Samsung’s latest smartphone, the long-awaited Galaxy Alpha looks pretty much like an iPhone, which should tell us something about the state of the industry. Both Samsung and Apple have hit ‘the wall.’
Smartphones have matured and the days of dramatic innovation, started by Apple’s iPhone in 2007, have mostly ended. Today’s smartphones have larger and higher quality screens, they hold more apps, the apps are better than ever, and battery life hasn’t improved much, while graphics have. Apple added a Retina display which Samsung copied. Apple added Touch ID which Samsung copied. Apple added a metal body with chamfered edges which Samsung copied.
That list could go on for awhile but you get the idea. For now, disruptive innovation has been replaced by iterative innovation in the form of improvements, though one could argue that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha has taken a few steps backwards.
It’s more of an iPhone-inspired knockoff than previous Galaxy models, only has 32GB of storage and no Micro SD expansion slot, though it sports plenty of RAM (which Apple’s iPhone could use more of), a much maligned fingerprint sensor, and a fast, octa-core CPU which still doesn’t top Apple’s 64-bit A7 (Android is 32-bit, while Android smartphone and tablet CPUs remain 32-bit).
Otherwise, the Galaxy Alpha is more bling than bang. Why? The wall. Until Apple or some unknown competitor shows the way to the future, Samsung, Xiaomi, and other knock-off smartphone makers are merely re-mixing current ingredients and expecting something special to come out of the oven.
The wall that smartphone and tablet makers have hit should be expected. Products mature over time and become similar across the industry, but that does not make every smartphone a commodity product. Differentiation still rules– except at Samsung and Xiaomi whose very business model depends on Apple designs to lead the way.
Whatever Apple does this year you can be sure Samsung and Xiaomi will do next year. But what if Apple cut prices?