Apple and Samsung have played leapfrog for the past few years. Apple introduces a new iPhone with more features, and six months later Samsung releases a new Galaxy model with improvements. What that series of incremental improvement tells me is that disruptive innovation in the smartphone arena is dead and we’ve entered the Golden Age of Incremental Innovation, a few years of steady, stable, but unexciting improvements to the status quo.
In other words, today’s premium smartphones, as represented by Samsung’s Galaxy line and Apple’s iPhone line, are just about as perfect as they can get. Until next year when both companies inch ever closer to perfect. Until the year after that.
Disruptive innovation– the kind that was ushered in by the original iPhone in 2007– is dead, replaced by the dynamic, living, incremental innovation which, like disruptive innovation, moves the world forward, but only a few inches at a time.
Think refinement. Like the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, Samsung’s two new Galaxy S7 models are improvements over last year’s models but look and feel much the same way as last year. The S7 Edge model has a larger screen but only matches the iPhone 6s Plus is size (but with higher resolution). Both Samsung models are considered waterproof. Until something leaks. A cocktail party trick to show off the feature could result in a problem, so I don’t put much stock in waterproof or water resistant, but all these devices should withstand a little rain and a big sneeze.
As with the iPhones, both Samsung models have larger batteries and longer battery life plus the latest Android Marshmallow version and a built-in camera than many users and reviewers say beats the iPhone’s latest (still six months behind) hands down. Ditto for the OLED displays which bring Kodachrome to phones. Of course, reviewers are quick to point out that some things never change, and both Samsung models come with what is called ‘carrier bloatware,’ a bunch of crappy apps that are poor duplicates of Google’s best or what Samsung uses to differentiate the Galaxy from other Android-based smartphones that run Marshmallow.
All these improvements, though, are incremental at best. Longer battery life. Better screen resolution. More apps. An improved camera. Year after year we’re treated to this leapfrog competition between Apple’s iPhone line and the Samsung Galaxy line.
It’s the Golden Age of Incremental Improvements to the smartphone. Gone are the days of disruptive innovation in smartphones, instead Apple still seems to have an edge on disruption (pun unintended) with Watch, a diminutive, somewhat underpowered and underwhelming device which in a barely a year has disrupted the nascent smartwatch industry, used Samsung’s leading efforts into obscurity, and put a crimp in the Swiss watch industry, yet Watch is little more than an accessory to the iPhone. Yes, we can expect a leapfrog match from Samsung in wearable devices, too, but as usual, it’s Apple which shows competitors the way to go, and when they get moving it’s the competition that continues to one-up Apple with incremental improvements.