Samsung jumped the shark

Let’s face it, Samsung has jumped the shark. Apple will own the future if Samsung doesn’t start thinking in new ways. Before you read this: I use every technology available, but Apple holds an edge IMHO. I personally use and enjoy the S10+ as my secondary daily driver. And, for all it’s worth, I appreciate it more than my iPhone 11 Pro in many ways. Having said that, read on.

Samsung is racing to add even more features and functions into the already overloaded technology platform. And that’s the wrong approach. While communication platforms are evolving into convenient utility hubs, no one really wants the complexity. One can argue this is just another step to pervasive computing which I will close this article with. Yet Samsung continues to push devices with expanded features and functions without much concern for the human interactions they require. This hurts users.

Samsung makes elements of a cohesive experience and attaches them to all manner of products. Just like their phones. Samsung lacks applications that take our breath away and pull into a world of secure freedom that is not in the Samsung playbook. Even when they do create an ecosystem, it’s ordinarily underpopulated, incompatible, and strangely inconstant. Worst of all, it’s never set up for success. Who thinks of Samsung apps as “Boutique”? Who wants to have Bixby announcing that fact every time you pick up the phone and accidentally press a dedicated button???

That brings us to the Bixby button, and it’s blessed removal. This is an example of something no one wanted. This is related to the ever-expanding DSLR feature controls in the “Pro” mode in the camera application. This applciation challenges both finger size and memory of the most advanced users. There are so many small icons littered about the interface it cries out for proper DSLR buttons. This is a prime example of Samsung leveraging it’s former camera business technology and smashing it into the single hub mentality. One might make the argument that an assignable Bixby button might have been useful as a DSLR button. Going one step further, you could see modes where button assignments and feature locks allow a user to re-assign all the buttons and suspend services. This could keep calls, notifications, and anything else from intruding on photo time while in “Pro” mode. But that was not to be under the limited design vocabulary Samsung uses.

Balancing features and performance is a core competency that Apple is perfecting. Not Samsung. Releasing 8K video and insane zoom capabilities are OK if they worked with a clear balance to hardware. 8K video takes too much render time, takes an ungodly amount of storage, and is slow. Zoom past 10x can’t use image stabilization or it’s just poor execution. 120 refresh rates require you to step down the screen resolution. They could automate the switch but no, you are presented with a grayed-out message box instead.

Flip and fold phones are a thing of the future for sure, but the new Z phone is not it. It’s strange in every way. So costly that when it’s lost at the bottom of a purse, a woman will breakdown looking for it. Men will groan every time they have to reach down into a pocket trying to fish the smooth disc out It will be a new game of pocket polo. And let’s not get started on the tiny front side notification window. Yeah, let’s not do that at all. In fact, let’s totally ignore the Thom Browne Edition too.

We have to talk about the Elephant in the room. 5G. It’s not ready for prime-time. Period; full stop. It’s 3–5 years away for Metro centers, and god knows when for rural locations. While it’s great to be an early leader, it’s horrible not to optimize user experience and expectations. 5G will be one of the most frustrating and discussed features of new phones for years. It will force the market to evolve, but it will cost users dearly. Mostly in battery life. Apple is facing remarkably little backlash today for no 5G phones in order to match the infrastructure buildout. And that’s a sign Samsung should follow.

The Android trap is that every OEM is trapped by the Kernel. Google is the ADM of Android development. Each Kernel is a GM product that grows in a specific way. While it’s possible to modify anything, it’s not practical or safe. As GPZ researcher Jann Horn points out, “Android has been reducing the security impact of such code by locking down which processes have access to devise drivers, which are often vendor-specific,” explains Horn. That, and an endless parade of Samsung “Features,” aka bloatware, try to emulate an ecosystem that just does not work. Maybe in Korea, where everyone buys vertically and by brand, but not in the rest of the world where Samsung is just your cell phone. Android security and the deep integrations required to make things work correctly is nearly impossible on a leveraged platform.

It’s almost impossible, or at least horribly tricky, to manage and create timely updates and modifications for Samsung. Apple figured this out years ago. They laid out a vision and planned to optimize from chip to interface. That comes with huge costs and delays of core functionality to the market. Yet, Apple sticks with the core value statement. Maps are almost tolerable now, while 13+ Carplay makes Android look like a crayon drawing. Those are both examples to supporting an ecosystem vs producing fancy features and functions.

Samsung does not have a productivity solution. Microsoft decided that is the single winning metric. Especially to the most significant economic driver of platforms; business. They went all-in on rooting Android with Microsoft productivity tools that work seamlessly together. Even Outlook is a top-rated mail client. Outlook?! How can Samsung compete when they have nearly ZERO productivity tools in the enterprise space. Even Apple’s stepchild of an office suite works better than nothing. Of course, there is KNOX, DEX, or a fantastic refrigerator application that records who took your bar-coded food and notifies you when it’s time to order more almond milk?

It’s the Ecosystem stupid! Apple, and to a lesser degree Google, convinced a host of ecosystem providers that interface and platform maintenance is best left to platforms and the user base. Manufactures who labored under a load of UI/UX design and constant updates traded all that in for a stable platform and toolsets. No one needs to worry about updates when the Ecosystem has it covered, and users are motivated to update automagically. Something Apple does correctly, Android does poorly, and Samsung makes it worse. It’s such a problem that no one would ever rely on an Android-based car control system. Much like windows rebooting jokes, Android would suffer updating jokes. A Samsung implementation of Google car would likely have you struggle with auto-starting your car from a coffee machine that locks your phone up during a forced security update in KNOX.

A path forward. It’s pervasive computing stupid. Look. We are all living R&D revenue models for these companies. And that’s OK. We get great things for it. Used properly, we have more productivity and enjoyment from technology than without it. But make no mistake. The rise of phones as computing platforms is just a country road on our way to the pervasive superhighway of computing. As the world evolves into devices and interfaces that are ever-present and connected, new and exciting frontiers await for the virtual avatars, we will become. Robert Scoble advocates AR and VR mixed into a fabric of projected user spaces that will make the phone platforms look like the Rejuvenique Face Mask or the famous Nokia N-Gage. Projected interfaces that seamlessly present experiences to us will be a future absent the little bricks we prize today. It will integrate, or inundate, our senses from a myriad of tightly integrated high-speed nodes. Configurable and secure by design, contextual, and personalized by desire. Disney light shows are examples of a future where light, sound, and other senses will be our VR / AR world. Samsung can be a part of that world. Apple is already creating it. While it may not come in my lifetime, the building blocks and first articles will. I hope the power of this future is not locked in a shinny Apple condemning or poisoning the world to a walled garden, or lifetime of sleep, leaving us to dream of an open reality that Samsung got lost in.

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