like it invents technology that already exists, like Apple.” And that’s where you are entirely wrong. Along with the collection of Samsung accessories was a wireless charging unit. And these words came from the MC, Suzi Perry’s mouth “This is the first smartphone to have wireless charging built in to the device.” Perhaps, forgetting the Palm Pre range of phones, that all had TouchStone charging built in to the back cover?
Genuinely, I have no problem at all with the services and features that the SIII offers. It’s the direction all mobile technology is moving in. But, being Android’s biggest manufacturing partner, you’d assume that Samsung would adopt a more “open” mentality when it comes to the services available. Instead they’ve seen that Apple’s walled garden approach works – in terms of making lots of money – and are copying that approach. Making everything proprietary and pretending like they’re the first to think of it. At this point, it seems that with TouchWiz virtually covering any hint of Android-ness, and all these proprietary options, that Samsung could almost create its own operating system and move away from Google’s altogether. This is not a phone for Android fans. It’s a phone for Samsung fans.
The hypocrisy in this is sensational. Samsung’s ads are all anti-Apple “sheep”. They’re supposedly against the way that Cupertino draws huge interest and generates hype, and a loyal following. But, by creating all these services, and this Samsung-only ecosystem, it’s slowly becoming Apple. It is the iPhone-makers biggest competitor for a reason, and that will continue. Apple’s mentality, and approach to products works very well, and Sammy knows it. GSIII – Less innovation, and more adapting a few iPhone features and rebranding them. Time for a brief mention of the iPod Nano-like Pebble MP3 player? Perhaps not. The only thing they mentioned was that it existed. No demo, no details.
What are your thoughts on all these “new” features? Is it just me that sees the copying (since I’m an Apple fan) or is it something that’s obvious to everyone? Needless to say, I smell a lawsuit coming.