Samsung may win on hardware and design, but that’s only half the picture.
The first reviews for Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 were universally positive, and deservedly so.
It really is a great phone. Excellent hardware. Beautiful design. Great camera, battery life, and overall performance.
But even though the iPhone 7 looks and feels outdated in comparison, it has one key advantage that gives it an edge over the Galaxy S8: the iOS ecosystem.
Just look at the reviews.
While everyone praised Samsung’s hardware and design, it’s clear that Samsung misfired on the software side of things. Bixby, Samsung’s homegrown digital assistant, is basically useless and fails in its attempt to mimic Google’s Assistant. Plus, Samsung flubbed the Bixby debut and won’t launch its voice controls until later this year. When that happens, Galaxy S8 owners will have two assistants living on their phone, competing for their attention.
On top of that, Samsung made loads of unnecessary modifications to Android. There are duplicate Samsung-branded apps for everything from email to calendar, and none of them are better than the Google apps that ship with Android.
Plus, Samsung has a horrible track record of keeping its phones up to date. Even the Galaxy S7, which is barely a year old, isn’t running the latest version of Android on some carriers — and it has been about six months since Google released that version.
Meanwhile, new Samsung-specific software features rarely make it to older phone models. If you buy a new Samsung phone, it remains relevant for about a year, until the next one comes out.
Apple does a much better job at keeping iPhones up to date for several years. It pushes the same version with the same features to practically every iPhone still in use. It’s that strength of the iOS ecosystem that keeps developers coming back and offering the latest and greatest apps and features on iOS first.
It’s true that Apple’s lead in smartphones is thinning — Samsung’s innovative hardware and design in the Galaxy S8 is all the proof you need of that. But it’s iOS that gives Apple the advantage.
This is why I think the Galaxy S8 — and likely the Note 8 that’s expected to launch this fall — will struggle against Apple’s next iPhone, which is said to adopt a lot of features from Samsung, like a larger, curved screen.
Samsung will enjoy a nice glow for a few months after the launch of the Galaxy S8, but Apple is poised to widen its lead again in the fall.