No more room for ‘fanboy-ism’ in Mobile Tech

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Update 8/3/17: After the fiasco that was Samsung’s Note 7 recall(s) from last year, Samsung has since redeemed itself with the Galaxy S8 and S8+.  Additionally, due to the lasting popularity of the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung has created a refurbished line of the Notes called ‘Galaxy Note: FE (Fan Edition)’.

“Team Apple or Team Android?”

If you’re a smartphone user in 2016 (everyone), then your answer to this question should be “neither.”

That’s not to say you can’t have a preference for the type of smartphone that suits your needs best, or the one you’d just rather have. But it’s become increasingly common for people to declare a “side” at the complete exclusion of other choices. People do it all the time; just take a look at politics for instance, or more importantly, Pokemon Go (Team Mystic for life). While I won’t go into a rant about the Two-Party system, or how disgusting those guys from Team Valor are, I will say that blindly choosing sides in a tech landscape with so many top notch phones, and simply closing off entire sections of the market could potentially lead you to miss out on better options. Brand loyalty of this kind doesn’t make much sense today, when as a consumer, you can get way more out of comparing models.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (left) and the iPhone 6s Plus (right). Image from Tech Radar.

Yesterday, Samsung unboxed the newest in the popular Note line: The Galaxy Note 7. Since its last iteration, the Note 7 has added new features like an Iris Scanner unlock and a newly improved S Pen. In addition, the Galaxy Note 7 sports a 5.7 inch Super AMOLED, dual-edged screen, 64 GB internal storage with expandable SD storage, water resistance, 4 GB of RAM, a bigger battery, and wireless charging capability. These new improvements make the new Note streets ahead [see Community] of the competition, in form and in function, even with other strong options like the iPhone, HTC 10, Nexus 6P, or LG G5 that are available.

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Galaxy Note 7 pictured above in water.  Image from Samsung.

This impressive showing by Samsung isn’t just good for Samsung fans; it’s good for all smartphone users. The smartphone landscape of today was only made possible by the rivalries between these different companies. We have a plethora of amazing options as a result, and rather than drawing lines and taking sides, we benefit by opening ourselves up to everything.

Taking a quick look back at this competition, iPhone kicked off the touch-based smartphone boom in 2007, which then led to Google responding with its own Android OS. Despite Android’s creation, Apple for the longest time was the undisputed gold standard for smartphone design and usability. The premium feel of the iPhones and easy-to-navigate iOS is what led many to go Apple instead of Android. This however, led to companies like Samsung, HTC, Google, and LG to innovate to win over consumers.

For instance, Samsung started the phablet trend with their first ever Galaxy Note in 2011. Samsung took the idea of large-screened phones, which was once ridiculed, and ended up starting a trend that continues to today.

Of course, in response, Apple created its first big screen phone in the form of the refined and elegant iPhone 6 Plus with its 5.5 inch screen. With it also came new features like 3D Touch, (the much more useful) Apple Pay, and other enhancements like an improved camera and aesthetic.

Needing to keep up with Apple, Samsung’s response was the Galaxy S6, which ditched the horrendous, plastic materials of former models in exchange for aluminum and glass, marking a major change in the Galaxy line. Additionally, to challenge Apple Pay, we were also introduced to Samsung Pay, which uses MST to copy the magnetic strip of a credit card, and allow the mobile payment system to be used virtually anywhere.

These are only a few, but nevertheless significant, examples in which the competitors have helped refine each others’ product.

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The iPhone 6s Plus.  Image from Apple.

In this highly competitive landscape, failure to innovate or meet consumer expectations is also far more damaging now than it once was. For instance, while iPhone 6s Plus is a work of beauty, Apple saw iPhone sales fall to 40.4 million in Q3, which is a 14.9% drop from last year. This was the second quarter in a row that iPhone sales dropped, which is unprecedented. This may, in part, be due to the fact that there was no major design change from the 6 to the 6s series. Additionally, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, aka the Nostradamus of all predictions pertaining Apple, the demand for the iPhone may stay low because there are talks of radical changes for next year’s version, but not this year’s. Samsung fell into the same trap for years. It was only after Samsung made significant improvements in design and software that they were finally able gain a larger portion of the smartphone market.

Apple is prepping for the 10th anniversary of the iPhone in 2017, and it’s rumored that iPhone will finally adopt an OLED screen like its competitors, and a potentially bezel-less, all-glass phone among other drastic design changes. While I love my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge like a son, I hope to god that Apple makes a product that will make me want to switch over to iPhone. And I hope Samsung responds by creating a product that will bring me back. (Maybe some may oppose the idea that I’d trade in my son for a newer model, but I’d just like to remind people that college tuition costs are insanely high and you should only invest in winners. I’m sure this comment will reflect horribly on me when I’m actually a parent one day.)

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Too often, people are adamantly “Team Android” or “Team Apple,” immediately dismissing the rival company’s products. Yesterday’s unboxing of Samsung’s Note 7 is a culmination of the years of competition between the tech giants, and shows that there’s no more room for allegiance swearing. No more signing contracts in blood with one company (you guys all had to do that too, right?). With these brands fighting market dominance, in a market with such high pressure to innovate, we the consumers are the real winners.

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