The iPhone-ification of Galaxy S
When it first launched in 2010, the original Samsung Galaxy S had a lot to prove: it was just one phone among many Android contenders at the time, but it had the performance, style, and marketing muscle to make it a winner. Two generations later, and the Galaxy S III is expected to be the hottest selling Google phone in the world, making it the best contender yet for toppling the iPhone from its reign. And as Galaxy S sales inch ever closer to the undisputed king of smartphones, it’s clear that Samsung is looking to its rival for tips on various methods for market success — which is why each new Galaxy S feels a bit more hyped and homogenized.
As the Galaxy series has become more popular, Samsung’s secrecy surrounding each new iteration has increased — and so have the attempts to obtain pre-launch information. In the weeks leading up to the Galaxy S II launch at Mobile World Congress 2011, there were certainly rumors galore concerning the anticipated device, but nothing like we saw with the S III. That particular phone saw leaks trickling out months before the actual launch (delayed some three months from a second MWC debut), and by the time a concrete date was announced, there was new information and imagery being revealed nearly every day. But actual press shots and full specs were kept locked down until the event itself.
Even the S III launch itself was pure iPhone: an event dedicated to the premiere of a single product, not even timed to coincide with a particular trade show or industry event. Samsung knew that it had a winner in its multi-million-selling phone series, and wisely distanced the premiere device from other, lesser announcements in a not-so-subtle sign that the Galaxy S devices were special. But unlike Apple, Samsung invited the whole world to watch a global simulcast of the unveiling, which may be an attempt to associate Galaxy with inclusiveness.
Many of the Galaxy features have been tailored to offer the same experience as one would find with an iPhone: you’ll notice that the press shots for the S III are more icon-based and less widget-heavy than those for the S II. This is probably no accident, as Samsung likely wants to provide the same initial eye-candy appeal as its rival. Then there are the proprietary enhancements included above and beyond what is offered by stock Android; the addition of the S-Voice control this year was an obvious attempt to match Apple and Siri on the spec sheet. In fact, Samsung may be a little too eager to emulate the iPhone for some: it’s being sued by Apple in numerous jurisdictions worldwide for allegedly infringing upon Cupertino patents.
Finally, the most striking example of the so-called iPhone-ification of the Galaxy S has to do with the homogeneity of its appearance across markets — it’s about what hasn’t changed. Not only did the US variants of the first Galaxy S differ physically from the international GT-I9000 model, but they even possessed numerous changes to make them distinct from one another (Sprint’s Epic 4G went so far as to add a keyboard). The domestic Galaxy S II maintained more of a standardized look among the three operators which offered it, although they still eschewed the GT-I9100’s center home button for a more traditional four-button layout. Only with the S III does Samsung have the clout to force the exact same device on US carriers as the rest of the world is getting; not since the iPhone itself have we seen so little branding or bloatware on the face of the phone.
Samsung seems to be in the midst of an often-tried technique for success: act not like who you are, but who you want to be. The South Korean giant is now the world’s largest cellphone manufacturer, and yet mobile is just one the many verticals it competes in. But it’s not enough to sell the most phones, total — Samsung wants to also lay claim to producing the most popular phone, period. Just two years ago the idea that a single Android handset could challenge the mighty iPhone juggernaut seemed crazy. While Galaxy still has a long way to go before it can hope to pry that crown away from Apple, it would appear to be doing everything it can to groom itself for the role.
In what other ways has the Galaxy series adopted an iPhone-like aura? Or is there not really a trend here at all?