Samsung’s Galaxy S III is going to sell incredibly well in the US, there’s no doubt about that, but what’s impressive is the exact phone – not phones – that will be setting those records. The Korean company has previously seen its US launches hamstrung by each carrier demanding a specially-crafted version of whichever device is next on the roadmap, a time-wasting process that’s of arguably little benefit to end-users. The five US carrier launch of the Galaxy S III, though, sees all that change. One design, one name, one more notch on Samsung’s rise in the smartphone business.
In Europe, where standardization on GSM has ensured broad cross-network compatibility and kept competition fierce, carriers aren’t so concerned with pushing out custom variants. Yes, there’ll often be some basic software tweaking – generally slotted into place amidst the mandatory network testing they’re obligated to do anyway – and at one point some networks were in the habit of silk-screening their logos onto battery covers, until the time involved and the complaints from subscribers forced that out of fashion. But what you don’t get is the all-out hardware and software changes that US carriers have so far been demanding.
So, while European networks have merely been eager to get the Galaxy S III – just like the S II and S before it – to the market as soon as Samsung’s supply chain makes possible, previous iterations of the phone have been held up for the US market by needless differentiation. AT&T wants a different front-panel button layout, perhaps, or T-Mobile insists on a slightly remolded casing.
The Galaxy S III, though, changes all that. Sure, there’ll be different versions for CDMA and GSM carriers – that’s a market inevitability – but there won’t be the continued dilution of branding that operator customization produces. Your Galaxy S III on Verizon will, bar a logo, look just like your Galaxy S III on AT&T.
It’s taken Samsung three generations of S-Series flagship to achieve that. The original Galaxy S demonstrated that the company was a top-tier player in the smartphone industry; the Galaxy S II showed that not only that, it could take on Apple’s iPhone in terms of sales and performance. The Galaxy S III arrives to a market that’s in no doubt of its potential.
Samsung has been well criticized for its arguably scattershot approach to handsets. Whereas Apple offers just three variants – 3GS, 4 and 4S – it’s been pointed out, Samsung offers dozens of different devices. Make no mistake, though, there’s a world of difference between creating umpteen models with minor variations for the sake of your roadmap plan, and fashioning numerous interpretations of the same device to keep carrier customers sweet.
That Samsung has mass-market appeal isn’t new. That its appeal is now strong enough to out-sway individual carriers and their eagerness for “unique” models is a considerable change. Whether the Galaxy S III is competitive spec-for-spec with the upcoming iPhone 5 remains to be seen, but Samsung has demonstrated that it has the industry confidence to challenge Apple at the top table.