While I was sitting at the Samsung Galaxy S III event yesterday evening at Earl’s Court, I started to notice a trend. The official announcement and hands-on posts for the phone had already gone up ahead of the event, and the opinions began to flood in via Twitter during the course of the show. The general sentiment was one of disappointment, with prominent tech writers as well as internet commenters sending negative thoughts and opinions towards the most anticipated phone since the last iPhone. Why?
Several reasons. Let’s get the big one out of the way: the Galaxy S III is an ugly phone. It’s not the worst design I’ve ever laid my eyes on, but it’s as if Samsung’s designers took the least redeeming aspects from the Galaxy S and Galaxy Nexus, mashed them together, and spit out the Galaxy S III. It’s a cheap looking phone, amassing smudges and fingerprints faster than the handle of a murder weapon; it’s something I would expect LG or a lower-tier manufacturer to throw out.
So, it’s an unsightly mess. But let’s take a step back and think about the company we’re discussing for a second: it’s Samsung. The only products I can think of off the top of my head that have deviated from pure plastic have been the Omnia 7 and Galaxy Tab 7.7, both of which featured a healthy serving of metal. A shame then that more premium materials didn’t grace the new king of Android handsets, especially given the ceramic casing rumors, but were you really expecting Samsung to unveil a bold new design? This is a company that holds the mantra “play it safe” very close to its heart.
Specifications also seemed to have bummed some folks out, and I can understand why considering the rumors were mostly spot on regarding the quad-core processor powering the phone, but we’re reaching the point where specs are fast becoming irrelevant. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 has proved that “moar cores!!1” doesn’t automatically deliver better results, with the 28nm-based dual-core chip giving NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 SoC a run for its money. Quad-core is little more than an item on a marketing checklist at this point. And those disappointed to not see more than eight megapixels on a smartphone camera: stop being silly.
In that case, we need to look beyond the hardware. A pleasant software experience is what really matters at the end of the day, right? Even then, Samsung’s demonstrations approached self-parody, with meaningless buzzwords and comical phrases. Designed for humans. Inspired by nature. Wind, water, pebbles, leaves. Sitting at the event I found myself laughing inadvertently during some sections, and wondering if I had slipped into a nightmarish hellscape during others. The Siri clone was particularly groan worthy, but that’s not to say there weren’t some other cool things going on. Smart Stay! That’s cool. Something new and different! Oh, ok, Samsung are presenting it to me extremely creepily. There’s a woman with a strange voice telling me it knows when I’m asleep. Right.
That brings us to the marketing behind the Galaxy S III. Leading up to the event, Samsung threw a hornet’s nest in the generation direction of Apple fans and ended up stinging itself horribly in the process. The “iSheep” campaign was a misguided one: you don’t win over customers by laughing directly into their face. Even during the event, the direction and voice overs during the slides and commercials really made me wonder what kind of drugs they have over there. It was almost removed from reality, with the videos barely showing off the features, instead content to show us extremely handsome men and women wearing weird things while doing weird things. The crazy thing is that Samsung already know how to make a good commercial: just check out the one they use for the Galaxy Note in the UK.
But you know what? None of this matters. No matter what you or I think, it’s all irrelevant. Here’s why: Samsung are going to sell truckloads of these things, because they’re not making the phone for us anymore. Well, I mean, they are, because clearly it’s designed for humans. I mean everyone else. In the beginning the geeks and the nerds and the techies embraced Android, but the popularity truly exploded when the average person began using the platform. And that’s who Samsung is targeting now: everyone.
If I’ve learned nothing else these past few months, it’s that the tech industry resides in a bubble. No, not *that* kind of bubble that’s going to horribly burst, the kind that doesn't really reflect the real world. We nitpick and bitch about the tiniest little things (case in point: this article), but the common man and woman just wants a phone that does cool stuff and is the newest and the bestest thing ever. That’s exactly what the Galaxy S III is (at least for now), and it’s going to ride the huge wave that the Galaxy S II set up, no matter what I or anyone else thinks.