iAssault: Samsung & Windows Mobile v iOS7

Microsoft has jumped on the Apple iAssault bandwagon with another non-MS device buy-back program, this time targeted specifically at iPhone users.

Took this snap on Sydney’s George Street the flagship Samsung store – opened aggressively diagonally opposite the crystal Mecca of the AppleStore complex. They updated their window display the day after the iPhone 5S launch with the “iChanged” campaign:

SAMSUNG

Anyone remember the Apple campaigns targeted at desktop switching? Switch to a Mac (2002) and Get A Mac (“I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” – 2006). Get A Mac coincided with the fresh, minimalist rebranding of Apple stores with the blue shirts and symbol signage to aesthetically differentiate the product and build-in perceived value for the premium pricing.

I never needed convincing of how cool the machines looked. As a developer, my value proposition was for home use – I was sick fed up of interrupt issues et al with home PCs having spent too much time with IT Operations resolving similar issues with our custom-built  trading apps in the office. The “just works” thing was a solid case for me for core non-tech usage. A bit like a chef coming home and whacking a microwave dinner in the oven.

But back in 2000 Office compatability was pretty shoddy, hardly any mobile phones would sync with the Mac address book et al(hardwired of course – except the gloriously kitsch Sony Ericsson P800) and remote office access? Forget it sailor.

I digress. Regarding mobile – Samsung and Microsoft must have been rubbing their hands together as the “coolness” factor is clearly the most important consumer product attribute now. And Apple missed the mark big-time with the boxy iPhone 5S – yes, EVEN with 9 million units pumped out in the first weekend. It’s the longer game that counts with brand value.

Apple’s lengthy product cycles won’t permit a revolutionary “non-boxy” iPhone coming out  anytime soon. Microsoft’s Nokia acquisition gives a real opportunity to knock out an awesome device (the Lumia 1020, although essentially a different category focusing on the camera, is pretty impressive) and with the stability of pure-play Android devices, Samsung’s superior hardware is looking like the go-er.

I’m an Android, I’m a kosher non-jailbroken iOS”  –  the next set of Google ads whacked out across the international channels to join Samsung/Microsoft to encircle Apple?

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iOSDroid – just work dammit!

Just work dammit!

Well then. I’ve been making a hooh-hah about the merits of the Koreans, robots and children’s candy (in a sign of the unstoppable behemoth of globalis(z)ation, I finally succumb to the American word for the Scottish “sweetie”). Read Samsung, Android and Jelly Bean.

It’s time for a new phone, the anticipated 2 year replacement.  In Sydney, Samsung has adopted the Applestore Strategy, and has opened up a huge airy, light store directly opposite the large Applestore (though I do have to say that I was in Shanghai recently and YAY impressed with the view of the Applestore from the top of the Oriental Pearl tower some 250m below, with the iconic fruit clearly visible in a submerged cylinder of glass).

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Applestore Shanghai over left shoulder on the glass floor at the top of the Oriental Pearl tower. Scared is not the word.

On my first visit to the Samsung store, I was blown away by Android, and by the form factor of the Galaxy Note 2. I loved the old school stylus, the bright screen, the clear browsing, the seemingly infinite customization of Android.

With the Note 2 coming out in the next month, I was resolved to drop Steve (peace be upon him) and set out on a new relationship with the Korean. I watched Samsung videos, looked up reviews, various websites, and even constructed a comparison spreadsheet of features and requirements, as all IT people should do with all affairs of the heart.

I wasn’t impressed with the specs of the iPhone 5 – despite speculation, I had hopd for something radically different. And less impressed with the tales of woe of iOS6 on existing phones (though as we speak I am currently installing on my iPhone 4 – fingers X!).

I dropped back into the Samsung store yesterday and checked out the Samsung offerings. I decided that the Note 2 was actually too large to be a real phone, and that in fact the stylus was decidedly inaccurate and gimmicky – a bit like those bloody annoying devices that couriers ask you to sign your name with in an even more illegible scrawl than your years-of-typing-not-used-to-writing handwriting.

And so to the Samsung phone. I played with Jelly Bean on the Galaxy S4 and couldn’t see a massive difference over the previous version – the “smoothness of scrolling” of Project Butter did not really impress me, as a new user. However, not a bad looking device – nice and bright, with a major selling point being an actual changeable battery, like every device other than an iPhone!

iPhone 5 and Galaxy Note

I thought I’d better give the iPhone a lookin, and popped into the glass Mecca opposite. A hive of activity – though noticeably not as much as you’d expect on the weekend of the release of the device. I got my hands on an iPhone and wasn’t massively impressed with the extra row of icons of real estate. It was blisteringly fast (on Apple’s in-store Wi-Fi of course) and the screen was, for want of a better word, retina-clear. No idea what the headphone jack is doing on the bottom, and I shudder to think where following the ex-Google maps app might take me, from all accounts.

But what struck me was the design of the thing and the lightness of it. Okay, the user interface now looks pretty dated (the static row of icons versus the bright animated backgrounds of Android) but hey the thing “just works” I thought.

Major language warning for the below video courtesy of The Onion – Sony releases a new and challenging product….

And I remembered that’s what brought me to Apple in the first place and the core (boom boom) value proposition of the company. An OS based on Unix, hardware and software made and jealously guarded by the company means control, but also means less glitches. I remember years of pissing around with PC hardware at work, with various compatability problems, drivers etc. and just wanting to come home to a computer that actually did stuff without more interrupt conflicts! A bit like a chef coming home and putting a microwave meal in the oven. And even then (2000 or so) without the full compatability with Windows, I’d pay a premium for that assurance.

And so it is with iPhone. I’ve bought into the Apple iCloud ecosystem – I know the lock-in of the game, but honestly, the iCloud and iPhone are an extension of my Mac. They just work. Some might call that lazy pig headedness, an ostrich mentality, but I’ve done my time with bleeding edge and patchwork solutions.

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Locked in to the core

A friend of mine, a long-time Apple fanboy, finally switched to an Android (in part I’m sure to an awesome promo with a pair of Beats headphones!). His first impressions – the key ones – are that the whole OS just isn’t as slick, intuitive or integrated an experience as iOS. Furthermore, he noticed several glitches, and more importantly mentioned a key issue that he said “no Android fanboy tends to talk about”.

Just as a combination of hardware, OS and apps brings you a Windows experience, a combination of hardware, carrier, OS and apps brings you your Android experience. On the Google Play app store he found a frustrating amount of apps which upon selecting “install” gave the message “sorry – this application is not compatable with your device”. Furthermore, he needs to wait for his handset provider and carrier to get their act together to fine tune Android Jelly Bean for his device before he can download it.

Similar compatability issues were apparent in the Samsung store. Asking about the Galaxy 4G the assistant apologetically mentioned that only one network supported 4G right now, the others requiring “configurations” to work with Galaxy handsets.

 That is not a good experience.

I am very much of the JFW (“just flippin’ work”) school when it comes to technology. Ironically, I find iOS to be very “corporate” against the fun and youthful Android phones, especially Samsung – a point they make in their cheeky anti-iPhone campaigns with the hip kids keeping place in line for their parents at the iPhone launch (55secs in):

But it got me questioning what I really want with a phone, the one device that you take EVERYWHERE with you …. a point not lost on Apple industrial designer Jonathan Ives, as he hammers home in the well-scripted website ad (read: argument!) for iPhone 5. I thought:

  • Compact and lightweight – iPhone 5 cuts this big time – I don’t know what I was thinking about with the Galaxy Note. I was walking along typing with one hand on my iPhone 4 this morning, and did notice this – no chance on a larger device (another subliminal plant from the iPhone 5 video!).
  • Durability – I want something solid that I’m confident I can knock around a bit! The Samsung is cheap and plastic feeling compared to the solid iPhone
  • One stop shop – handles ALL your comms, entertainment needs on the move – some people have a phone and an iPod Touch – why?!
  • Just bloody work – proven with iOS for me. I don’t need a gazillion different configuration options, and there’s only so much you can do with the form factor of a small mobile device. Some things are best done on the desktop, and that’s OK!
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The new faceless corporate – Google carrying the hammer?

A second comparison of the iPhone 5 with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and I guess Android for that matter, leads me to a different conclusion – Android looks like a childish sibling. OK the thing is attractive to look at, but iPhone hits all the points on the app grunt work, and is pretty much guaranteed to work seamlessly. This is ironic since Apple always marketed itself on the “youth” aspect, and the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ad poked fun at the boring, sensible world of the PC. Apple seizes this mantle over it’s more fun cousins now.

But it just bloody works. From 90% Samsung, I’ve swung back to 90% iPhone.

Now there’s the question of why I actually need a $1000 phone over iPhone 4 and iOS6…. and it’s just installed, seems OK …. let’s consider some opportunity cost….