Galaxy S4: what it means for Apple's iPhone 6
15th Mar 2013 | 10:35
It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it
The Samsung Galaxy S4 launch was much more interesting than the Galaxy S4 itself. The tone was way off - CNet called it "shockingly sexist" - and like recent Apple launches, the device was evolutionary, not revolutionary. The Daily Mash nailed it with its report of "state-of-the-art pointlessness" that means "if you are watching a video you can pause it while being attacked by a wolf."
Many of the new features are old features, such as the tilt scrolling Instapaper offered in 2008 or the infra-red transmitters Nokia churned out by the truckload in the early 2000s. Other features have appeared on earlier Samsungs, or are available in apps such as Google Translate. Add-on games controllers are hardly a new idea either.
That's not to say that any of these things are bad - the wheel's been around for a while now, and that's still pretty handy - but of course if this was the iPhone 5S we'd have the entire internet telling us that Apple is doomed.
Samsung largely escaped that, although it was funny to see the odd bit of rumour-fuelled disappointment when the S4 didn't turn out to include a giant robot horse. Apple launches have had rumour-fuelled disappointment for years!
Cheap gags aside, can Apple learn anything from the S4?
I think it can.
It's all about the experience - and the apps
Samsung knows that it can't really stand out with hardware alone - let's be honest, bar the odd gimmick there's not a huge difference between the S4 and the S3, any more than there's a huge difference between an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 4 - and it can't really stand out with stock Android, because everybody's got that.
In fact, the word "Android" was conspicuous by its absence last night, and you got the distinct impression that if Tizen was ready, the S4 would be running that.
There's only so much you can do with the hardware. Sure, Apple can give us a bigger screen, a finish that doesn't scratch itself to death if you look at it funny, and it can boost the processor and the battery life and the megapixelszzzzz
Sorry, where was I?
What's interesting now isn't the hardware, but the overall experience. The ecosystem. The apps.
That's where Apple could do so much better.
Take Siri, for example. It's a superb technology that doesn't do very much. Let me control my phone with it, activate Airplane Mode or find a particular video clip and send it to my Apple TV.
Give developers an API so they can expand it into the areas Apple doesn't do or hasn't got round to. Siri should be an oracle and a Babel Fish translator, a taxi booker and a cheap flight finder and a Netflix controller and a song identifier and anything else developers can come up with.
It'd be nice to see Passbook actually do something too. My wallet's full of paper and plastic cards - gym memberships, petrol vouchers, loyalty cards, gig tickets - and Passbook could easily replace the lot of them, but right now it's a dead app.
Get the big names on board, get Siri to find the voucher or card I'm looking for.
Better sharing between apps.
A lock screen more like Google Now.
*cough* Maps *cough*.
You get the idea, and I'm sure you have your own suggestions (please, share them in the comments, we're all ears).
That's my wish list for the next iPhone. What's yours?