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Samsung is more innovative than Apple? Steve Kovach thinks so

Steve Kovach writing for Business Insider has published a real humdinger of a piece claiming that Samsung is now out-innovating Apple in the mobile market. I disagree and  here’s why.

Naturally, Kovach’s first paragraph is filled with statements that can’t be argued with, especially in regards to Apple having lead the way in making mobile phones what they are today. Kovach mentions that that competitors are “leapfrogging” Apple with features that can’t be found on their devices. He fails to point out a single feature that has bested Apple’s at this point. He then suggests that “evidence is everywhere” and then points to Samsung as the main threat.

Kovach goes on to suggest that Samsung’s Galaxy line is “synonymous” with Google’s Android operating system. I highly doubt it. I would wager that most Galaxy users have no idea what software they are running, or who makes that software, and they probably don’t care. This is all fine and good, but far from “synonymous”.

The piece goes on to hold up the Galaxy Note (and Note II) as proof that Samsung is innovating, by releasing a cheese platter with a stylus. Kovach’s only proof that this device is worth a damn is sales numbers (Note sold 10 Million, Note II sold 5 Million so far). He even admits that he bashed the product in his own review. Following this logic, The Ford Fiesta would be a higher-quality, better performing car than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class because Ford sold more Fiestas? This line of logic eludes me- mostly because it makes no sense.

The article goes on to note that Samsung “isn’t afraid to tout its cool factor” with their ads mocking Apple customers. You know the ads, the ones where someone with a Galaxy phone is showing it off to a bunch of people standing in a line, presumably at an Apple store. To my mind, those ads barely show off a feature of the Galaxy and do nothing more than make fun of and alienate the very people they are trying to lure away. Besides, why do I want to touch your phone with mine, when I could send you a video file from anywhere in the world? It makes a nice demo I suppose.

It is then suggested that Samsung is really pushing the envelope with software updates, and adding features to the Android platform.

On the software side of things, Samsung is taking advantage of its mobile devices’ processing power to layer premium features on top of Android, such as the ability to run two apps at once in a split screen or separate window. Samsung’s best tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1, can do all that plus take advantage of a stylus so you can draw and take notes on the screen.

Let me translate this chunk of wisdom into english. Processing power is still held as the gold standard for how awesome your computer is. Apple has taken things the opposite direction and made that irrelevant to consumers. You don’t need to know what the clock speed is if apps just behave correctly and responsively.

Next up is the “Samsung’s best tablet” bit. How many tablet lines do you need? Apple has one with two sizes- iPad and iPad mini. Then he states “take advantage of the stylus”. Really? A major selling feature in 2013 is a stylus? Excuse me while I go draw in the mud with a stick.

After touting the split-screen app feature of the Note 10.1, he points out that only 20 apps currently support the feature. It must be so fantastic that developers are just rushing to implement the feature. Kovach also notes that Samsung is quick to push out new version of Android (I do applaud them in that regard), and new features like the Google Now voice assistant. Which, you know, was rolled out by Google.

Changing corse the piece then touts Windows 8 which has “a lot of advantages over iOS”. The advantage he points out once again, but this time for Windows 8, is the ability for apps to run in a split-screen mode. Oh, and the main menu can display real-time updates. I guess he forgot that both Android and iOS have Notification Center. Should I also mention that reviews of the Windows Surface Pro tablets have routinely mentioned a compromised experience?

Wrapping up, Kovach notes that Apple’s latest iPad has an excellent processor, but the software doesn’t take advantage of it. Here, I believe he thinks things should look new for them to actually be new. Apparently a nice, clean grid of icons is too stale for him.

In these following two paragraphs, Kovach really proves his lack of understanding of Apple:

Apple also isn’t nearly as versatile at adding new software features to its devices. Apple usually makes users wait a year or more for a new version of iOS, and even then some older devices can’t access all the latest and greatest features.

Apple CEO Tim Cook likes to say tablets — not laptops — are the future of computing, yet it feels like Apple’s software goes out of its way to limit what you can do on the machine.

Apple takes time to polish and perfect a feature before releasing it into the world. Once a year, and it hits with a splash. Kovach then grumbles about how older devices can’t use all of the new software features. I guess he forgot the 90s, or how software and hardware work together. Computers are always getting faster in order to accommodate software that pushes the boundaries. Some software features just wouldn’t work on slower older-generation devices. Instead of sacrificing batter life or system perforce like other manufacturers might, the feature is cut from that older product. Also, how do you think Apple became the most profitable company in the world? By creating products incrementally and pushing forward constantly.

This was obviously a link bait piece by Mr. Kovach. It’s rarely backed up with fact, just hunches and sales numbers. Even the video that accompanies the article is misleading. Apple’s profits were not flat this last quarter as the report claims. No, the law of large numbers has caught up with them. Profit was still up (a little) and revenue was way up.

The video also points to a chart showing Samsung with 32% mobile phone market share. Did they report who had the highest profit share in the mobile phone industry? Hint: it was Apple.

Apple is still the major innovator in this market, both in regards to product and manufacturing process. What gets glossed over when people like Mr. Kovach talk about Apple, are the intangibles. Things like fit and finish, material quality, design, weight, density- everything that comes together to create one solid, satisfying product. No one ever seems to talk of that with competing Android phones, probably because there aren’t any that meet Apple’s level of fit and finish. So, in an effort to stand out they try to dazzle customers with tech numbers and larger and larger screens.

This is starting to feel like the processor speed battles of the 90s. The same fragmentation that is causing PC vendors from the 90s to falter, will eventually happen to mobile phones. I’m looking at you Android.

Apple needs to stay on it’s toes, but for now, they’re still on top.


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  • mavman

    the name of this website is iSource of course you disagree you isheep.

    • Really? That’s the best you can do to add to the discussion–iSheep? If you read our articles, you would see that even though we have a fondness for Apple products, most of us are open-minded, and very willing to discuss/debate opinions. Going right for the iSheep label is not very original.

    • As Renkman mentioned – please take a look at the content of the site. Many of us (myself included) own Android based devices, in fact my daily driver is a Note 2.

      So please… don’t be an A-Troll.

    • camelsnot

      poor toolbag apple fan

  • stevesup

    Samsung wishes; Apple dishes.

  • AdamChew

    Every time someone claimed that android is better it is because they said so and they constantly need to reaffirm their buying decision is right.

    • TBN27

      as a former android user, i can say that there are some cool about it that makes it worth having. like the true multitasking feature, and customizing the screens. everything else seems similar to iOS. but what kills the experience of android is reliability and the inability to get the latest version of the OS without rooting.

      • David Warner

        I was an avid iOS user up until about a year ago. I didn’t switch immediately and owned several iOS devices when I bought my first Android based device. For about 4-5 months, I experimented with both. In the end, I ended up making the switch. I wouldn’t say that one was particularly better than the other, but the Android device just seemed to fit “me” better. I have many devices on my cellular plan, and limiting the number of “authorized” devices was a real speed bump for because of my large family. Other features such as microSD slots, user customizable interface, and other small items were what finally pushed me to switch.

        To say that Android is unreliable, I think is misleading. I have have very few issues with any of my devices. I agree, some of the carriers are a little slow to approve the latest firmwares for the devices that they carry, but this isn’t the fault of the manufacturer of a particular device either. The manufacturers, for the most part, are quick to keep their newer devices updated. It is the carriers that prolong the wait in approving the updates.

        Finally, I got a little irritated at AT&T and Apple pairing up to force owners into changing their plans. Limiting certain features of device based solely because a customer does not want to get rid of their unlimited data plan and move to a shared data plan is just plain wrong. There is no other way of looking at it.

        These are just my experiences, and I do not “hate” Apple or the iOS, but it just stopped being the better option for me recently.

        • TBN27

          I see your point. You go with what works for you. Open mind on technology is great.
          You touch on the subject of android and it’s reliability, it isn’t misleading at all. It is one of the reasons I switched to iOS. I had android smartphones for 4 years. 1 each year and all 4 gave me major operational problems. I would’ve stayed and gotten a Nexus 4 but it was hard to get, and the phone I had was malfunctioning so badly that I just left altogether.
          Another example is a friend of mine updated his global Galaxy S3 to jellybean and he had to find a way to change it back to ice cream sandwich because the update had a battery killing bug. There was no update announced to fix it. There are many more issues like this.

        • David Warner

          That’s cool. Looks like you and I just had different experiences altogether.

          I’ll never say that I won’t make the switch back, I just think that it’s going to take something revolutionary again like the iPhone was when it first hit the market.

          Until then….. Cheers brother.

  • When I install a new system for a customer, especially one that already has an existing system installed, I never take an ultra hard line approach when it comes to our competitors. I always tell them that most of the other systems out there today have the same or similar features. If they didn’t have at least competent products, they wouldn’t be in business. What truly differentiates us from our competitors is US- the quality and service that we provide directly to the customer. At a certain point, the device specs just become boiler plate. What you are really buying into at then end of the day are other elements like service, reliability, and design.

    While the mobile market has been in an incredible period of growth and change, we are getting close to this point. Innovation is great, but the pace is going to slow. It’s inevitable. That is the nature of technology. When an area of tech matures, the pace slows, and companies look to refine and build on what they have until the next period of “disruption.”

    One could argue that Apple has pumped the brakes too early, but it isn’t that they are at a dead stop. They have spent their time and efforts refining what they have in iOS and their very broad range of products and services (a range that even Samsung can’t match in terms of computers, mobile devices, OSs, and ecosystem).

    As a parallel to my previously mentioned business, Apple differentiates itself on device build quality and great service. Samsung must agree, since they have copied Apple’s store design, the place you go to get that great hands-on service that no one else can match right now, and copied it right down to the color scheme. That service and device build quality is just as, if not more, important than throwing new features and sizes against the wall to many of us. That’s what I sell customers every day, and it sells VERY, VERY well.

    • Gecko

      True it’s all about what the person actually needs a device for now a days. Both devices are good to their extent, you do have to admit though that Samsung has built in a lot more capabilities into their devices that make productivity a lot easier then what apple has, while apple has more of that everyday use. Now before you bash me, not everyone needs those productivity features, it’s situational. For example, if you are a manager at some company and doing some walk to see different things you can improve on, it’s a lot easier to write notes with the Galaxy Note 2, then it is to type in notes on a small 4″ screen. Or maybe if you are currently going to school, the Note 10.1 makes taking notes easier in regards to the stylus, because the stylus does actually interface with the screen. What i mean by this is you can actually shut off interaction from you fingers or hands so you can actually rest your hand on the screen without marking the screen up while writing with the stylus. This allows you to take notes for hours without getting carpal tundral syndrome. Or if you are a heavy internet browser, having a larger screen feels more natural to read web pages. The android devices are a lot more universal to just work with multiple devices, as an example you can send pictures to photo kiosks inside say walmart via Bluetooth, while Iphone is closed source and not capable.

      Now that said, the Iphone gives you a smaller design so you aren’t carrying around this huge device if you have small pockets or don’t care for internet browsing or anything. There are also many more “fun” apps that you can get on the apple store that the android market doesn’t have, however android does have some. Also, if you are into photography, the camera on the Iphone is absolutely amazing, the picture quality that comes out of it is phenomenal.

      Honestly the best way you can compare the two is Samsung is the Lexus to the apple Mercedes, Samsung has the luxuries, while apple has the name and style. So capabilities or look and feel.

      • Gecko

        And yes, I do sell both devices on a daily basis, and some people just need more application use which Samsung delivers, but if you don’t need the extra functions, Apple has the smaller sleek design.

        • I think a lot of Android users sell iOS short when it comes to power. Just because the power of a device or OS doesn’t reside right up front in user facing settings and widgets, doesn’t meant that it doesn’t exist. I can’t tell you the last time I had a current gen iOS device lag doing anything. I guess it may have been the original iPad. That’s a LONG TIME, and there are plenty of powerful and demanding 3rd party apps out there in the iOS ecosystem. That’s “application use,” as I would term it.

          As for Android, while it has come light years in terms of lag, it can still be found. There were plenty of occasions where I noticed my Nexus 7 getting a bit behind, even with the positive effects of “Project Butter.” Not horrible, but it was still noticeable.

          However, the big difference between platforms for me is STILL in apps. The power of iOS is still the thorn in Google’s side. While there are fewer apps out there today that are iOS only (but still several that I use often), many cross-platform efforts on Android pale in comparison with their iOS counterparts.

          For example, I use WebIS’ Pocket Informant and DataViz’s DocsToGo daily on both my iPhone and iPad Mini. I have TRIED to use them both on Android, but they are so bad. SO BAD. Missing features, broken features, crashes. Ugh They just don’t work. I know the fault lies with the developers here, but the result to the user is still the same- a great experience on iOS and an inferior one in Android. And these are just two examples. I can think of more, especially in gaming (Real Racing 2. Don’t even get me started), but it just makes me irritated since I paid good money for the three listed above on Android (one of which I can’t even use on my current Nexus 10- getting madder), so I’ll stop there.

          This isn’t Google or Samsung’s fault, but it is still an issue for Android, especially when it relates to power iOS users who are interested in migrating or being cross-platform users. THIS is an area that could use some innovation, because it is a real weakness. Whether it is better tools or incentives, why don’t one of these companies actually DO something about this?

          Anyway, while many may dismiss 3rd party apps and great, cheap dev tools in favor of built-in, up front, spec sheet features, there is still real power in apps. And that power still resides with iOS at the present time. Numbers of apps, espeically free apps, are absolutely meaningless. Look at the profits and usage stats. They are STILL dominated by iOS at a rate that is completely disproportionate to Android’s marketshare. Until Google or an OEM steps to the plate like Apple did with something as good as iWork, iMovie, or Garage Band, something that actually shows off the platform in a way that can be duplicated by a 3rd party app, this isn’t going to change. S Note is all fine and good, but Samsung is going to have to do better than that to really spur developers to look at Android first.

  • RedMercury

    Actually, I’ll give you one feature that Samsung has that Apple does not which absolutely amazes me. It’s an incredibly small thing and the sort of thing that Apple usually gets right. But this time, Samsung got it right.

    If you’ve used the Camera application on the Samsung Galaxy S3, you’ll notice that will do facial recognition and uses this feature to figure out who’s in the picture. Very handy because you can e-mail them directly. So take a picture of a buddy and e-mail them without even having to put the name in. That’s cute, but it’s not what I’m talking about.

    Samsung has added facial recognition into lots of areas of their phones. You can unlock your phone just by holding it up to your face. If it recognizes you, the phone unlocks. Works pretty well, but a picture of a person will unlock it so it isn’t the highest security setting.

    But here’s where it shines: Y’know when you’re reading something on your iPhone and the backlight dims after a bit? Samsung’s won’t do that! Before turning off the backlight, it turns on the camera to see if there’s a face in front of the screen. If there is, it doesn’t turn off the backlight!

    That’s innovative.

    This is a little thing that everyone will pooh-pooh, but one of the things you could say for Apple is that they get the little things right. If Apple can’t even get the little things right anymore, what hope do they have for getting the big things?

    • I would disagree to a certain extent. There are truly useful features that fill a glaring need, and there is stuffing the spec sheet to make an update look more impressive. The S Pen is a notable feature. NFC and touching phones- meh. S Voice and the like- nothing but “me too” spec sheet filler

      I would put the camera feature that you mention somewhere between NFC and S Voice. It isn’t a complete rip off of something else that is total crap, however, it has limited real-world usefulness to many users. Case in point, the last time I had to manually adjust the brightness in one of my iOS devices was when I ran the iOS 6 beta a little less than a year ago. And that was just because of a bug that lasted through a few beta versions. I wasn’t having any trouble with auto screen dimming or shutoff before that in iOS 5, either. It just isn’t an issue for most iOS user that I’ve heard from. I have never seen where there is an outcry for this feature.

      So, in a sense, Samsung solved a problem that didn’t really exist to prove a point and check a box. For a bigger phone with a bigger battery, sure, no big deal. That’s great. It isn’t going to negatively impact things, so why not. However, I have absolutely no desire to see this in an Apple product like the iPhone, which is smaller and therefore has a smaller battery (and I do personally prefer smaller devices with smaller screens). If given the choice between a feature that I have absolutely no use for whatsoever, and the battery life lost by turning on the camera module at certain intervals to check what I am doing, I will take the battery life every day and twice on Sunday.

      Maybe that’s just me, but because of my opinion, I see this feature of Samsung’s as the equivalent of the nice stereo speakers on the front of HTC’s newly announced One phone. I’m sure they are great for phone speakers, but at then end of the day, they are PHONE SPEAKERS. Anyone in their right mind who cares about listening to music is going to buy a nice set of headphones, connect to a stereo system, or at least get a descent Bluetooth speaker like a Jambox. It’s a stat sheet stuffer to me. Nothing more. This seems to be very important in the Android world, but to an iOS user like me, it’s just noise, not true innovation.

      • Nemms

        Unless, of course, Apple had thought of it. Then it would be an “amazing feature” and “truly innovative”.

        • Company PR spin aside (something Sammy lays on rather thick as well, and spends a hell of a lot more money on than Apple), users who know their tech know the difference in innovation and fluff. Smart Stay is fluff.

          Just for the record, I heard the entire Verge staff label Smart Stay as such, rather than real innovation while discussing upcoming Samsung releases and their notorious software glut. I also heard similar from Phil Nickenson from Android Central on Mobile Nations, as well. So it seems I share the same opinion as several verified Android experts.

  • TBN27

    i do agree that they have been more innovative this time around. however, i find some of the innovations to be gimmicks. i find that NFC to be a gimmick because it isn’t widely used and one will not always touch phones to transfer files. also that face unlock is just more annoying than not. it is great idea but it can’t recognize your face in the dark and also is lacking in security. that feature i feel should be removed because it is useless.

    i do like the new feature where the camera checks to see if there is a face reading the screen so it won’t shut off the screen. but everything else doesn’t grab me. what i would love to be innovated is for android and all these OEM’s is to kill the fragmentation and the bugs that come with it. the latter is why i gave up on android and gave away my Galaxy SII.

  • camelsnot

    definitely. Apple innovation has been on a decline, even when $teve Job$ was alive. All they had going for back then was his cocky attitude and smelly clothes. Now they don’t even have that. The thing that fanboys need to realize is EVERY company goes through cycles. All the major tech companies throughout the years have risen to stardom and subsequently fallen too. Apple isn’t above that. They just have more money is all. Now now.. don’t get all nerd-ragey over this. Stiffen up that quivering bottom lip in pimple-faced brand loyalist nerd rage. Blame apple, not the messenger.

    Can anything help Apple right now? No. Why? Because Apple taught companies how to survive in the emerging “next gen” tech world through brilliant marketing with adequate system integration. Sammy is doing better now that ever due to upgrading its marketing budget and seriously looking at their products from a consumer’s point of view. Like apple did years ago.

    3 years from now Apple will announce their hybrid iOSX in an attempt to do what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 8. A single OS. They will stop MacPro production and make their overpriced laptops touch-enabled. I think their plan will be a little more eloquent than what Microsoft has tried to do, however, microsoft has a lead now on the whole one OS thing. Google will do the same with Chrome and Android, as they gave the world a sneak peak at with their overpriced (mac pricing) Chrome Pixel. It will be an interesting time.

  • I have a GS3. I don’t understand why people think its the best phone ever. Its ok. My phone suffers from lag and the screen is hard to see in direct sunlight. I liked my HTC One X a lot better. I do like my phone, but if Apple were to make an iPhone with a 4.7-5 inch screen I could be swayed. But as it stands, I have big hands and like my big screen phones. I seriously do not understand the brand trashing that happens so much. I guess this is our generations Chevy vs Ford.