Samsung announces 'next evolution' of smartphone design — the 2012 iPhone 5!
If I'd fabricated this story back on April 1, 2013, I'd have been called an idiot. (Hell, I probably still will today.) Yet, here we are, August of 2014 and Samsung has just announced the iPhone 5... er... the Galaxy Alpha. According to Android Central:
After a short flurry of leaks, Samsung has this morning taken the wraps off a new metal-clad Android smartphone, the Galaxy Alpha. Boasting a metal frame and a 4.7-inch display, the Galaxy Alpha represents a departure from Samsung's predominantly plastic-focused lineup, with a squared-off design furnished in more premium materials.
Tragically only the band is metal so while it looks just like an iPhone 5 from the front, the back is still Samsung plastic... I'd quote the classic Cordelia Chase line — "Oh please, like shame is something to be proud of?" — but Samsung was making real progress towards their own, distinct product line and design language and it's hard to consider this anything other than a massive backwards misstep.
HTC has shown they can make metal phones that look nothing like the iPhone. Nokia has shown they can make plastic phones every bit as good looking as metal. So why make an iPhone clone, and why do it in 2014? Where's the pride in that? Where's the Samsung-shaped dent in the universe?
My guess is that, pride be damned, Samsung felt it needed to get out ahead of a bigger screen iPhone by putting something nearly identical on the shelves as soon as they can. That way it removes visible differentiation and rides iPhone affinity. Unfortunately, it'll also confuse consumers and robs them of variety.
But it also feels incredibly short sighted. Samsung has proven time and time again they can quickly copy Apple design. What they can't copy is Apple's overall product experience. They can't copy iOS 8, and that is what many people have been waiting for on bigger iPhone-class hardware.
Samsung has real problems. Low margin Chinese phones have been battering them on the bottom end of the market and Apple still owns the high end. Samsung probably sees the iPhone 6 as an oncoming freight-train. And it is.
But retreating back to industrial duplication feels both short-sighted and ultimately self-defeating. Hopefully the upcoming Galaxy Note 4 returns Samsung to better form.
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