First of all, let’s just acknowledge that I have an iPhone. I’ve had one ever since the iPhone 3G (I’m not quite such an early adopter as to have bought the original 2G version). And, for the most part, I love the iPhone. Over the scant few years that it has been in existence, it’s truly changed how the world communicates and shares information. But let’s face it…the last few years have been a little blah as far as iPhone advances go. The headlines have been about the Retina display (iPhone 4), Siri and her associated challenges (iPhone 4S) and the larger 4″ screen (iPhone 5). Sure there have been advances under the hood, but I’ve been wanting something a little more…let’s just say sexy.
And that’s why last night’s announcement about the new Samsung Galaxy s4 was so exciting to watch. Eye tracking technology? AirWave gesture-based interface? A TV control app that uses an Infrared blaster? That’s a lot of buzz to get excited about. And it marks the first time that I’ve actually looked forward to the announcement of a smartphone other than an iPhone. And to me, that means that for the first time since the iPhone was introduced, the ball is truly in Apple’s court to respond. Rumors certainly abound about the next version of the iPhone. Could there be a fingerprint scanner? An even larger screen? I’m sure the iPhone rumor mill will kick into overdrive following Samsung’s announcement, and that is precisely why I believe every iPhone user should be thanking Samsung tonight.
Let’s face it, to remain innovative and cutting edge, we often need a rival to compete with. Coke needs Pepsi. Boeing needs Airbus. Nike needed Adidas (for many years the Nike vision statement was “Crush Adidas”). And, in the world of smartphones, Apple needs Samsung.
Samsung has put a huge target on Apple’s back. The launch of the new Galaxy s4 didn’t take place in Seoul, it took place in New York City at Radio City Music Hall. Samsung wants to beat Apple in the US, one of the few smartphone markets Apple still controls. Samsung might as well have sent a horse’s head to 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino. Now all eyes will be on Apple, ramping up the excitement for the next iPhone over the summer.
What will make this looming battle even more exciting is that the two companies have seemingly different strategies they are following. Samsung has long competed on hardware, and now has added a lot of “wow” software features. Apple has competed on simplicity of use and an integrated experience. There’s no way to know which will company will ultimately prevail, but I do know that the competition will be thrilling to watch and will likely lead to a slew of new innovations that we can’t begin to imagine today.
While eating lunch together earlier in the week, a friend perfectly summed up the predicament that Apple finds itself in today. Apple faces a lagging stock price and a market where the still very sophisticated iPhone 4 is being offered free to new subscribers in the US and eating into iPhone 5 sales. I asked somewhat rhetorically, “What went wrong for Apple?”
“They didn’t count on Samsung to be so strong,” he responded.
After today, perhaps the rest of us can count on Samsung to be strong enough to keep challenging Apple. And ultimately, we’ll all benefit. Even Apple.
NB: As much as Chipp loves innovation in the smartphone space, he secretly longs for a day when new phones are just introduced and not turned into made for TV spectaculars at Radio City Music Hall, the Moscone Center or anywhere in between.
This post first appeared on Synecticsworld’s website.