More thoughts on Samsung

Someone on Google+ responded to my post, “Enough with the Samsung bashing,” by saying that I have no idea what goes on inside Samsung and therefore I should not assume that they’re not a bunch of thieving cloners.

A few thoughts on this.

You’re right, I have no idea what goes on inside Samsung. Neither do the people who say Samsung does nothing but copy Apple. We can only go by what we see in the market. Yes, there are Samsung products that look a lot like some Apple products. Who knows? Maybe there really has been a concerted effort inside Samsung to copy Apple. Maybe these guys have had direct orders from the top down to just blatantly rip off Apple at every turn.

But if that’s the case how do we account for the fact that Samsung’s flagship phone, the Galaxy S II, the first real hit they’ve had, looks nothing at all like an iPhone? How do you argue that Samsung does nothing but copy Apple when this huge glaring exception is staring you in the face? The GSII is the phone that Samsung pushes in advertisements. It’s the phone that put Samsung on the map in the U.S., and it is the phone that helped make Samsung the top seller of smartphones. And as I pointed out in my post, it looks nothing at all like an iPhone. The Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Note have even less in common with the iPhone. The differences are numerous and range from huge to trivial. They charge via microUSB rather than the proprietary Apple connector. They run on 4G LTE networks.

Nobody buys a GSII, or Galaxy Nexus or Galaxy Note, because they saw the device in a store and thought it was an iPhone. For one thing, they have the word “SAMSUNG” stamped in big capital letters on them.

Nobody is getting tricked into buying a GSII. Nobody gets confused and walks out thinking they bought an iPhone and then gets home and is shocked to find out they bought a Samsung GSII.

Nobody buys a GSII or Nexus or Note because they really wanted an iPhone but thought that “this is just like an iPhone, only cheaper.” (For one thing, they’re not cheaper. And last I knew, in the U.S. you could get an iPhone 3GS for zero dollars with a contract. If you really want an iPhone, there’s nothing stopping you.)

Believe it or not, millions of people are buying these new Samsung high-end phones because they believe these phones are better (for them) than the iPhone.

A lot of those people looked at both phones, put them side by side, and decided they wanted the Samsung — not because of the ways in which it is like an iPhone, but because of the ways in which it is not like the iPhone.

Think about it. If you want a phone that’s just like an iPhone, you would get an iPhone.

Also: many millions of people do get the iPhone, and will continue to. It’s a fantastic device. I’ve had every version since the 3G.

But it’s not for everyone. Some people — a lot of people — want something else. Different strokes for different folks.

Maybe the people who buy the GSII or Galaxy Nexus want the bigger screen. Maybe they want 4G LTE. Maybe, believe it or not, they like Android.

I know this may be hard to believe, but every day 700,000 Android devices are activated and I think it’s safe to say that most of those 700,000 people made a conscious decision to buy the device they wanted and understood the trade-offs they were making when they went with Android versus Apple.

And the tradeoffs are significant. For one thing, there’s no iTunes. In fact managing media on the GSII is a very different (and more pain-in-the-ass) experience than on an iPhone. This is not a subtle difference. Media management is a huge part of the iPhone experience and one of the device’s biggest advantages.

When you buy a Samsung you do so knowing that you are giving up iTunes, and if, like me, you have all your music and movies stored in iTunes, you know that buying the Samsung means you’re going to have to work a little harder to get stuff on and off your phone.

Beyond that there is the app experience. There are more apps on iOS, and you might argue that the iOS App Store is better run and easier to use than the Android Marketplace. They’re certainly very different creatures. Even apps that run on both iOS and Android often look and feel very different on the two platforms.

Despite all these differences, millions of people are choosing Samsung and other Android phones over the iPhone. Not because they’re uninformed. Not because they’re being tricked or getting confused.

Keep in mind, this is a huge market opportunity. It’s not a zero sum game. Apple is going to have a great business, no matter how well Samsung and the other guys do. There’s room for everyone. I had lunch recently with a guy who works in the mobile space and I asked him who he thinks is going to win — Apple, Android or Windows Mobile. His answer: “All of them.” That sounds about right.