Even today, we consider the HTC EVO 4G and Motorola DROID as the two phones that helped kick-start Android’s rapid rise to the top. They were once the two most popular Android smartphones ever. And, sure, some other popular hero devices followed suit in the following months and years.
But the EVO 4G and original DROID were the two that everyone looked back on, the two smartphones responsible for making Android what it is today. They were special.
Now there’s another one in the mix, casting a rather large shadow on the other two: the Samsung Galaxy S III. It’s the most popular Android smartphone to date. And years down the road, we will likely look back and credit the S III that truly pushed Android over the top.
We won’t credit the S III alone, however, but Samsung and its arsenal of Galaxy devices that continually push the envelope. In March, Samsung took the stage in New York City to show off its latest smartphone to the world, the Galaxy S 4, a phone that is better in almost every possible way than its predecessor.
Due to the success and popularity of the S III, it was pretty obvious that the S 4, too, would sell like hotcakes. In March, ten months after its initial release, the Samsung hit an impressive milestone with the Galaxy S III: 50 million units sold. Yesterday, Samsung announced the Galaxy S 4 breached 10 million units sold in less than a month. That trumps the Galaxy S III’s 50 days and the Galaxy S II’s five months to reach the same mark. For comparison’s sake, the original Motorola DROID was estimated to have only hit 1.05 million around the 74 day mark.
The Galaxy S 4 is only beginning, and it’s sure to go on and break more records. The question remains: why is the Galaxy S 4 so explosive? Why is it so viral?
Even if you don’t like the company, it’s overuse of plastics, the software it adds atop Android, or the look or design of its products, it’s impossible to deny Samsung’s great reputation among wireless consumers. Things got a little rocky with the original Galaxy S and Galaxy S II with poor updates, but it was the same story for practically every other manufacturer, too.
Samsung delivers a quality product, and rather than radically change its product every year, it builds upon a solid foundation. And as mundane and unexciting as that has become, it has won the vote of the non-techie crowd – the average consumers – who don’t necessarily want every single product to drastically change the mobile landscape.
Little true competition
Between 2008 and 2011, and maybe even a little into 2012, mobile OEMs were producing phones at breakneck pace – an unsustainable rate. A flagship would launch, and an updated model would launch between five to nine months later. Then a successor would launch just a few short months after that.
There were two side effects of this, one great and one bad. There was always a steady flow of competition and comparable devices to choose from, often from the same manufacturer (device cannibalization). And product cycles were ever-shortening, making it difficult – if not impossible – for consumers to keep up with the perpetual launch of new mobile devices.
If you take a look at the top four carriers in the U.S., there are only two to four flagship Android phones to choose from, compared to the five, six, or more in years past. On AT&T, you have the Galaxy S 4, HTC One, LG Optimus G Pro and Galaxy Note II. And on Verizon, there is the Galaxy S 4, DROID DNA by HTC and Galaxy Note II. (If you want to consider the DROID RAZR HD and the MAXX variant, you might count five total on Verizon.)
So, sure, there are options. But there are very few devices recently available that are of the same caliber as the Galaxy S 4 or HTC One.
HTC appears to be on the fritz
Speaking of the HTC One, it’s a fantastic phone. We’ve reviewed it twice here at Pocketnow, and rated it very highly both times. For many of us, it’s a toss-up between Samsung’s and HTC’s current flagship devices. And most of us here chose the HTC One over the S 4 in a collaborative piece.
But when speaking for ourselves, we don’t speak for the masses. We (including many of you, our readers) are a very unique subset of users … consumers. Average and first-time smartphone users look at things from a completely different perspective.
I know many of my friends and family members (who aren’t into tech at all) look into things like a company’s performance – its future and stability – before purchasing a phone. With headlines like the ones HTC is making right now with its executive shuffle, my late grandfather would have never purchased an HTC product, not until the company found some internal resolve. The same holds true with companies like Nokia or BlackBerry, as well.
A stroke of marketing genius
Samsung, unlike many of its competitors, understands the importance of great marketing. While we may question its judgment in some of the ads the company runs, it knows how, when, and where to place ads so that they capture the eyes of the average passersby.
Marketing, however, is not restricted to ads placed on billboards, on the side of busses or aired on television. Samsung’s marketing for the Galaxy S 4 and TouchWiz is hard coded directly into the software itself, with seemingly useless features few will ever use in normal use cases – Smart Pause, Air View, Air Gesture, Smart Scroll, etc. Sure, some of these are useful, but most are there for the wow factor, to show off to your friends and family so when they make their way to the carrier store to upgrade their phone, they say, “I want that phone that wakes up when you wave your hand over it.”
And if that isn’t enough, when the sales representative shows off the rest of the TouchWiz features in-store and shows that none of the others have these features, the phone practically sells itself.
Gimmick or not, it works and these phones practically fly off the shelves
It’s every bit as good as Samsung says it is
Most companies will talk up their own products because they want to show confidents, to prove that they are true competitors in one of the most vicious markets on the planet. And most of the time, those products are … good. Not great.
Samsung, while we may not agree with all of its decisions, knows how to make a great product. It may not feel great in the hand. The software may be cumbersome at times. The phone itself may look like a toy sometimes. And the announcement event may have been disgustingly grandiose.
But from the time I was a kid, I was always told to “under-promise and over-deliver”, and that’s exactly what Samsung does.
The Galaxy S 4 is not my choice device, but when writing the review, I personally had a hard time thinking up entries for the Cons section, outside of plastic and oddly poor call quality.