What To Like About The Galaxy S4 Compared To The iPhone

Do specs on a phone matter? Right now, yes. But
in a year’s time we’ll be looking at standardized
smartphones differentiated by the culture of the
manufacturer and the services they provide, as
much as we will care about the slab and how it
performs. Specs will matter but only because you won’t be a player without an excellent device. The
S4 is a step in that direction. It has good specs, of course, though I harbor
reservations about screen size and screen
resolution. Air gesture control of the
smartphone? In time it might become one of
those interface quirks that everybody raves
about, especially in the kitchen where you want to browse but have dirty hands. Power and
speed? Well Samsung had to win the Android
specifications race yesterday so of course, it has
built a powerful tool in the S4. The specification race, however, is what has
always attracted me to Apple‘s philosophy, until recently – keep out of it as far as you can. see photosGetty Images Click for full photo gallery: Samsung Debuts The
New Galaxy S IV There is an underlying wisdom in that position. It
is not Apple’s alone. BMW invested heavily in
emotional design from the mid-1990s onwards as
they realized that their advantage in engine
performance was dwindling away to nothing.
Apple, after Jobs came back, were doing the same until recently. That’s why I think the S Band and the S health
monitoring services on the S4 point the way to
where smartphones have to go – true lifestyle
computing. And why Samsung could unseat
Apple as king of innovation. But first there are
conditions Samsung will have to meet. From the bars of Seoul to those of London this
summer, people will be showing off smart scroll,
gesture control and of course those screens. These are the types of innovations people like to
share in the pub. They are good conversation
starters, for a while. But the smartphone
industry is running out of room for these types of
innovations too. New competitors like Huawei have a background in networks (as did Nokia of course and as does Samsung) and not surprisingly are looking to
maximize phone performance from a network
standpoint. Hence Huawei recently launched the
phone with the fastest download speeds yet.
Huawei’s grand plan is to overtake Apple and
Samsung and, for an engineering company like Huawei, that means more specifications. Samsung knows very well what this intensified
competition means. Lower margins for high-end
functionality. Apple somewhat insulates itself from that type of
commoditization. But its margins are also under
pressure, so much so that it is expected to widen
its range of phones this year, to keep the
revenues flowing. There is also a historical truth underlying these
trends. Companies in the west have realized for
the past three decades that product is easy to
copy and easy to reproduce. Apple has had that
experience with Samsung, after all. But what is
almost impossible to reproduce is a corporate culture that is truly customer-centric. And to be
that, you need first class service delivery and service innovation. That brings me to my first gripe with Samsung’s S
service. It is a feature. As yet it is not actually a
service that leads anywhere. It could be a
standalone accessory – and in fact the new wearable S Band is exactly that. Kudos to Samsung though for the way it is
addressing the lifestyle computing paradigm.
Whereas Apple believes its devices are a lifestyle,
Samsung has begun positioning the S4 as a
lifestyle companion. The website for the device is neatly divided between fun, relationships, life tasks and life
care, with each one containing a small number of
S4 applications. Under life tasks for example, Samsung has its
new driver assistance app Voice Drive. But then
there are some odd classifications such as
HomeSync (fun surely?) and Smart Pause
(usability feature, no?) under the life task
category. These mis-classifications show Samsung to be a
relative beginner at describing and organizing its
lifestyle computing applications. That too gives
Apple time to do the transition from its currently
quite arrogant view of the device as lifestyle, to a
new lifestyle computing paradigm built around the iPhone. It’s worth comparing how Apple positions the
iPhone on its website compared to how Samsung
is positioning the S4. On its features page Apple is showcasing the retina display, size and power; on the in-built apps page, Apple is showcasing maps, camera, video, Siri, passbook, and then web functions like
email. Now I don’t want to say these are not so
interesting but they are dangerously close to
what the competition is now doing as well if not
better. What’s missing is a page called services,
the things Apple and its devices will do for you,
and the support it provides to your lifestyle. Top of most of our lists for lifestyle care is health. Samsung has made a start on that. Its S Band and
health monitor, the latter introduced in the S III,
don’t go much further than an existing band or
health data service. But look down the tracks a
little at what Samsung could do or allow
customers to do. Of course people will want to share this
information as they have with Nike +. Maybe insurers and hospitals will want users to
share that information with them too. Currently
an insurer will ask about your health background,
smoking and alcohol intake but why not your
daily exercise regime too? You might fake health
data by giving a friend your band for a month but would you give them your mobile? There are also revenues to be earned by guiding
people through the maze of their potential health
risks. We are only at the beginning of the
preventive health journey and for most of us
“health” still means hospital or doctor, when it
could mean adviser, mentor, educator. Or the smartphone can bring health up to date
with real time information. Here’s a case in point. Recently I was admitted to
hospital for a viral infection. The infection was
discovered after a blood test was phoned through
from the hospital lab to my family doctor. After a five hour wait to see a hospital specialist
in A+E, it turned out that the hospital had lost
the blood results. This was Friday night. That
meant new blood tests and 30 hours on a trolley
waiting on that, because the doctors did not
believe my testimony. That could all have be solved by a secure health
monitoring service that I control, that could
receive essential medical information, and that I
could have shown them. Those hours on the
trolley in A+E cost my insurer the best part of
$2,000. The health system is in crisis and we are trying to
pick our way through it. Samsung should really
capitalize on this and partner with as many
companies as it takes to make its health service
more comprehensive than a fitness check, and as
necessary as a doctor. If you start a service then be sure it meets your
customers’ needs. Device companies like Apple
and Samsung are scared of this because they
prefer the product innovation cycle. Will
Samsung summon up the nerve to invest in
services the way it invests in components? Somehow I doubt it but really, where else can
smartphone makers

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