Apple has unveiled its 11th iPhone, the iPhone 6S. Earlier this year Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S6, which is the South Korean giant’s 9,986th smartphone.
Not really, but it feels like it is. The Galaxy S6 is just one part of Samsung’s long and wide-ranging attempt to dethrone the iPhone as the smartphone of choice for hundreds of millions of people, something that’s really not working.
At one point, the Galaxy S range of smartphones from Samsung looked like it could be a genuine challenger, the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 sold in (relatively) huge numbers, and it looked like Samsung was on the right track.
However, in the past couple of years, as Samsung has seen sales of the Galaxy S5 falter, it has sought to diversify in order to hold its position as the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer.
And so this year, alongside the Galaxy S6, the Galaxy S6 edge, the Galaxy Note 5, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ and the Galaxy S6 active. Before the end of the year, we will likely see the Galaxy S6 mini, the Galaxy Note 5 Active and the Galaxy S6 mini active note edge+.
I’m not 100% about that last model, but you get my point. Samsung is making it increasingly difficult for users to decide which smartphone they should buy. In 2014 alone, Samsung released 56 smartphones, at current rates, it would take Apple 28 years to release the same number of new phones.
Samsung has said it is trying to cut down, and so far this year it has released “only” 21 smartphones, though if you include variants, that figure increases dramatically.
On the other hand, Apple is following a much more restricted course. Everyone knows that every September brings a new iPhone, and while that might mean lower iPhone sales in the third quarter of every year as people hold off updating, it also means that consumers are not confused.
Add to this that update cycle where Apple refreshes the design of the iPhone every two years, while the alternate S update, which we just saw, improves upon an already excellent phone.
Apple gives users three basic choices – the 4.7-inch iPhone 6S, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6S Plus and the 4.5-inch iPhone 5S. While some may bemoan the lack of diversity, it means Apple can control the experience on the phones much more tightly.
People know that the iPhone is a good phone. There’s little debating that, and Apple doesn’t want to upset that perception by launching something radically different.
Instead, it has taken the iPhone 6, which was universally praised by reviewers as well as customers, and improved it dramatically. It has made one of the best smartphone cameras even better, it has boosted performance with the A9 chip, it has added a unique and potentially very useful feature with 3D Touch. As Apple says, “The only thing that’s changed is everything.”
Samsung, on the other hand, changes the look and feel of its Galaxy S range pretty dramatically every year, adding and removing features at random and failing to provide a consistent experience for those looking to upgrade from a previous model. They may not look radically different at first glance, but pick them up and use them, and the subtle change of a button or sensor means learning all over again how the phone works.
The issue isn’t about whether the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge are good smartphones, they are, the issue is that Samsung simply does not communicate why they are great smartphones nearly as well as Apple does with the iPhone.
While Apple’s stagecraft at such events is typically superb, it is not immune to mistakes, as we saw with senior VP Eddy Cue’s embarrassing Apple Music presentation
The problem comes from the fact that Samsung is getting squeezed at both ends of the smartphone market. At the premium end, Apple is dominating while at the budget end of the market, where Samsung saw exponential growth in recent years, it is being surpassed by the Chinese smartphone makers who are offering better hardware at lower prices and are willing to undercut Samsung at every turn just to gain some market share.
Samsung needs to rethink its smartphone strategy, but it may already be too late to follow in Apple’s footsteps and offer customers a clear choice of the best technology the company has to offer in a small range of smartphones that will cover the majority of the market.
The iPhone 6S hasn’t shipped yet. Screen Fixed will hold stock when the device hits shelves.
Take it easy out there!