Samsung continues to devote an embarrassingly large amount of their advertising not to their own products but to Apple's. In Samsung's latest ad, they pretty much admit they were the manufacturing equivalent of the stereotypical "FIRST!" message board commenter, releasing the super-sized Galaxy Note phablet before they, it, and the market were ready. They then make fun of their own product, highlighting quips like "you look like you're talking into a piece of toast", and "the note is an unwieldy beast", before diving head-first into the notion that Apple is imitating them by releasing the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. So what's really going on here?
Apple is patient. They weren't the first to make an MP3 player. They weren't the first to make a smartphone. They weren't the first to make a tablet. And they weren't the first to make a phablet (or "tablone" if you want to sound even sillier). Apple could care less if they're first-to-market with a new category of device. They simply want to make sure that, when they do go to market, it's with what they consider to be the very best device in its category. That's why they wait — so they can figure out problems they're uniquely positioned to solve.
For example, Apple wasn't first to market with an LTE smartphone. The HTC Thunderbolt came out months and months beforehand. The battery life was horrid, even with a screen made larger merely to cover how much extra battery they had to shove in there to power those early generation chips.
Apple, by contrast, waited until next-generation LTE chips were available and could be implemented in a way that was power efficient, providing the same great battery life as before in a phone that, while taller, was also smaller by volume.
Likewise, Apple has stuck to the display technology they prefer, not willing to compromise with SAMOLED or PenTile subpixels just to stretch out their screens. Apple waited until they could get a Retina HD display, with photo alignment of the liquid crystals for higher contrast, dual-domain pixels for full sRGB color accuracy at wider viewing angles, a better polarizer, and an even thinner assembly. Instead of just an iPhone with a bigger screen, they waited until they could make an iPhone 6 Plus.
Now, I've used Wacom tablets for years and I like the idea of a relatively small digitizer with hand-writing recognition that I can hold in my hand. While Samsung calls it "innovative", I've used Tablet PCs that offered just that, albeit at larger sizes, for over a decade. Still, it's cool. What's not so cool is the software experience. Based on Google's Android operating system and cemented over by Samsung's own proprietary interface layer, it's often so disjointed and incoherent that it severely harms the overall usability, at least for me.
The fake stitched leather back of the Galaxy Note, made out of Samsung's go-to-plastic, doesn't help either.
(Nor, frankly, does this ad where Samsung chooses highlight an app that ripped off its interface from the acclaimed djay app for iPhone and iPad... )
Samsung finishes up with some tweets praising their Galaxy Note series and slamming Apple, again for doing what Apple has always done. That's likely because, all these years later, Samsung still doesn't understand it. They can see the what, but they can't wrap their head around the how or the why.
Apple seems to believe they have the software, services, and hardware in place to make bigger screen devices now that better serve the growing market of mobile as primary computing device. They seem to believe they can use the bigger screen to provide a higher-level of experience.
Samsung no doubt feels the same. They simply differ on what that experience should be. And that's fine. Having different opinions is fine. In fact, it's great for consumers.
The sad truth is, however, it's not so great for Samsung. Previously anyone who wanted a giant phone — or nano tablet — pretty much had to go with Samsung. Now anyone can choose to go with iPhone. Which is probably the best explanation of all for this rather rushed, ill-considered ad. Especially considering that the only thing it does really, really well is announce to Galaxy Note customers they can finally go get an iPhone 6 Plus...