Are you excited about the Galaxy S4? Yeah, me too. Are you picturing a super phone the likes of which we’ve never seen before? So am I, but there’s a niggly feeling that won’t go away – what if we’re all expecting too much?
The original Galaxy S was a decent smartphone, but it was the Galaxy S2 that really catapulted Samsung into the Android limelight. You might ask now if Samsung is helping or hurting Android, but in 2011 the South Korean manufacturer helped Google’s platform to capture an ever increasing market share. The Galaxy S2 was streets ahead of the competition. Samsung looked at all the smartphones on the market and made sure its flagship was better in every respect. Powerful processor, big, high quality screen, slim form factor, microSD card slot, a quality camera, even 1080p video out.
Few people would argue that it was the phone of the year and it duly won the award at MWC in 2012. At MWC this year, in a few days’ time, it’s very hard to imagine any device other than the Galaxy S3 taking the title.
Samsung’s rise to glory with Android
For me the best phone of 2010 was the HTC Desire and it should have taken the 2011 MWC award, which went to the iPhone 4 instead. HTC did win manufacturer of the year, but Samsung was quick to take over as the Android poster boy with the Galaxy S2 and it hasn’t looked back. A recent report revealed that Samsung has 8 of the top 10 Android devices in use.
Samsung was the leading mobile phone manufacturer worldwide in 2012 with a 22 percent market share and if we just look at smartphone sales the share is even bigger. Samsung in the top spot sold 29 percent of all smartphones worldwide in 2012. Most of them were the Galaxy S3 or the Galaxy S2.
The success is well deserved. Samsung has improved in tune with the Android platform. The Galaxy S3 pushed on with the same strategy that had made the S2 so popular. Cutting edge specs, an even bigger and more beautiful display, a host of slight improvements to other features, and a commitment to the free spirit of Android with a removable battery and expandable storage. The S3 ticked everyone’s boxes.
If you had to criticize you’d point to the perception about poor build quality and plastic, but you could always counter with the fact that it’s lightweight and durable. Maybe you don’t like the TouchWiz interface or the bloatware? In truth it’s a mixed bag, some of Samsung’s tweaks are useful, some aren’t, but I’d still take the Galaxy S3 over the Nexus 4 for the expandable storage and the removable battery.
The next in line
We’ve seen the rumors on the Galaxy S4 and we can safely say it will sport an improved display. It looks like 1080p resolution is going to be the new standard for high end Android smartphones. Samsung can’t really increase the size much, if it goes over 5 inches then we’re heading out of smartphone territory and into phablet land.
Will it have an eight core processor? Probably not, but even if it does, we’re not seeing enough games that challenge the current quad-core offering and my S3 doesn’t stutter or lag so would it represent a big improvement? The camera is likely to be a bit better, but beyond that what are we getting? It’s not going to be a major departure with a flexible display or some revolutionary new feature.
The biggest improvement we’d all like to see is battery life and if Samsung can deliver a boost in this area thanks to a combination of more efficient components and a bigger battery then it will be appreciated, but it’s not enough to make an upgrade essential. It’s not like the phone will run without a charge for a week, it will probably go for a couple of hours longer than the S3.
Ever decreasing incremental improvements
The whole pattern with the Galaxy S series is starting to look familiar. The S3 offered a substantial improvement over the S2 which offered a huge improvement over the original Galaxy S. The S4 will offer a decent improvement over the S3, but the gap is getting smaller. The S4 doesn’t get handed the crown by default, Samsung has got to work at it. That’s exactly what many of us don’t like about the iPhone. Apple isn’t working to innovate and justify that top spot anymore and there’s an increasing reliance on the power of brand.
Samsung has definitely been building a brand with the S series. The marketing budget for the S3 has clearly dwarfed every other Android smartphone on the market, but Samsung has backed it up with a device that’s worth shouting about. Is the S4 going to do enough to be your next Android phone or is it going to rely on that consumer awareness? The Sony Xperia Z definitely caught my attention, but I won’t get a new phone until I see what the S4 has to offer. Do you think the Galaxy S4 can improve on it in a major way? Will Samsung be content to rest on its laurels?
Competition is key
As much as I love my Galaxy S3 and I believe Samsung earned its dominant position with the S2 and S3, that dominance is a real concern. Historically major dominance in the smartphone market hasn’t fostered innovation. Look at the BlackBerry and then the iPhone. Samsung doesn’t have a great record on innovation already, is massive success going to drive it? Predictions that the S4 will sell 100 million before we’ve even seen it are cause for concern.
The failure of the rest of the Android manufacturers to put up a decent fight has been a real disappointment. We need competitors on the Android platform that can challenge Samsung. I won’t buy a new Android smartphone simply to support the underdog, they have to put up a credible contender, but I’m not going to pledge my undying loyalty for Samsung either. If the S4 doesn’t rise above the competition as an excellent smartphone then it’s time for me to move on, and I hope you’ll do the same.