Why the Apple and Samsung device competition is great for consumers
One of the great tech rivalries that have emerged over the past 6-10 years has been that between Apple and Samsung for the hearts and minds of consumers of smartphones, smartwatches and headphones. Apple started the smartphone revolution in 2007, but Samsung, using its version of Android, joined the smartphone race soon after and made serious inroads into the lucrative field of mid-to-high-end handhelds. . Shortly after Apple introduced the Apple Watch and AirPods, Samsung also innovated around these devices, and many now see them as an equal competitor to Apple on all of those products mentioned above.
Each fall, Apple and Samsung host global launch parties for new models to take advantage of the holiday shopping season. For the past three or four years or so, Samsung has made sure to announce its new premium smartphones ahead of Apple and used mid-August for the fall Unpacked events. If Apple complies with last fall’s introductions, we should see the new iPhones, Apple Watch, and AirPods debut in the first two weeks of September.
The good news about this rivalry is that consumers are the big winners as each company pushes the other for more innovation.
Earlier this week, Samsung threw its big release party for its new Galaxy Z Fold3 phones, Galaxy 4 watches, and Galaxy Buds 2.
As a serious Apple watcher over the past 40 years who has watched many companies try to compete with Apple and fail, Samsung has both the technical prowess and the deep pockets that most others don’t. have not appreciated. Indeed, Samsung is a global industrial and consumer products company whose mobile division has become one of its biggest success stories and cash cows.
I’ve been or watched all of Samsung’s Unpacked events since their inception, and every time I marvel at the innovation they continue to bring to their devices. The new Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3 are by far the best foldable phones we can buy today. The new health monitoring built into the Galaxy Watch 4, which now includes real-time BMI measurements and the ability to monitor blood pressure, brings new advancements in smartwatches. The new Galaxy Buds 2, with superb sound and active noise cancellation at $ 149, is $ 40 cheaper than Apple’s AirPods Pro.
Another thing that is clear is that Samsung has also become much better at marketing its products. Prior to 2017, I considered Samsung’s marketing of their devices to be anemic at best. However, over the past three or four years, Samsung’s marketing of their devices has become world-class. Apple still surpasses Samsung by a high margin in marketing, but the quality and creativity of Samsung’s marketing campaigns for its new products have been outstanding.
As you can imagine, Apple keeps a close eye on what its competitors are doing and has never taken Samsung’s push for continuous innovation for granted. Apple’s interest in Samsung’s stronger commitment to mobile innovation and creative marketing is a good thing. It also motivates Apple to innovate, although given Apple’s history of creating breakthrough innovative products, I doubt they need Samsung to push Apple’s innovation buttons.
Watching Samsung’s Unpacked event this week, I walked away with some thoughts on Apple’s fall launch in September.
1-Samsung’s main product announcements at the fall 2021 event focused heavily on foldable phones. Given the rumors circulating around an Apple iPhone 13 launch next month, it seems unlikely that Apple will surprise us with a foldable phone. I don’t believe Apple is very demanding on foldable form factors at all. In brief discussions with Apple executives over the years about foldable devices, the question of the business case comes up over and over again. This is a question that still has no real answer. We will sell nearly 3 billion smartphones in 2021 and a micro percentage of them will be foldable models. On the one hand, Samsung’s prices are high. The Galaxy Z Fold3 starts at $ 1,799. At this price, it’s called executive jewelry.
I tried the first model of the Galaxy Fold three years ago and wrote that it was more of a device in development. Version 2 was better, and on paper, the Galaxy Z Fold3 overcomes the shortcomings of models 1 and 2 and shows more promise. Hopefully, I can test one of them in real time and develop a more solid business case for foldable smartphones, in addition to its ability to become a small tablet as well.
After the introduction of the first foldable Samsung, I was part of a small task force for a Fortune 100 company that was considering using it for a large mobile field force. I advised against it then because I felt that this first model would be underperforming according to their needs. It remains to be seen whether this third version will be able to meet the needs of business customers.
As for Apple, I haven’t seen or heard of any serious interest in developing a foldable iPhone any time soon. Again, the use case for these is still small and the demand is minimal at best. Apple wouldn’t even consider making a foldable smartphone unless it thought it could sell it in the tens of millions. Without this assurance, Apple could simply stay on the sidelines.
2- The two new advancements of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, BMI measurement and blood pressure monitoring are really important. As Samsung pointed out in its preview of the new BMI feature, older solutions for measuring this metric need external tools. Samsung has shown off a clever set of in-watch sensor inventions that it claims has a 98% accuracy rate when using its new watch to take this BMI measurement. Every time I have my annual physical exam, I have to do a BMI test. Doing this on demand is a big deal and if it works as stated, it is a significant advancement in wearable technology.
The function of blood pressure is also very important. Many people, including myself, have to take their blood pressure daily for a variety of health and heart problems. Having this integrated into the Galaxy Watch 4 is a serious differentiator and could help Samsung grow its wearable business. I would be pleasantly surprised if both of these features feature on the new Apple Watch that will release this fall, but I’m not expecting them just yet.
3- The Galaxy Buds 2, with active noise cancellation at $ 149, make these types of headphones much more user-friendly. I would love to see Apple get more aggressive on pricing for its AirPods Pro and Samsung’s price drop on its headphones could put pressure on Apple to maybe lower the price of its headphones a bit this fall.
One final observation from the Samsung Unpacked event.
As noted above, I have attended several Samsung Unpacked events in person, the last of which took place in San Francisco in mid-February 2020. While these were also streamed, attend the event in person was more of a real-time experience. But since then, Samsung has held its last three Unpacked events exclusively online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The last in-person launch event at Apple’s Spaceship was in September 2019. Since then, Apple has broadcast all of its product launches as well as two developer conferences online.
While I miss the in-person events, I’m much more inclined to want these events to just stream in real time in the future. It’s cheaper to do this for both companies compared to the cost of a live event, and it takes a lot less strain on analysts, press and business friends who often have to come from Asia, Europe. and other parts of the world. United States for any live product launch.
Neither Samsung nor Apple have made any statements about future live events, but if this past year has taught us anything, using streaming video events to launch new products achieves roughly the same results as ‘an in-person event, minus the immediate hands. on experiences. I can live with this.