Pathetic Ways to Upstage Apple

September 5th, 2013

Certainly, Apple’s upcoming iPhone media event has been telegraphed in the media for a while. When the rumors first arose, well-connected bloggers, such as The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple, were quick to say it was true. But the timing is essentially in step with last year’s iPhone 5 rollout, and was thus predictable.

Now anytime Apple holds a press briefing, it’s pretty doubtful that any other tech company will be able to find a way to get some press. So what appears to be happening is that other companies are trying to divert this week’s conversation to their own products or services.

So, after tech pundits were busy dissecting the lame excuse that Steve Ballmer’s planned departure as Microsoft CEO was voluntary rather than forced, the company made more headlines this week. But you wonder if it was really worth the effort — and the money!

Since I’ve already weighed in on Microsoft’s deal with Nokia, clearly an act of utter desperation, I won’t bore you with any further comments, except for the timing. The questionable move got headlines this week; next week, there would still be headlines, but Microsoft would be competing with Apple for prominence, and that’s not something that would not have worked in their favor.

On Wednesday, Samsung made an expected announcement about the $299 Galaxy Gear smartwatch, yet another attempt to gain a leg up on the non-existent wearable device craze. All right, CNN is calling it, “the hottest trend in tech,” but that pronouncement is hard to take seriously, since there is no evidence that customers are lining up to buy them. In any case, Samsung clicked all the expected checkboxes for this new gadget, but the hardware ends up being low rent compared to full-fledged smartphones and tablets. They couldn’t even come up with a memorable name that isn’t a tongue twister.

Indeed, I wonder why Samsung even bothered to mention the specs at all for something that would be a poor stepchild to the mobile devices to which it would link. Even there, the only compatible gear, so far, is the Galaxy Note 3 (a phablet) and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which therefore forces potential customers to buy two devices to use one.

One might think that Samsung would, at the very least, have made their smart watch compatible with the best selling gadgets, rather than handicap the thing so severely. It doesn’t matter which apps are supported, or even that there are some health oriented apps available along with an onboard pedometer.

Worse, battery life is just one day, which further restricts the usefulness of this gadget. I would expect that, with hard use, it would be even less, and imagine having to recharge your watch every few hours Indeed, The Verge had a brief hands-on, where they said the interface lagged, and, by the end of Samsung’s media briefing, “the cameras on most of the demo units were refusing to turn on due to the watches running low on power.”

All day? Sure, right! Clearly Samsung rushed this device to market without considering the fundamental problems of battery life, flexibility, or even the ability to pair with a large number of devices to actually work.

All right, the Gear’s looks aren’t so bad for a tech toy, though it doesn’t seem to veer so much from the current crop of smart watches. No doubt Samsung felt they could get a leg up on Apple, which is widely believed to be crafting a wearable device dubbed iWatch. But you can bet that, if the iWatch is meant as a companion to an existing iOS device, it would support all current and recent models, and that battery life would be at least several days under normal use.

Also, I am still not convinced that Apple would want an iWatch to require hookup to another device, although that feature would be offered. A better solution would be to offer full standalone capability, including the phone, so you didn’t have to take two gadgets with you to use just one. However, something of this sort would require at a high level of creativity along with design and engineering expertise.

To Samsung, it’s easier just to throw together an ill-conceived gadget, and hope that customers will be fooled into buying them. To be sure, I expect some of the tech publications will lavish high praise on this misbegotten product. Regardless, Samsung might bask in the glow of publicity for a short time, until Apple delivers the news on the new iPhones at the September 10 event.

As to Google, they have now confirmed that the next version of Android will not be version 5 Key Lime Pie as many expected. Instead, it’ll be 4.4 KitKat. I don’t know about naming operating systems after candy, particularly the kind that makes those annoying clicks when you break it apart. Indeed, the incessant clicking on those ever-irritating ads for the failed Microsoft Surface tablets at first reminded me of hundreds of people with Kit Kat candy bars on hand. Now Google is taking it to heart. Worse, Google isn’t revealing the feature set just yet, though you expect that, with just a minor number upgrade, it won’t be changed all that much from 4.3 Jelly Bean.

By next week, talk of the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s handset division, and the next version of Android, will be largely forgotten. I also expect there won’t be too much chatter about who the next CEO of Microsoft might be, unless Ballmer’s successor is suddenly announced. But you can bet the critics will be ranting about Apple, and how the new iPhones aren’t innovative enough. Oh well!

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18 Responses to “Pathetic Ways to Upstage Apple”

  1. Michael says:

    “the Gear’s looks aren’t so bad for a tech toy.” Are you out of your mind. It is the ugliest device I have ever seen, a design disaster, topped by that big ugly button. If Apple turned this out the press would be screaming for it to shutter itself and sell off the parts!

  2. Articles you should read (Sept. 5) …. says:

    […] “Pathetic Ways to Upstage Apple: Certainly, Apple’s upcoming iPhone media event has been telegraphed in the media for a while. When the rumors first arose, well-connected bloggers, such as The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple, were quick to say it was true. But the timing is essentially in step with last year’s iPhone 5 rollout, and was thus predictable.” — “The Tech Night Owl” ( […]

  3. Don108 says:

    Apple hasn’t come out with new products in over a year, so Samsung has had nothing to copy and claim originality. As a result, they are no copying RUMORS about what Apple will make. Samsung=Samesong.

  4. John Dingler, artist says:

    If one forgets to recharge its battery overnight, one would have to recharge it in the morning as well as probably reset the hands to the correct time. In the meantime, one would need a second watch while waiting for the recharge. Along with the need for a phone, in my estimation, those are too many things to do/have just to set it up to work.

  5. Robyn Smythe says:

    Good column, but how about a tweak to your headline?

    “Pathetic Ways to *TRY* to Upstage Apple”

    As written, it implies they did upstage Apple!

    Again, wish you all would change your CAPTCHA system–it keeps not working–often the codes are impossible to read; other times, it simply doesn’t accept what’s entered-it keeps out humans more than Spammers! The refresh the code symbol looks like a trademark symbol–that’s hard to discover and again blocks people who’d like to participate!

  6. Thanks for the feedback. I temporally disabled the CAPTCHA to see what happens.


  7. Matthew says:

    Speaking of the looks of the Galaxy Gear, I wanted to point out that one of the colors you can buy is “Oatmeal Beige.” Yes, what a great name for a color; it looks just as good as it sounds!

  8. John says:

    I suspect that the iWatch will tether to the iPhone or iPad. I don’t see the technology ready yet to do a full-featured, stand-alone, wrist-mounted gadget. Plus there are so many benefits to tethering. The tethered device uses far less power, doesn’t duplicate the tech already in your iPhone, can be much less expensive and it still does many really useful things. I’ve been using the Pebble for two months or so. I don’t use it much at home but at conferences or when I’m presenting or just in a noisy locale it is great. You can’t miss that vibration on your wrist and it is really handy to quickly glance at the watch and decide whether you want to take a call or not.

    I suspect Apple will focus on such really useful features. Historically, Apple starts small and builds so the iWatch is likely to have a moderate feature set which will expand year-by-year.

  9. Jase says:

    The Galaxy Gear watch is awkward-looking, and I can’t imagine spending $300 on that thing that seems to offer little real benefits. I expect that Apple will come through with a much more elegant product in form and function. But I am intrigued by the Galaxy Note 3. I have been using an iPhone since the iPhone 3G was released, but would really like a larger display than what the iPhone currently offers. I also find a replaceable battery and micro SD storage to be attractive features. What do you think is the strongest argument for someone like me to stay with the iPhone and go with the iPhone 5S, instead of switching to the Samsung Galaxy S4 or Note 3? I also am a long-time Mac user.

    • @Jase, Consider that a smartphone isn’t just the screen, and that, if you are comfortable with Apple’s ecosystem, remember that a Samsung won’t be part of it.

      I can tell you that Androidland is a rough place if you want consistency and reliability. I have apps on the Galaxy S4 that simply do not work reliably, and they are from major publishers. They may or may not be fixed, just as you may or may not get critical OS updates.


  10. Jase says:

    Thanks Gene. I do like the Apple ecosystem. Pages for OS X is my main word processor, and I have over 1200 iPhone and iPad apps in iTunes loaded on my MacBook.

    I will say that I am kind of underwhelmed by what I have seen from iOS 7 so far. And although this is purely a subjective cosmetic thing, I find the combination of bright and pastel colors that Johnny Ive selected to be pretty horrible to look at.

    I have never used an iPhone 5, but I have held one in my hand and it does feel noticeably better in my hand than my iPhone 4s.

  11. Jase says:

    Gene, I never said that my entire impression of iOS 7 was based on my dislike of the color scheme. That is why I conditioned my narrow remark about my opinion of the color scheme with the words “cosmetic” and “subjective.”

    I am not the only one who is less than overwhelmed in general by the iOS 7 beta.

  12. Jase says:

    This is a hands-on preview of the Galaxy Note 3 from Engadget from a few days ago:

  13. Jase says:

    Happy Birthday Gene. Really good show this week with good guests. I enjoyed the discussions concerning the emerging smart watch category and Microsoft/Nokia and new product innovation in general.

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