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Koreans Dream: Could Samsung be Cooler than Apple?

T 01 - Patently Informative
The Korea Times posted a report this morning stating that what Samsung wants most "is to be admired." They further stated that "the main source of inspiration in the technology industry in recent years has been Apple, the maker of the revolutionary iPhones and iPads and Samsung's bitter industry rival." The report then goes on to make a valiant effort at positioning Samsung as the innovator for 2013 that will put Apple on the ropes. But The Korean Times never delivers on that dream. Instead it confuses market share with innovation and simply points to Samsung's internal manufacturing capabilities as innovation, which missed the mark.


Yes it's true that a recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey ranked the Korean firm third among global companies in innovation after Apple and Google. Yet according to The Korean Times, a sign of Samsung's great innovation is their pushing the trend of larger screens for smartphones. Really?


I hardly think that introducing a larger smartphone display counts as being "innovative," and Apple's Phil Schiller mocked that notion when introducing the iPhone 5 in September by stating: "It is really easy to make a new product that's bigger. Everyone does that. The challenge is to make it better and smaller."


But to be fair, larger doesn't hurt. And let's be honest, marketing is a funny thing. While Apple downplays larger displays as being innovative, they're the first ones to think that introducing ever thinner designs on everything is in and of itself innovation for which it is not. Especially if removing the optical disk from these devices was the main factor in achieving the end result. So While Apple downplays bigger displays as not being innovative, neither is going thin for the sake of going thin. It's a two way street.


Yet in the bigger picture, Apple's innovation pounded their competitors into the ground when they first launched the iPhone and iPad because the entire product in its totality was innovative. Apple's unique multi-touch approach to these devices was ground breaking. Apple's iOS with Safari, and tiny apps was a breakthrough. Eliminating unseemly buttons from a cell phone was revolutionary and adding a great virtual keyboard design to their devices was innovative as was pinch-to-zoom and so many other features. So introducing a larger display to a device Samsung slavishly copied in the first place is hardly innovation. To me, the mere thought that the Korean Times thinks that this is pure innovation is back-slapping humor.  


In design circles that really matter, Samsung is considered a company that is little more than "a fantastic soap maker" – according to Christian Lindholm, chief innovation officer of service design consultancy Fjord based in Finland.


In a 2012 Reuters report they wrote that Samsung themselves acknowledged that they have "yet to attain Apple's innovative spark. And Lee concedes he is no match - yet - for Jonathan Ive, the genius designer behind the distinctive look and feel of Apple's range of phones, tablets and other must-have consumer gadgets." Lee Minhyouk is Samsung's youngest senior executive in their mobile division's design center.


Clarifying Christian Lindholm's soap making analogy, he went on to state that Samsung's "products get you clean, lathers well. However, they do not know how to make perfumes, an industry where margins are significantly higher. Perfume is an experience. Perfume is meant to seduce, make you attractive and feel good. You love your perfume, but you like your soap." He went on to state that "designing something people can love is an art, which requires risk taking and is based more on experience than data. The report further stated that "Samsung needs to learn to lead more. They analyze all creativity to death, they lack self-confidence."  Another case in point is the Samsung Galaxy SIII. It ended up being just more soap with its cheap plastic encasement. Who lusts for cheap plastic?


On another note, Samsung and their partner Google don't have a clue as to how to deliver innovative software like Apple's iOS, iLife or iWork, let alone iTunes. So Samsung is left with playing with crumbs like enlarging a display or working with carriers to offer consumers with zero down-payment on a new phone.


Consumers on the lower end of the market, mainly teens, sure love zero down, but that's not innovation. With more cheap phones, Samsung gains more cheap market share and with that comes false market readings about market share leaders being innovators.


And based on these market falsehoods come enlightening reports from established tech news leaders with headlines that read: "Apple is done, says teens." You know the report is off-the-wall when it states things like "Future adults allegedly believe, according to research, that Apple isn't cool any more. They're more impressed by Samsung's Galaxy and Microsoft's Surface. Okay, let's get real here: does the latter statement even pass the laugh test; Microsoft's Surface – at this point in time?


The author of that report also in-part measured his opinion on three puma-stealing teens as a measuring stick as to Apple being "done." That's not to single out CNET because the media in general are falling over themselves to write Apple off recently. We pointed to this trend earlier this week and it's likely not to slow down anytime soon.


In the end, to answer the Korea Times question, can Samsung be cooler then Apple? The answer today is a flat out no. While their report did in fact point to a few hopeful features coming out later this year, it still won't be enough to beat Apple out on what is truly cool, or more importantly, innovative. While Samsung may in fact have a few ingenious ideas on paper for the future, so does Apple as our site proves throughout the year.


For now, the Koreans have a dream, and you can't blame them for that. But it's a dream they'll likely have to hold on to for some time to come. But on the count of being innovative, I do see where Samsung is innovative. They worked with Apple just to end up backstabbing them with copycat products and now they're doing the same thing with Qualcomm. Yes, they're innovators at being the very best copycats on the market today and will likely be for decades to come.



T 02 - Patently Informative Break

Source: Korea Times


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Then why are you on this site?

Cheat much as School?

Yes, that's why Apple won their case against Samsung in California. It was all a dream based on rebranding. Did you go to Android University to come up with great thinking like that?

Samsung's phones are "innovative" in the same way that counterfeit Prada bags sold in the dark alleys of Seoul are "innovative." Take these Prada bags to a real Prada store and the clerks won't be able to tell the difference. Samsung mistakes imitation for innovation.

Apple doesn't engineer anything. They rebrand other people's technology.

How did you even find that article anyhow?

Apparently, pundits associate bigger with being better. I do think that Apple is a bit too preoccupied with making their products ever thinner. It seems to me they should just leave the iPhone the same external thickness and whatever circuitry space they save should be filled with a larger battery.

I can't wait to see Apple's earnings numbers. I want to see if they weren't able to sell 50 million iPhones due to lack of demand. If any other company sold 50 million smartphones, they'd be praised, but Apple will probably drop in share price for ONLY selling that many.

Dream on!

I think the key phrase SV was "Especially if removing the optical disk from these devices was the main factor in achieving the end result." The iPhone 5's thinner design of course never had an optical drive and so I agree that it took some finess for Apple to continually make it thinner. So we're kind of on the same page here.

This article makes a lot of sense! Thanks Jack!

At first, I was going to agree with you, but I actually think your argument is incomplete.

Making a device thinner is not *always* innovative, but in some cases, it requires a lot of innovation to make a device thinner. For example, look at the smartphone market. Manufacturers try to make their phones thinner than the competition, but it's not easy. It would require a LOT of innovation to make the iPhone be half as thick as it currently is while gaining battery life, processing power, etc.

So, I agree that making something thinner is not innovation in and of itself, and I agree that making something thinner does not always require innovation. But it's important to remember that there are some cases in which innovation is necessary if you want to make something thinner.

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