Because I’m a tech fan with a vested interest in keeping competition alive and well, about a year ago I offered Samsung some advice: start copying Apple again.
At the time – and until recently – Samsung has been taking a beating by the reviewerati for a lack of…whatever the reviewerati thought Samsung had been contributing to the consumer electronics market before 2013. Disappointments included stifled yawns at the release its flagship Galaxy S shartphones and the Galaxy Gear series of wearable devices that no one knew they wanted, mostly because they didn’t. The company’s books started to feature smaller black numbers: profits for the company are coming off their third consecutive quarter of decline and are sitting at a seven quarter low. Because Samsung have never really done anything in the way of design very well on its own, and because the court system designed to protect intellectual property in this country is a joke, I didn’t see a downside to Samsung going back to its larcenous ways. I guess the company was listening.
The Galaxy Alpha is Samsung’s triumphant return to the well. I know, I know: rounded rectangles yadda yadda. A lot of other phones have taken as much of a design cue from the iPhone 5/5S as the Alpha does, but it’s just that Samsung was so set on distinguishing itself from all the good-looking hardware, no doubt muttering “We don’t have to copy the iPhone. We don’t have to copy the iPhone” to themselves repeatedly the whole time. It’s good to see the company putting out a product so comfortably in their wheelhouse.
A couple of things struck me funny about Samsung’s announcement:
Timing: Just far away enough from Apple’s event to not seem like a freeze, but with a careful mention that the phone would be available in “early September” for
both the millions of people who were holding out for Samsung’s latest before buying an iPhone 6.
Concessions: Samsung’s Galaxy S series’ most notable feature used to be its pocket-busting display. Not so with the Alpha, which will feature a half-inch smaller 4.7” screen. Unfortunately, those monster screens were the thing that allowed larger batteries, which in turn allowed Samsung to make snarky commercials about the iPhone’s battery life. The Alpha’s battery will be a full 50% smaller, which is also why it will have a lower-resolution 1280 x 720 screen. It’s a shartphone that gets top billing for its primo construction, but then compromises on those Fandroid-boner-inducing specs to achieve that “premium” feel. Oh – and they’re also keeping the dimpled backside aka the Fat Man’s Ass. Kind of a mixed message there, Sammy.
This is where Samsung finds itself: not innovative enough themselves to design something people will want to buy, they’re going back to doing what they’ve always done – that thing that defines them as a company.