SAN JOSE – Smartphones are headed for the big screen and Samsung, not Apple, set the trend. Samsung’s Galaxy Note and S3 handsets foreshadow what I expect to be the next important element in smartphones, and in handset competition generally.
For the record, the Samsung Galaxy S3 uses a 4.8-inch active-matrix OLED screen with a 720 x 1280 pixel resolution. The Galaxy Note goes even further with its 5.3-inch 800x1280 pixel display.
My first take was, that’s waaaaay too big. No one will want it.
But I can’t tell you how many people I saw carrying these handsets on a trip through Hong Kong and Taipei in June. Many of them were young people. One of them was the owner of a small retail consumer electronics shop in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district who said all his salespeople have upgraded from the iPhone to the Galaxy Note.
Earlier this month, I saw a few of the devices used by youngsters on a train in Norway and in London’s Heathrow airport. When I asked a young man in a Hong Kong subway what he thought about the big screen, he said it was good and not a problem to carry in his pocket.
Is it possible Steve Jobs didn’t have his finger on the pulse of every consumer heartbeat?
Indeed, if I am playing a game or surfing the Web, I want the biggest screen I can get. And I’d be willing to tolerate a slightly more crowded pocket if the phone that’s crammed in my jeans gives me the experience I want.
Frankly, I thought the iPhone would have a crowded-pocket problem given it was so much wider than the Nokia feature phones of the day. Nope.
Samsung hasn’t got this market cornered. At Mobile World Congress in February, LG was also showing 5-inch+ handsets, they just weren’t as ready to ship as the Samsung handsets. Seems just like in Taipei, no one can keep a secret in Seoul.
So Samsung saw something unique and it went for it, and it is paying off. “Boosted by heavy demand for its new Galaxy S3, Samsung likely sold around 50 million smartphones in the second quarter, [surpassing] the 30.5 million iPhones that Apple is forecast to have sold,” a recent news article said.
Now Samsung owns the visual look-and-feel of the coolest smartphone, and Apple is playing catch up. In the consumer world, that’s big.
The iPhone 5 reportedly will move up to a 4.x inch display from its current 3.8 inch, 960x640-pixel display. To me, that sounds like Apple is acknowledging the trend without really embracing it.
The old icon next to the new one. What do you think?
Apple is a class act and it is not falling by the wayside by any means, but Samsung clearly has caught an edge. Samsung could do the same in tablets if it can identify a small, distinctive missing element.
Although it has fallen on hard times lately, Taiwan’s HTC could also pull off a coup based on the foundation of its HTC Sense user interface. They drink the same grade of espresso in Seoul and Taipei as they do in Cupertino, and ideas know no geographic boundaries.
Samsung’s first tablet, the Galaxy Tab, was admittedly a rip off of the iPad concept and look-and-feel. Apple was right to sue them to exercise the fact it was first to market—and to try to slow down the competition.
I wonder if Samsung should sue Apple for stealing the new smartphone look-and-feel when a big screen iPhone 5 comes out?
Big is definitely in for smartphone displays, and Samsung saw it first. I think this is just the first big example of how the Android hoards slowly chip away at Apple’s leadership in the categories the Cupertino giant created.
Note to Tim Cook: Quick, get that iTV working!