It's so unapologetically brazen, so "success is it's own reward", that you just have to love it. The only thing is, you have to be successful for it to work. Samsung, with the brand new Galaxy S6 has once again shamelessly copied Apple designs, this time Apple's iPhone 6, Apple's Touch ID fingerprint registration interface, and the Apple Pay interface. Just as shamelessly, they ditched elements like user-replaceable batteries that they used in attack ads as recently as last July. Given their recent problems both in the market and within the company, they've obviously decided doubling down on shameless is just exactly what they need to do. The question now becomes — can they do it successfully?
Ditching the battery access is gutsy, not just because Samsung spent actual money to make an ad disparaging iPhone owners as "wall huggers", but because it's a feature hard-core Android owners still cite as imperative. Same with waterproofing, which Samsung went so far as to co-opt the "ice bucket challenge" to unsuccessfully attack Apple with as well. Same with expandable SD card storage. Same with the Hasbro-style plastic construction.
Samsung ditched almost all of its hardware differentiation to go all in on iPhone 6-style design — though layering in, iPhone 4-like, with glass on both sides.
The sole exception to the retreat is the Galaxy S6 Edge, which curves the display itself down along the sides. Whether or not the Edge will move the needled for Samsung — whether there's enough demand and enough supply to meet it — remains to be seen. But at least it's something.
For a while, Samsung thrived as the not-iPhone you could get on Verzion. Then the iPhone came to Verizon. Samsung still thrived as the not-iPhone you could get that was bigger than 4-inches. Then the 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhones launched. Now it's unclear where Samsung can thrive, especially given the strength of Chinese phone makers at the other end of the market.
Last year I wrote about the Galaxy S5 problem and it turned out to be true. "Relatively disappointing" is how it's referred to in Android Central's video, above. I fear the "Galaxy S6 problem" will be worse.
Last year Samsung was facing an all-new design from Apple with the iPhone 6 and the Galaxy S5 simply wasn't enough. This year, though if Apple holds to pattern, Samsung was facing an "S-class" iPhone upgrade. Instead of counter-programming that, instead of using that pattern to try and leap ahead, Samsung seems to have barely kept pace. What happens, then, when a 6-month old Samsung Galaxy S6 has to face an iPhone 6s on the market?
There'll always be people who just don't like Apple or Apple's products, and Samsung spends a fortune on making sure its name is the first name those people think of when searching for alternatives. Maybe, even absent gaps in Apple's lineup, that'll still work. It's an absolutely shameless gamble — but could it be a successful one?
Check out Andrew Martonik's complete Samsung Galaxy S6 preview and hands-on and let me know what you think.