Every few weeks we read of a new smartphone that hits the market and many are dubbed the next iPhone killer or Galaxy S8 challenger. And every year the same thing happens. Samsung sells more smartphones than anyone else and Apple sells more iPhones and both take home most of the industry’s profits. It’s been that way for years and it’s not likely to change soon.
What about Google’s Pixel?
Some features are better than either Galaxy or iPhone, but the overall package is about the same as an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus or last year’s Galaxy S-whatever. What about the highly acclaimed OnePlus 5? It has the same problems as every iPhone and Galaxy competitor.
Product marketing has certain basics that must be adhered to; axioms or basic math. For a new product to unseat an industry leader, the new product must do everything the leader does, but be priced less. Otherwise, what’s the incentive or compelling reason for customers to switch? Likewise, but at the other end of the scale, a new product must be significantly better than the leading product, but priced less. Otherwise, what’s the incentive or compelling reason for customers to switch?
That’s how it works, folks.
In nearly every respect– or, at least, in every bullet point– Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are better than an iPhone. So, why won’t the nearly 1-billion iPhone customers switch? Because the differentiation is not sufficient; there’s no compelling reason to do so. Apple and Samsung leap frog one another every year. Apple’s iPhone is a moving target.
So, OnePlus 5 might have components that top the iPhone in every respect, but those bullet points are not as much part of the decision making process or the buying steps as technology media pundits would have us believe.
What about the original iPhone in 2007?
The switch from not-so-smartphones didn’t happen in 2007. It took years for smartphone makers to get Android OS into their devices. It’s Android– a copycat of iOS– and the iPhone which disrupted the smartphone industry and that took years, despite the obvious superiority of both platforms to what they replaced.
A new smartphone with roughly the same specifications of a Samsung Galaxy-whatever or a new iPhone but at half the price still struggles to make an impact in the market because there is not a sufficiently compelling reason for customers to switch.
Most of us do not simply switch phones and the process is not akin to buying new clothing, a new toaster, or a new car. The latter two work much the same way, but there are plenty of brand preferences. That’s the way it works, but only more so when it comes to our electronic devices. Each of us buys into an ecosystem of interrelated features and functions, layer on various services, and slowly adopt a learning curve into our day-to-day routine. Moving from one platform to another is more akin to learning a foreign language or a becoming a foreign exchange student.
There’s friction involved so different devices need to reduce that friction. iPhone did that starting in 2007 (Android a couple of years later) and the revolution took root and grew, but it did not happen overnight.
The only way to unseat the industry leaders is for device makers to build a better mousetrap– a much better mousetrap– and price it competitively. Since Apple and Samsung are moving targets competitors remain challenged to make a dent in the universe.