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.

14 Responses to “More thoughts on Samsung”

  1. Renaldo

    I just want to say thank you for being a sane opposition to the MG’s and Gruber’s of the world. I love how someone on your last post pretty much tried to prove you wrong, and then cited “9to5mac” as the resource.

    Go ahead and file that comment under “ookaaaaaay” as well.

    So yes, I’m an Android fanboy, and I have been one since I rooted my G1 in January of 2009. I used to be a huge HTC fan (Let’s be serious, the Nexus One was a phenomenally designed piece of hardware) until they pretty much outed themselves as being anti-dev by releasing source code 6 months after a device drops, and the bootloader nonsense that they’re finally making amends on.

    Samsung’s marketing has really taken off, and just by being the “Anti-Apple” company with their advertising and even legal troubles, I’m firmly a fan.

    I love the Galaxy Nexus, and when looking at some of the filth that comes out the iSheeple collective, there’s a huge “Dude, you’re a barista” moment.

  2. Meester Bleester

    Meh. Samsung copied Apple because their engineers were under intense time pressure to produce something, and their upper management was too dumb to realize the implications (if they realized at all). In other words, it wasn’t a planned conspiracy, it’s what happens when you tell a bunch of engineers, “Quick! Catch up!”. In fact, I bet the dizzy managers didn’t consider that they would loose Apple’s manufacturing business, or much of anything else, when the original phones were designed.

    Now that Samsung’s smart phone process has matured, you see the results of UX design first (e.g. the GSII). I doubt you’ll see much more copying of Apple. But I call bullshit when you suggest that there Samsung didn’t copy Apple. The evidence is abundant.

    I also call bullshit that most Android buys are making a conscious decision. What makes you say that? You could say most iPhone buyers are making a conscious choice, because everyone knows what an iPhone is. You could say most GSII buyers are making a conscious choice, because it’s a damn expensive phone, not something you just buy on a whim. But I think 3/4ths of Android buyers have no idea they’re buying an Android. They can’t tell you the difference between Android or Symbian or Meego or Windows Mobile. They’re buying a phone because their mobile plan qualifies them for a free phone. They will never use email, or web browsing, or wifi. For evidence, I point you to the latest reports of app purchases and web browser stats.

    While it’s fair to call Gruber and Uber Apple Fanboi, you sir and an Uber Apple Hater. You really want to see them go down, don’t you? Why is this?

  3. John Upstandish

    iTunes is the #1 reason that I recently switched from an iPhone to a Samsung GSII. iTunes causes me nothing but problems, both on Windows and OSX. I don’t know why other people seem to have better experiences with it than I do, but I found iTunes to be extremely slow, lacking in some key features (e.g. automatic scanning of file system for new media), and very unpleasant to use. I’ve always been surprised that iTunes could come from a company that claims to put so much thought and effort into usability. If I ever see another rainbow wheel again, it’ll be too soon.

  4. jake

    I don’t think at any point anybody has argued or believed that these people are being actively tricked into buying something that they believe to be something else. The simple fact is that a hell of a lot of the stuff that Samsung has recently puts out looks a hell of a lot like stuff that Apple put out beforehand. As a generalazation, I would say that most are arguing that Samsung products wouldn’t be selling nearly as well if they didn’t copy Apple, not because they wouldn’t be able to trick people, but because their products would be significantly less polished and beautiful (like the Apple products they copy).

  5. Jim

    @John Upstandish – Ugghh, I’d believe you if you knew what you were talking about. iTunes? Really? I own an iPhone 4 and have not opened iTunes since my update to iOS 5.0. Put this in your pocket for future clueless rants: you do not need to open or run iTunes to use the iPhone with 5.0 update!!!! You might also want to update your computer from that Performa you are using.

  6. Kevin Fox

    There’s a serious flaw in your logic here, Dan. You state:

    “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.”

    The trouble is that this has no bearing on whether Samsung copies Apple. Say you have two hypothetical phones, one completely original phone that came out first from Company A and a successor from Company B that is identical to Company A’s phone except for 5 features that it has which surpass Company A’s phone.

    People who choose to buy Company B’s phone do so because of the ways it is unlike Company A’s phone. Company B’s phone may even be objectively better in this hypothetical example, yet this in no way counters the argument that Company B copied major aspects of Company A’s phone before going off and augmenting it.

  7. John S. Wilson

    I find it funny that you reply in this manner when Dan said some things that were completely unvetted. Samsung “says” they sold the most smartphones yet haven’t shared actual facts to prove that. Google “says” they are activating 700,000 devices daily, but again, have yet to prove it. My point in saying all this is that as much as you want to criticize Apple fans for blindly following Apple, you exhibit the same behavior for Google and Android when you conveniently don’t inquire about substantiation of claims they make, or journalists make on their behalf.

  8. Jason Diaz

    I think Dan insight is nearsighted. Most Android users are loyal to the carriers’ price plans and contracts, most users want something that functions like an iPhone. I’m not sure if you have notice the latest market share percentages of Android and IOS. Android is proving bubbly. Once T-Mobile get the iPhone. And it more of a question of when than if. All bets are off.

    Some guy put it like this: iOS profit share and market share will be obscene, X-Rated even.

  9. rezonate

    Thank god you wrote this. I stumbled upon the daringfireball site and what a mess it is. I mean, does anyone buy into the snarky, schoolyard stuff it spews out? It’s not so much fanboy writing, but outright bullshit. Articles designed to skew the reader’s attention in one direction – Apple does no wrong. When it does wrong, then it’s ok because the site won’t comment on it, and if it does make a comment, it will be so predictable a response that one wonders how on earth the author doesn’t laugh his off at it.

    While the news of Acer and Samsung copying Apple has reached orgasmic levels on the Apple fanboy sites – to levels that makes one wonder if the writers think Apple invented the wheel – they fail to point out the times Apple has outright ripped off other’s apps and also when they basically stole Nokia’s IP (and rightfully got their balls cut for it :) )

    daringfireball… It’s Apple apologist drivel that tries to steer the reader into an Apple sympathetic world-view. Usually this comes after a competing device has been released, commentatry elsewhere that is scathing of Apple, or Apple is shown as the not-so-good company in the media. The analysis is merely pretending to be slightly objective but always in the direction of Apple.

  10. rezonate

    Good on you!

    I have an iPhone and it blows dead dog dick. It truly does, it feels so antiquated compared to Windows Phone, and Android.

    Siegler, Gruber, and a few other Apple fanboy sites, all mutually gloat over each other’s “articles” and so predictable.

    They suck.

  11. John Upstandish

    My point was that giving up iTunes isn’t a trade-off you make in switching away from the iPhone. It’s a benefit.

  12. Mario


    “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.”

    Honestly I know 2 people who actually did it like that.



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