Why I’m Switching
For years Apple’s design philosophy has been that experience design makes up for any small differential in feature parity. This philosophy worked because people were fleeing from the cacophony that was the Microsoft service ecosystem, and/or the laughably horrible Palm Treo families. Apple purposefully made experiences with a focused (read: limited) feature-set because it provided a far superior experience for the vast majority of users (edge-cases would have to adjust, and they did. Happily). With the Samsung Note, things are changing. There’s now a gap in features that’s too wide to ignore. Between the stylus, huge screen and increasing powers of google (better than Apple’s siri and maps, etc.), Samsung has a compelling alternative to the iPhone.
We saw this play out in the PC space too… Remember the G4 & G5 Apple chips? They were terrible. They couldn’t run Flash! – web browsing experiences were greatly compromised on that hardware. I would argue that the same feature tripping point happened in reverse around 2007, when Apple got it together, adopted the Intel architecture and offered users everything they needed from their Windows boxes with the elegant “Apple Experience” layered on top. Point is: the “Apple Experience” only bridges feature-gaps of manageable distances.
Samsung Note, the good:
- Has a huge screen… Switching back to web browsing on an iPhone after using the Note for an hour is draconian.
- Wacom Stylus: I use one at work as my sole input device (I’m a-typical as I’m a graphic designer) and I love the precision it provides.
- Google, as a data-company that facilitates connected experiences, is second-to-none. Apple can’t touch Google Voice Search, Cloud Sync, Location-Based Services, Navigation, etc.
- Some people put a lot of stock in build quality – and that’s important. But when I’m lost in whatever digital experience I’m consuming on the device, all other peripherals melt away. The Note’s build quality is certainly less than apple (plastic vs. metal & glass), but it’s passable. After 5 minutes on the device you no linger care if the bezel is actual aluminum or aluminum-look plastic.
Samsung Note, the bad:
- The iPhone’s screen is still way brighter and the refresh rate is higher, which creates a “smoother” look. This is curious because I thought Samsung was the component supplier for the retina display… There should be no differences here.
- The “Apple Experience” is still the best out there: fonts, color usage, textures, layout, UI placement and experience pacing, etc.
- Android is like Windows ca. 1998, there are tons of 3rd party apps & plugins and no guarantee each of them won’t nuke your device.
- No iTunes!! I went all-in and adopted the iTunes ecosystem for music purchases, storage and playback across all of my devices. Backing out of this and into another ecosystem will be a major inconvenience. (Though with Songza, Rdio and Spotify, maybe the very nature of how I consume music is forever changed?)
- The device is packed with an Android OS with Samsung Apps on top with AT&T Carrier apps on top of that, which make for a noticeably “additive design” experience. Think Kenya Hara (Muji), Apple, Zen, etc. for why reductive is best.
So I’ll make the switch but with two huge EJECT buttons: 1) If I find i’m not using the stylus enough (maybe it’s like the Pepsi Challenge in that it seems better at first, but you have to live with it for a while to truly judge) 2) If adopting a new music ecosystem is too cumbersome.
As I write this I’m reminded of the brilliant Samsung commercials with the hipsters in line for the new Apple product release bemoaning the feature gap… If the iPhone 6 comes out and closes the gap, there’s still one thing that Apple has that no one else does… the “Apple Experience” – and that’s a competitive differentiator.