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Applesauce: All Things Apple – March 17, 2013

Mar 17, 13 Applesauce: All Things Apple – March 17, 2013

Android and Samsung (or is it Samsung and Android?) are completely destroying Apple, plundering their castle and dragging a naked Tim Cook through the streets of the charred kingdom.

At least, this is what some recent headlines would have you believe, and Phil Schiller isn’t necessarily helping matters.

In the same week, one report claims Android tablets will out-ship iPads by the end of this year and Samsung goes and unveils their brand new Galaxy S 4. What’s Apple to do, other than continue raking in massive amounts of profit and make best-selling products?

Let’s get some Applesauce. I need something to wash away the image of a naked Tim Cook being drug though ancient ruins.

Schiller on D-Fence

I’m struggling to think of a time when an Apple executive has ever gone on the defensive. Since the great return of Jobs in the 90’s, the company has always carried about them a sanguine swagger, confident in their products and their direction. Sure, they would throw in the occasional snide comment towards Windows (“Redmond, start your engines”) or Google, but this seemed like schoolyard smack talk and never with an attitude of “Just wait, you’ll see!”

Yet, one day before Samsung unveiled their new Galaxy S 4, Phil Schiller gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal (who’s normally in Apple’s corner) talking about how Apple is still better than Samsung and Android.

Hell, even the headline of this article is “Apple, on Defense, Slams Samsung.”

What’s particularly disturbing about this interview is that Apple normally only talks to the WSJ when they’re giving a controlled leak and trying to drum up excitement about an unreleased product. Now here they are, trying to persuade the world that they’re still better than Samsung. It falls flat and it feels wrong.

How else is “Android is often given as a free replacement for a feature phone and the experience isn’t as good as an iPhone” supposed to sound other than “No, you don’t really want Android. Android is crap. Keep buying our phones, please. Have you seen our stock lately!?”

The rest of the interview seemed to cover some of the same battle ground fought over by Android and iOS by loyalists for the past three or four years. First, Schiller went with the old and tired fragmentation argument, saying the disjointed nature of Google’s OS is “plain and simple.”

The Apple senior vice president of world-wide marketing then went on to point out how difficult it is to sign up for an Android device and how hard one must work to get their device to work the way they want.

“When you take an Android device out of the box, you have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with,” said Schiller in his over-the-phone interview.

“They don’t work seamlessly together.”

When asked why Apple’s market share has been steadily losing ground to Android, Schiller waved it off and pointed to other numbers which prove that those who do use iPhone are more satisfied with their devices than Android users.

“I’m not sure that the estimates and the modeling accurately gives an accurate picture of it all,” he said of market share estimations.

As if this wasn’t frightening enough, Schiller then gives one of the lamest excuses I’ve ever heard to explain away the larger screen trend of Android devices.

“Given the iPhone 5 is so thin and light, the reason that people are making their devices bigger is to get up to the battery life the iPhone 5 offers.”

The entire thing makes me cringe.

As it stands, Samsung is on fire right now. They’re hot on the heels of a new Galaxy S phone, and they’re completely dominating the Android scene. No other phone manufacturer is selling as many phones for Google as Samsung. Google, of course, never sees any direct cash from these sales…they can only hope to get more information from more users.

Samsung is riding a wave Apple once dominated. These days, Apple is sitting with a relatively low stock price, (when was the last time their stock was in the low $400s?) and two imaginary products to answer the accusations that they’ve stopped innovating. Only one of these products, the TV, seems half-way innovative or revolutionary and, according to the latest rumors, the only thing holding them up is that they’re unable to play the movie and television execs the same way they played the record industry in the early aughts.

As for that iWatch?

Get out of here…how in the world is that going to save a struggling Apple?

Samsung and others are working on some hard-won momentum here. It’s taken them quite some time to get where they are, but they won’t be slowing down for a while. Apple, on the other hand, is largely expected to release some updates to existing computers, a cheap iPhone, and a slightly improved iPhone 5.

Don’t be mistaken, these will be great products, each a worthwhile competitor. And let’s not forget the iPad; despite what IDC reported earlier this week (more on that later) it still owns a larger percentage of the market.

For many years, Apple-haters have accused the company of turning a blind eye to the “real world,” or to what’s really happening.

Now, it appears as if they may have been right, and as much as it hurts to type this out, Schiller’s comments to the Wall Street Times sound like little more than a desperate attempt to keep people onboard the Good Ship Apple.

I mean, we’ve already lost Andy Ihnatko.

Who’s next? John Gruber? Marco Arment? Jim Dalrymple?

There are issues with Android, but these issues are becoming so minor that they hardly seem significant when compared to Apple’s minor problems.

Clearly, there is no way of knowing at this point; but from where we stand, it looks like 2013 may be the first year Samsung will ship a better product than Apple.

What kind of crazy world are we living in?

Android on more tablets

Then there are those who believe Android will soon overtake iOS on tablets, a market where Apple has long enjoyed total market dominance.

IDC released yet another estimation of how they believe the tablet market will play out through this year and on to 2017. According to their assumptions, Android will ship on 48.8 percent of all tablets this year, an increase from 41.5 percent last year.

Apple’s iOS, on the other hand, will see a slip from 51 percent last year to 46 percent at the end of 2013.

Android won’t always have this kind of lead in the tablet space, though. IDC believes Windows (of all things) will take away some of Android and Apple’s market share. At this point, IDC believes Android will have 46 percent of the market. Apple will have 41 percent.

IDC points to cheap and small tablets as a major selling point for both Android and Windows tablets.

“One in every two tablets shipped this quarter was below 8 inches in screen size. And in terms of shipments, we expect smaller tablets to continue growing in 2013 and beyond” said Jitesh Urbani, one of IDC’s tablet researchers.

Of course, Apple has only just recently begun selling their smaller iPad, and it’s not quite at the same price point (sub-$200) that the other tablets sell for.

But they’ve finally got one!

What is most interesting is IDC’s claims that Windows will eat away Android and iOS market share by 2017.

It won’t take much of the marketshare, of course…IDC only places them at a meager 7.4 percent of the market in four years. The point remains, IDC believes Microsoft is showing some signs of growth, and that’s something, isn’t it?

Where Microsoft really shot themselves in the foot, of course, is their decision to release that ridiculous Windows RT. The plan (I assume) was to ship a less-capable tablet for those people who were hell-bent on NOT buying an Android or Apple device? By all measures, it seems the Surface Pro with Windows 8, though more expensive than an iPad and with less storage, is selling better than the Surface with Windows RT.

This report made plenty of headlines, and understandably so. Everyone loves a come-from-behind story, and anytime people can see Apple take one to the crotch, they get a special, happy feeling.

Yet, it’s a bit simplistic to say, “Android will out-ship Apple.”

And at its’ most literal level this statement is absolutely true. Yet, when you consider what Android is, this doesn’t mean that Google or Samsung are taking money away from Apple’s prying hands.

There are those devices that, yes, run Android, but are not beholden to Google’s Play Store. Google sees no revenue, no personal information, no real benefit from these users. It’s just something they’ve done to make people feel good enough about the company to forget that they want to sell everything they know about you.

Amazon’s Kindle is one of these devices; and while these numbers pale in comparison to Samsung’s numbers, they ship a distinguishable amount of tablets.

As pointed out by Ben Bajarin in Tech.pinions, there’s also the fact that “90 percent” of all Chinese Android tablets are also not tied down to Google’s Play Store. Yet, both the Kindle and the Chinese tablets are technically Android.

So yes, Android will out-ship iPads. It’s the same as it was in the smartphone world; there are many different iterations of Android floating about and only one iPad or iPhone. Of course, Apple’s going to be outsold. Yet, what has kept Apple feeling ok about this fact is their comfy profit margins.

What’s left to be seen is if the tide shifts and people stop buying the iPad and Apple begins to lose profit margins.

Better spec’d, terribly announced: The Samsung Galaxy S 4

After Samsung’s wild ride of a show (complete with a heavy-dose of misogyny and a big-toothed tap dancing child), the world is now aware of the new Galaxy S 4, (not IV, mind you) a very Apple S-type phone.

It would be incorrect to say the Galaxy S is exactly like the 4S, though.

After all, the new Galaxy S does have a larger screen (5-inches) and is a little thinner.

Just like Apple’s S phones, however, the S 4 has an increased processor and several software upgrades, such as that much talked about “Smart Scroll” and “Smart Pause.” And this is only the beginning of Samsung’s “S” labeled features.

“S Voice Drive” speaks text to the user when they’re driving and enlarges the fonts in an effort to make using a cell phone while driving just a little safer.

Of course, it’s still safest to just not use a cell phone while driving, but that’s a tough sell for many users.

“S Translate” can take text and translate it into nine other languages. During the freak-show circus of an unveiling, this feature was demoed by a young college backpacker asking for directions to Shanghai. Type in what you want to say in your native language, choose another language, and it begins translating.

“S Health” is an arm of Sammy’s health initiative, measuring the number of steps taken in a day as well as pairing with an assortment of other devices and sensors.

It’s been (rightly) pointed out by several reviewers who have only had some brief hands-on time with the new phone: these features are getting the Galaxy S 4 some major press, but how useful are they?

“Smart Pause” uses the same facial recognition in the SIII, which would dim the screen when the user looked away. In the S 4, videos will pause themselves when the viewer turns their head away. This was “cleverly” (where’s the sarcasm font on this thing?) demonstrated during the event when a slightly inebriated woman turned her head for a moment to check out a gardener removing his shirt.

That “Smart Scroll” that everyone was talking about doesn’t really look into your eyes so much as it asks you to tilt the phone to scroll. Oh, and it recognizes your face to know if you’re looking at it.

Just as it sounds, Air Swipe lets you navigate through the phone without actually touching it.

All of these features sound fine, and in terms of sheer specs, the S 4 handily beats the iPhone 5. It’s got a 5-inch AMOLED screen with 441 ppi. It’s got a 13-megapixel camera. It’s got NFC AND IR sensor for controlling the TV. It has sensors to determine the barometer, humidity and temperature of its surroundings.

The international version of this phone, for heaven’s sake, has an octo-core processor. Eight Cores.

Why, Samsung? Why?

It is a well equipped phone and Samsung seems to be taking Apple head on with this device and leaving Google in the dust. But will it be enough to truly “beat” the iPhone?

Though impressive features, will a consumer leave the iPhone because they want to swipe without touching the phone, or because they want to scroll by tilting?

Will a BlackBerry refugee choose the Galaxy because they’ve suddenly realized how many times a day they’ve wanted to translate languages on the fly?

Will a brand new smartphone customer decide to go Samsung because they need to know how many steps they’ve taken every day?

There’s something to be said for the simplicity of having these tools running natively on a device. Yet, I can’t help but wonder why anyone would choose an entire device based on a few features that can easily be replicated in apps.

And these third-party apps could, for all we know, work better than Samsung’s native apps.

So, can the Galaxy S 4 beat the iPhone this year? I think it can.

But the better question here, and the question that should be answered before journos and tech writers begin crafting headlines is, “Will it beat the iPhone?”

That part has left to be seen, and largely depends (I think) on what Apple announces later this year.

I really hope it’s something more than a 5S and a cheap iPhone, however.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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