Samsung flounders, The Watch, and Sony must be joking

Oh, how the mighty have fallen

When Apple released the iPhone 6 Plus, mobile pundits predicted it would be a game-changer for Apple, helping them tap into the until then phablet screen market dominated by Samsung. This week, we saw how prescient those predictions were, as Apple outsold Samsung for the first time. Ever. Apple edged out Samsung to walk away with a 20.4% market share. Not a commanding lead, it’s true, but yet another sign of what we see as Samsung’s floundering.

With the announcement of Samsung Pay, which will debut on the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge (which look suspiciously like iPhones), Samsung seems to be just replicating Apple (again) and forgetting their identity. Samsung was hit hard in 2014; Apple cleaned up most of the high-end (esp. in Asia, most notably China) and Xiomai and other, lower-end Chinese manufacturers ate up the low end scale Samsung depends on. The S5 was sort of a flop and the bigger-screen phones got overtaken by iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Samsung seems to have decided that shiny, Apple-like phones with metal and glass and (rather than the awful plastic of yore) are what really matters. But the problem is in making these changes they’ve killed off the very unique, Android things like SD card slots and swappable batteries that people love. People who want high-end phones that look like iPhones will buy…. iPhones. Now Samsung risks losing the Android loyalists, who stuck with them because customization and expansion matter more than shiny metal and payment systems.  Samsung is flailing and moves like this will just cause them to sink further.

In case the Google Glass was just too stylish for you

In a move that we’re half thinking is some sort of subtle trolling, Sony has announced that the SmartEyeglass will be released on March 10. Reminiscent of super rad, 1990s Oakley sunglasses, these monstrous frames perch on your face, just begging for someone to punch you. Even the promotional model looks like she just escaped 1994. And then realize they’re $840. I’m not really sure what Sony was thinking here; maybe the stellar (?) success of Google Glass just inspired them to try their hand at particularly ugly wearables tech. Who knows.

It’s almost time for The Watch

So Monday is the big announcement about the April launch of this Apple Watch.  And appropriately it’s the only think people can talk about. So let me weigh in with my humble, tempered view on what we know about the Apple Watch. Which is not much.

Let’s start with the cost of the elite gold watch. I’m interested in the pricing of the gold watch not because I am even remotely considering buying it (I mean, who wears gold anymore?) but more to learn if Apple will be attempting to take on luxury watches. If they do price the watch into the high thousands as many have suggested, they are certainly going for the luxury watch market. And I think that would be a mistake. Luxury brands are about timelessness as well as exclusivity. The Apple Watch will iterate tremendously over coming years, making each previous version nearly obsolete and low status to still have.

Just like the original iPad/ iPhone, I think we will look back at this Apple Watch and see it as very thick and chunky. I think the fitness monitoring (especially the heart rate monitor) will be interesting. But there’s a long way to go before the Apple Watch really is a companion for my overall health and fitness. I think the Taptic Engine will be the most useful feature, allowing the user to keep the phone in their pocket or desk and still be alerted to a lot of information. But for me, this version seems way too early to jump in and purchase.

With all that said, I think the Apple Watch will sell like gangbusters. Why? Because I see way too many data points similar to the pre-iPad/ iPhone days. The market shows strong interest in a new product that solves (albeit poorly) a whole new set of jobs to be done for customers.

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