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Samsung taunts Apple by getting the user experience right at last

Caroline Gabriel

Caroline GabrielSamsung unveiled its new flagship, the Galaxy S III, joining HTC in the rarefied quad-core LTE superphone market, which is increasingly leaving Apple well be-hind in terms of functionality. Apple has not felt the need to chase top end specifications with the iPhone so far, knowing that its brand and user experience guarantee sales even without 4G or 3D. But it will have to respond this time, when it unveils iPhone 5, by unleashing some real innovations rather than just building on its famous but five-year old platform. This is because hardware alone may not beat the iPhone, but a new approach to the user experience may do, and Samsung has, after years of trying, created a UE which threatens to out-Apple Apple. Its extensive use of sensors and voice activation promises a handset which can “listen to you and understand what you want”, and in contrast to most Samsung user interface claims, this one was backed up by a large number of reviewers and analysts. The Korean vendor still needs to get a lot right – notably launching more quickly in the US than it did with the S II, and making a big splash in China, where Apple is finally having a major breakthrough. The S III is well positioned to consolidate its creator’s hold on the Android market, and to force Apple to turn out something special this fall too.

The S III will certainly have to wait for the „iPhone 5‟, and possibly the „iPhone 6‟, to meet an Apple rival which matches it in hardware terms – but of course, that is only half the story, and Samsung has yet to come close to its competitor in terms of brand or software experience. So the impressiveness of the S III‟s feature set and marketing campaign are still tempered by nagging doubts over whether Samsung can deliver the content platform and the integration with its other screens, such as TV, which will put the Galaxy at the heart of a broader platform, less subject to consumer fickleness.

The new user experience: However, the firm has made some serious efforts in terms of user experience, generally making the handset more intelligent, and able to “see and hear”, as the firm put it. For the first time, a new Galaxy emerged with some radical thinking on the software side, and with praise for its UI, rarely Samsung‟s strong point. If its TouchWiz UI has never set the world on fire before, the early reviews for the latest version, running on Android Ice Cream Sandwich (but largely hiding that fact) indicated a major step forward.

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