I don't know if you heard, but Samsung finally 'unpacked' the Galaxy S4 last night, live in New York, and yup, it was the colossal disappointment I pretty much expected it to be. Now sure, it looks like a decent enough device, and I've no doubt it'll sell like loonytunes, but the event was a clear sign that cracks are forming in Sammy's giant, all-singing all-dancing facade.
To some extent, Samsung is the victim of its own success. The Galaxy S III was a runaway hit, to such an extent that the Galaxy S4 was one of the most hotly-anticipated devices of the year. Now sure, it's unfair -- and unrealistic -- to expect a technological revolution every 12 months, but Samsung seriously messed up with the S4 launch in my opinion.
One of the things Apple used to do particularly well -- and still does at times -- is present devices that consumers can understand the ins and outs of. By and large, this means no wasted features. Almost everything within the design has a purpose and is genuinely useful, even if this means that handy stuff does get left out (I'm looking at you, cut and paste).
Samsung, on the other hand, seems to have spunked money all over its R&D department, and then whacked every idea, regardless of merit or utility, straight into TouchWiz. It's thrown every conceivable software feature at the wall, just to see what sticks. You want to be able to take 'Dual Camera' photos? Sure, why not! Weird eye-tilt-scrolly crap? Yeah, that's there too. Honestly, the only software features that actually grabbed my attention were the Health stuff, and offline translation options (though god only knows if that's actually gonna work).
Now, excessive amounts of bloatware isn't a new thing for Samsung. The Galaxy S III has a bunch of features that I guarantee no one has ever used outside of a Phones 4U (yeah, I mean you, pan-to-browse-images). The difference, though, is that the Galaxy S III had industry-leading hardware to back it up. The S4, however, is largely relying on the aforementioned software crap and a spec list as long as your arm to sell it. I don't think it's enough these days.
And Samsung knows this. I'm sorry, but to me, last night's launch reeked of a cover-up. Without trying to read too much into it, the differences between its bad off-Broadway production and a normal tech launch were gaping.
For one thing, none of the features were properly demonstrated or displayed. Rather, we had a bloody tap-dancing kid gallop through them at high speed, punctuated with musical interludes to stop the audience actually falling asleep.
I mean, think about it. When you need to put an entire fecking musical production on to try and prove that your phone's features are actually useful, you know that your product is a little bit crap. So why the completely over-hyped event? Why the claims that it's "the biggest thing since colour TV" when it's just patently not?
Honestly, I reckon Samsung was trying to sell it on pure hype alone. Have a show with lots of pizzazz and minimal time spent on the device itself, and maybe you can convince people that the S4 really is innovative. Tragically, headlines like this show that it might've worked.
Look, it's unfair for us to expect the S4 to be a market-leading leap forward; after all, I don't think there's far left to go in the specs arms race, and increasingly software is going to be the route of innovation. I get that. What I don't get, though, is why Samsung had to create the biggest anti-climax in all of human history*.
Oh, and having the poor twerpy douchebag-kid unveil the phone? No. Just no.
*OK, maybe not in all human history, but you get what I mean.
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