If you look at the media meme these days, the just-released Samsung Galaxy S8 is the bee’s knees. Apple’s unannounced successor to the iPhone 7, which may include a high-end iPhone 8, must be an inferior product. Apple has lost its taste for innovation, and the executives are sitting back and drinking Frappuccinos or some other overpriced beverage counting their blessings. Or the value of their stock options.
Samsung has announced that it has received record orders for the Galaxy S8, 30% above the underperforming Galaxy S7. However, that boast means little since Samsung doesn’t exactly release sales figures. At least when Apple released iPhone sales for its first weekend, you’d get real numbers. All right, Apple didn’t do that last fall amid expectations of lower sales, perhaps fed by severe constraints on supplies of the iPhone 7 Plus.
Despite the favorable press, the Galaxy S8 ships with some known problems, such as a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor that’s awkward to reach, a facial recognition system that can be fooled by a photograph. The Consumer Reports review suggested you could use the iris scanner instead, but it, too, has some shortcomings. “The iris scanner, however, takes about a second longer to unlock the screen and doesn’t work very well in sunlight or very dark rooms.”
In addition, Samsung’s brand spanking new voice assistant, Bixby, developed by some of the people who brought you Siri, is too buggy for prime time. It will arrive later. Preliminary benchmarks reveal that the only area where the Galaxy S8 runs any faster than an iPhone 7 is in multicore tests, which don’t reflect real-world use of one of these gadgets.
I should also mention that the Consumer Reports reviewer remarked that the test units “threatened to slip out of my hands more than a few times in the week I handled them, twice over a concrete sidewalk.”
But reviewers are knocked out by the Infinity AMOLED display with bright pictures and rich colors. The camera reportedly delivers better low-light snapshots than last year’s iPhone 7.
Now it may well be that Samsung has overcome the stench of its Galaxy Note 7 recall. Even though the battery design of the S8 is supposed to resemble the one used in the Note 7, one hopes that Samsung has taken steps to avoid the problems that crippled the latter.
With all this, it’s clear Samsung has, for the most part, gotten good press, despite the S8’s known flaws.
Yet here we are, perhaps five months away from the release of the next iPhone, and it’s already being branded a failure. If the rumored iPhone 8 — or whatever it’ll be called — has an edge-to-edge OLED display, it won’t matter. Samsung and other mobile handset makers had them first. Wireless charging? Well, Apple is late to the party with that one also.
It may not matter that Apple will probably claim that its use of OLED makes for a superior display, that it has a more effective wireless charging solution. Apple wasn’t first with a fingerprint sensor either, by the way, but being first isn’t always Apple’s way. And don’t forget the claims that Apple is running behind and won’t be able to get the high-end iPhone out on time, or at best, supplies will be severely constrained.
So is there a single source of the bad press, or are Apple skeptics separately rating its forthcoming products potential failures?
Now I’m not about to make any charges, but let’s not forget that Samsung’s former CEO was arrested by South Korean authorities for corruption. In other words, if found guilty, he’s a crook. But does that behavior extend to Samsung?
Well, lest we forget, Apple has successfully sued Samsung for stealing elements of the iPhone design. I realize these cases are still being appealed, but still. True, Apple has lost patent lawsuits too, but they generally involve gray areas that aren’t always terribly obvious.
Samsung is also notorious for adjusting performance parameters of its gear to show up better results during benchmarks. In other words, they cheat. Sort of reminds me, in a way, of what Volkswagen did to pass emissions tests with its diesel engines.
So add these factors together, and we come up with a company with a culture of corruption that would not be above trying to induce journalists to write negative stories about its biggest competitor — Apple. I’m not suggesting those journalists are necessarily corrupt, or being paid off. But it may well be that Samsung has some people on its payroll that know how to generate stories and rumors, and perhaps persuade a few friendly journalists about what stories to cover. Or maybe they pay outside operatives to pretend to be fellow reporters.
This isn’t to say that all negative stories about Apple are the result of Samsung’s dirty tricks. Some tech journalists may write those negative stories with lurid headline as hit bait, to generate ad-clicks. Others might be honest brokers, who believe in what they write. But a company that is known to do dishonest things is a credible suspect.
Remember that Apple hasn’t said anything about the next iPhone and won’t until it’s time for release. I’ll assume that’ll happen in September. Until then, all we will know are the usual supply chain leaks and maybe a few hints dropped by people in the know on deep background to generate online chatter. The rest may simply be made up.
Remember they attacked the iPhone 7 last year as unimpressive, but such moves didn’t affect sales.