One X, Samsung, and Maps.


I finally saw one review comparison of the HTC One X phone to the iPhone 5. Almost all other comparisons pitted the Samsung Galaxy S3 against the iPhone.

That is one amazing publicity coup by Samsung. At the start of the year, One X and S3 were being compared to each other. And indeed the One X is a very nice phone. Almost on par for hardware wise, speed is good, build is very nice. HTC marketed it extensively, so how did it lose out?

Samsung built up its Galaxy branding, which is a reference like the iPhone name. HTC’s One isn’t as distinctive or widespread. This is a good marketing tactic.

Samsung had a huge Olympics blitz on their hardware. S3, Note, tablets, whatever.

Samsung fought a ton of legal battles with Apple. Sure, they were expensive. Sure they lost a good number of them, and also partially won some. On paper and in the bank, they have so far been losing. But it was an incredibly high profile constant and prolonged comparison between the two companies and their devices. It brought Samsung features into the spotlight and got people to take a longer look at their phones and the functions. It made people think that they were similar, as good, a copy, or even ‘same same but different’, a viable choice for consumers who want to use a phone but don’t hold shares in the companies.

Samsung kept jabbing at Apple in their Australia iSheep adverts. S2. S3. Sure the ads were biased, but hilarious in a way that everyone understands, and consistent marketing message. Company rivalries are welcomed by neutral consumers. It is amusing, entertaining, and beneficial. We all enjoyed it when M1 and Starhub beat on Singtel. It kept the Samsung name floating higher than HTC or Motorola or LG or Nokia.

The tech press portrayed HTC as flailing, Nokia as lost, BlackBerry as on the brink of collapse. But that doesn’t really filter to the man on the street. It didn’t hurt Samsung to be well bolstered by their multiple revenue sources.

Samsung pushed out a ton of devices and in more and more colors as they soaked up consumer demands and preferences in East Asia. They understood the Korean and Japanese markets better than the rest. Google says those two countries have the highest app download per device in the world, after probably USA. These two markets are big, affluent, have high spending power, possibly the most advanced in Internet use, and not as Americanised Americanized as Singapore.

I’m impressed a company is willing to go so far in on one platform. Talk about a big monumental push.

Someone asked me why I chose the S3 over the One X, and I said ‘because I believe this device will be more widespread, and thus there will be more developer support’. That is one reason why the iPhone does well – because it is common, there are thus lots of apps, and also sufficient jailbreak methods to overcome limitations. True that it is more developer friendly, but developers will find a way to cater to a popular platform even if it is difficult.

So now with the Apple Maps fiasco, consumers fall back to the closest available comparison, that would be Google Maps on Android devices, and since many of them will not recognise the Android branding, the Samsung name will pop up fresh in their minds. What a brilliant coup! Samsung didn’t even have to jab back on this issue. Microsoft and Motorola did so. Google simply smiled innocently and stressed their sweet diligence at creating good maps available to everyone, letting people form their own assumptions about Apple’s underlying intentions in booting off Google Maps. At the same time they showed off their 7000 Ground Truth staff, planes, bikes, trikes, snowmobiles that generate comprehensive maps, their bordering on absurd underwater diving ‘streetview‘. I actually overheard some men discussing this underwater thing, and they refer to it like some space exploration high tech stuff. Simply put, Google just used their standard processing techniques on underwater photos and voila, underwater view. It’s absurd, and it works. If you go in, you’d realise that they use the same tech to generate streetviews of Antartica, Hawaii, Wonders of the world, Amazon river, Swiss Alps, Art Museums, and other madness. Here are some professional GIS thoughts on mapping issues.

I saw another article with a fresh viewpoint, and that is that businesses are so screwed right now, because all the iOS6 users can’t find their locations properly on Apple Maps. Image if someone searches Tim Hortons and doesn’t find it, and ends up in Starbucks. Bad. One tech writer who has Apple shares, bought every iphone, has all Apple devices, and told all his US friends to bring unlocked Iphones with them to visit London, just felt so devastated when he realized Apple Maps will just make all his friends totally lost. Pity. Oh and does it even have offline map function? Because that is indescribably indescribably essential when traveling.

It’s true, there are valid defensive reasons for Apple to ditch Google Maps. I can understand and accept that. It’s just how lousily they did it. And G Maps is so great because Google spent years accumulating all sorts of information, giving away Maps API to developers, apps, users. Someone likened it to the most detailed non-military map of the world. They attacked it with the curiosity of someone who lives maps to death, maps of everything, everywhere, space, moon, sea, Mars, buildings, paths, Antarctica. I just cannot see Apple the corporate stuckup showing as much love in their maps data. More than just a tool to navigation, maps are fun things. We open them to browse places, see new things, move around, curiously check out our own house in streetview (apparently that’s what they found that people bizarrely like to do), learn new things, be impressed with the world, and just grow our minds. People used it to map disaster areas, help earthquake victims, plot disease spreading, calculate running distances and even plot bribery occurrences. Has Apple ever release a free public API that comes as close? Maybe Apple Maps can be the dusty old backup but so far Maps has never been offline ever.

As also mentioned somewhere, Google possesses leading edge techniques in massive data storage, data distribution, collection, processing that’s required in serving maps to the entire planet, insane search intelligence that predicts what you are typing in versus what you actually might want (including localization, spelling correction, and more). It is also in their core company interest to collect as much information as possible. None of this is Apple’s core business. Apple launching into Maps is like Google attempting to manufacture their own iPhones and Macbooks. (while G actually has Chromebooks, Chrome OS, Motorola, these are more like fun projects)

It is also obvious that Apple needs to pursue their mapping project for at least a few years and untold amounts of money. They can’t stop now because it will be dramatically embarrassing, and wrong for their risk management strategy. It is obvious too that they can afford to stomach it financially (~100 billion in the bank?), and in goodwill from the other beneficial features of the iOS system. Regrettably for the world, we now need to contend with having multiple forks, Windows vs OS X, iOS vs Android, Google Maps vs Apple Maps, all of them core base layer systems that affect programs, apps, developers, and usage patterns. More to learn, more fragmentation.

One X, Samsung, and Maps.

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