You’d think that Apple and Samsung would eventually just get tired of beating the stuffing out of each other on a daily basis, but nah, these two are pretty much mortal enemies locked in a death grip while tumbling off a cliff at this point. Even if one of them does “win,” it’s going to emerge battered and broken and unable to compete. I’ve long been of the opinion that the ongoing legal and patent war between the two companies is absolutely toxic for the mobile industry and is stifling innovation all over the place, but it genuinely feels like it’s worse than ever. It’s been too long since we’ve been genuinely blown over by a new device (although Google Glass may change that) and I place the blame squarely at the feet of these two dueling giants.
But what both companies have gotten especially good at is cultivating their respective images, images so powerful that’ll be hard to knock them off their pedestal even if (or when) something truly superior shows up.
Here’s why Apple and Samsung are on top and why they’ll probably be on top for the foreseeable future: they’re both really cool. It has less to do with what’s inside the device or how it directly compares to competition and more to do with being able to pull out an iPad in a public place and feel everyone’s eyes on you. If has everything to do with pulling out your Samsung Galaxy Note and casually explaining to your friends that this device is actually better than their quietly outdated Apple devices. You can’t pull out a Windows Phone and brag — that’s like walking up the football team in the high school library and telling them about the latest issue of Green Lantern. It’s an offense that would earn you a punch in the gut in the juvenile world and a shake of the head in the civilized world.
But that’s the thing: Windows Phones are (for the most part) solid devices! There’s no reason to be ashamed of your Windows Phone or your BlackBerry or your Nexus, but Apple and Samsung have built up an image that says “if you don’t have one of our products, you don’t have a real smartphone!” And it works. And to be fair, they do lead the pack both in sales and quality. But it’s making us afraid to try anything new.
I have no idea if or when the current public status quo will change. On the inside things are always in flux: even the most ardent Apple fans agree that the company has stalled a little since Jobs passed away and the mainstream press are starting to jump on board the Samsung train, which used to be reserved for Android fanatics only. But on the outside, things remain static: a smartphone isn’t a smartphone unless it’s an iPhone (which still continues to outsell any individual Samsung phone) and the Galaxy line is that amazing alternative for people who are fed up with Apple.
To your average joe, there is nothing else. And that’s a shame.
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