Say what you will about brand loyalty, about exploding phones, about functional versus fabulous design — the thing that will ultimately sell phones and make tech companies leaders in that space is convergence.
We are coming to a time when the shape the technology you use — whether it fits in a pocket, on the bridge of your nose or rests on your desk — isn’t as important as the ecosystem of devices it talks to and the many roles a singular device can take on.
When Apple originally released the iPhone, it plucked people away from their beloved personal digital assistants, but not because it was the best device. The fact that users had to typically give up a phone with a physical keyboard and make do with the virtual kind was a major sticking point. What won people over was that the iPhone replaced both your phone and your media device and did it well.
Over the years, the iPhone grew to absorb not just your iPod, but your camera, your GPS device, your heart rate tracker, your credit card, your voice recorder. It even allows you to make do without a television, a radio or a game console, if you are so inclined.
Apple’s Siri strives to replace the assistant almost no one has in their daily lives, and if rumors are to be believed, the next iPhone will include support for augmented or virtual reality.
The phone is becoming the center of our tech lives and Apple has been the one leading the charge. But that seems to be changing. There’s a wobble in Apple’s step lately as it proceeds from one device to the next, little changing between them.
The company seems risk-averse, its devices increasingly dated. The reasons to own an iPhone and not a smartphone from Samsung or Huawei continue to disappear.
Where once I kept my iPhone because of its music integration, I no longer use iTunes. I’ve become a fan of Amazon Music. I also now pluck videos and television shows from equally platform-agnostic sources.
Recently, the only reason I seem to stick to the Apple ecosystem is because of its messenger and those adorable stickers, but that’s not nearly enough to keep me around for much longer.
I’m sure I’m not alone. There are legions of Apple captives, I suspect, just waiting for that one thing to push them away.
The turning point for me was the Apple Watch: A great device when it launched, but one that simply did not evolve in its second iteration.
Samsung, on the other hand, has arguably the best smart watch on the market, and while it works with the iPhone, it works much better with Samsung’s own phones. These are phones I hadn’t really considered much before, but became very interesting to me once I looked past the iPhone. And Samsung’s phones are exploding the norm. Yes, even literally last year, thanks to faulty batteries.
Samsung’s Gear S3 smart watch is a wonder. And the company also happens to make the best phone-powered virtual reality headset on the market, in conjunction with Oculus.
Smart watch and virtual reality make two reasons to reconsider an iPhone purchase.
This week, Samsung laid out an array of more reasons to make the jump during its annual Unpacked event in New York City.
At the top of the list is the company’s new S8 and S8+ phones, phones that probably feature the safest, or at least most thoroughly tested, batteries on the market, thanks to new guidelines created by Samsung.
The S8 is a marvel to hold, glorious to behold; a slice of curved screen that rests in your hand like a window into the future. It has more features than there is space here to write about, but they include a faster processor, better camera, wireless charging, Samsung Pay, Bluetooth 5 support, gigabit LTS speed support, a virtual assistant and on and on and on.
It is clearly, currently, the best phone on the market, though that may change this fall when Apple rolls out its own next phone.
But Samsung’s day wasn’t just about the phone; it was about all of the ways that phone can connect with your life.
Samsung’s phone is the new best way to check out virtual reality on the go with the new Gear VR headset. The S8 can also connect to a monitor, keyboard and mouse to become your lightweight desktop computer, with the help of the DeX dock. There’s the new 360-degree camera that can connect to the S8 and create immersive videos on the go.
Each new device is another reason to reconsider your current smartphone, to perhaps move over to Samsung and its massive ecosystem.
When Apple replies with its own new device, even if it mirrors all of the innovation unleashed with Samsung’s S8, it’s unlikely it can match all of the other leaps and risks Samsung has been taking across the board with its assortment of interconnected gadgets and devices.
I can see Samsung pushing past Apple this year. Perhaps not as the world leader in devices sold, but company most poised to take that crown from Apple.
And that’s a good thing.
The only thing more exciting than an Apple-powered by creative designers and developers is an Apple awoken from its stupor, trying to once more shift the paradigm.
Good Game is an internationally syndicated weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Brian Crecente is a founding editor and executive editor of Polygon.