Cult Of Mac Debates: Is Samsung Really Innovating Faster Than Apple?

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There has been an ungodly amount of talk in recent months about how Apple is losing its edge to Samsung. Even some of Apple’s most faithful analysts have said that Samsung is more innovative now than Apple, but is that really true?

In the Cult of Mac chat room this afternoon, we found this video of Gene Munster saying Samsung is innovating faster than Apple. Some of us agreed with him, while others didn’t. What followed was a great discussion of what innovation really means, and whether Samsung is beating Apple. Rather than composing it into an article, we’re just going to post our chat and see what you guys think. Does Samsung really innovate faster than Apple now?

samsungchatting1 samsungchatting2

John’s argument seems pretty solid. He’s right. In the strictest terms, Samsung is innovating faster than Apple is right now. That doesn’t mean their products are better, but in terms of sheer improvement, Samsung is improving upon their products much faster, even if that means copying other companies’ ideas.

Do you have a counterpoint to the discussion? We’d love to hear it in the comments.

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  • 5imo

    I’m guessing all of Leander’s typos were because he was typing on an iPad.

  • sheyworth

    Samsung IS out-innovating Apple right now. That being said, they have to to play catch up. And there’s NO way to compare the two companies at all. Apple will always keep doing exactly what it’s doing. The fact that all this negative press, this negative arguments, would have a company speak up to the fact. They spoke up to the fact that Apple Maps is substandard. And they do that when it comes to them making something substandard. Besides that, Tim hasn’t said a word and Apple continues to not care about what anyone thinks about them. If they did, they’d fight back against the negativity. Every day that negativity is growing, and becoming bigger, and what all these other companies — who are focusing and thriving on bashing Apple and trying to make better devices for them, it’s completely opening up their ability to innovate on the next thing. To be rather frank, I personally think/wouldn’t be surprised if Apple is trying to help motivate the ruse that they’re failing. Everyone is focusing on that, and all the issues they had with the iPhone 5 release — of how much information was released early — is very quickly subsiding, letting them go back to what they loved to do.

  • Rjfilter

    When Samsung has copied all the Apple product features their “innovation” will grind to a halt until they have some new Apple features to copy.

  • WannaBApple

    Lets look at one of SGSIII innovative features: Smart Stay
    http://pocketnow.com/2012/06/06/a-look-at-smart-stay-on-the-galaxy-s-iii

    Smart stay may not work in these situations:
    a> When front camera fails to detect face
    b> When using device in dark
    c> When front camera is used for the application

    Excerpts from the article:
    Maybe future Samsung devices will incorporate some kind of infra-red front-facing camera to augment later versions of Smart Stay, but until then, the feature’s night-blindness is a severe -almost crippling- limitation: it forces users to either choose outrageously long backlight timeout settings, or dive into the settings menu to disable Smart Stay every time the sun goes down.

  • Buster

    @5imo nah, he just types the way he does sex: fast and sloppy.

  • gnomehole

    Copying isn’t innovating.. its F-ing lame. Too bad so many reward them for it or are blind too it.

  • bdkennedy

    Everything Apple is working on is late. OS X 10.8.3 is 4 months old without a release. It’s now one month after Apple introduced OS X 10.8 a year ago. Mac Pro, iLife, iWork haven’t been updated in years. Lots of manufacturing problems and the Maps failure. Today I heard rumors that the iPhone 5S and iTV are being pushed back.

    My guess is that Apple is hunkered down and having a major internal reorganization. This reminds me of the 2 years before the iPhone came out when Apple basically neglected OS X Leopard because they reorganized the engineers.

  • Patrick

    The problem is that this question wasn’t approached from a practical, reasonable angle. In order to truly evaluate the innovation in smartphones of both companies, a list of innovative features should be compiled, compared and contrasted.

    The most interesting component of this argument is that the discussion revolves around two distinctly different models; a hardware manufacturer and a hardware and software designer and developer. Thus, we have a company that primarily manufacturers designs provided by other companies versus a company that designs smartphones that are manufactured by other companies.

    As a result, Apple is almost undoubtably far more innovative simply because they must be by the very nature of the business. Recent innovations from Apple include hardware, software and services. Samsung can hardly claim software innovation as the software is provided by Google and while Samsung may provide some services the majority of services on their devices are also provided by Google. Likewise, Samsung doesn’t design their own chipsets. Further, even the external design of Samsung smartphones isn’t innovative as every time Samsung needs to cram in a new hardware feature they just increase the size of the smartphone rather than innovating to maintain a reasonable size.

    In fact, what is all this “innovation” from Samsung that is the subject of discussion? A much more reasonable discussion is if Google is innovating faster than Apple.

  • Whodakat

    Is it just me or is John Brownlee getting stupider? In order to do a side by side comparison of “innovation” (which probably isn’t possible but…) you have to be comparing apples to apples. Instead of subjectively deciding which things you like better about whatever phone, imagine a number line. 1 to 10. 10 being the perfect phone and 1 being a rock. If Apple started at a 7 and is now say an 8 or 9, and Samsung started at a 2 and is now a 7 you are arguing that 7 is better than 8 or 9. Whatever innovations it takes to get to an 8 or a 9, has already been done by the time you are there. You can say Samsung is improving their devices faster, but only if you say they had farther to go. Would you like Apple to apologize for taking years to do their homework and starting at a higher level then the competition? Seems kind of stupid to me. And I would argue that we haven’t seen any innovation in the mobile phone industry since the introduction of the iPhone. That was a new product that changed, fundamentally, the way we all use cell phones and the way we gather information. Samsung and Android have done a great job of improving their products but improving isn’t innovating. A new processor is not an innovation, a bigger screen is not an innovation. Something like an iWatch that changes the way we all do things, now that is an innovation, or has the potential to be at least. Remember bag phones you could take with you in the car? That was an innovation. The automobile was an innovation, the 2013 Corvettes, as nice as they are, are not innovations. They are improvements upon the original innovation. Googles driverless cars? That is innovative. When you define innovative as changes in something established, I think you need to define change first. Steve Jobs trading in his mock turtleneck for a plaid shirt, is not innovative.

  • dandymac

    @bdkennedy… Really?? Is thaat why Leopard was ‘neglected’?? It isn’t because Apple was busy redesigning that steaming hunk of crap OS?? Snow leopard was right on time and BAD ASS. At any rate this article is about PHONES, not Computers. AND rumors are just that, rumors! Keep believing that you know what Apple is going to do next. It really makes for funny as hell posts!

    now…

    Samesuck hasn’t innovated any ‘faster’ than Apple at all. They simply release more attempts at catching up with Apple. Although, SameSuck and Android are innovating, or rather driving innovation, in one area: Mobile Malware! some 300 known live malware pieces for android…. now THAT is innovation, and speedy.

    Apple, historically, does not just throw the latest tech into their devices unless they are proven to work and be effective. Why would Apple be stupid enough to enable NFC on their phones? Or even eye tracking?

  • Buster

    @bdkennedy You “heard” that the iPhone 5S and iTV were delayed from Peter Misek. That’s the guy who can’t get a single Apple TV rumor right. He’s a joke. We don’t post any of his bullshit unless it’s to laugh at him for being an ass. Read this: http://www.cultofmac.com/215736/a-history-of-horrible-apple-predictions-from-peter-misek/

  • Buster

    @whodakat john isn’t stupid :P He also specifically stated that this isn’t a debate about subjective innovation. Read the transcript again. Your analogy goes hand in hand with John’s. Apple started at a 7 with the iPhone. Samsung started at a 2. In the last 3 years, Samsung has moved up 5 spots (from 2 to 7), while Apple has only moved up maybe 2 spots (from 7 to 9). So even though Apple’s phone is arguably better, Samsung has made more improvements in a shorter amount of time. It might take them 3 years to move from a 7 to a 9 though. Who knows.

  • Robert X

    “Samsung is improving upon their products much faster, even if that means copying other companies’ ideas.”

    Um no, if you are copying by definition you are not “innovating”.

  • petervistisen

    I think the debate about definitions of innovation is a bit one-sided so please let me bring in a more detailed definition of how we can define innovation as a more broad term, where it is the level of innovation that differentiates Apple from Samsung.

    Markides & Geroski made a model in which they differentiated between four types of innovation: high, incremental, strategic, and radical innovation. I’ve made a drawing of the model with an example in this pdf: http://www.scribd.com/doc/130245290/Levels-of-Innovation-by-Markides-Geroski

    When we invent a new solution within our existing marked that has a high impact on the users behavior we are dealing with ‘high innovation’ – a thing both Apple and Samsung has been good at, but were Samsung has been faster making new solutions, but slower at getting the solutions to gain momentum, and thus we can argue how big a behavioral effect many of their features has had.

    The next level is the ‘incremental innovation’, were we make slight alterations and improvements to our existing products, but do not make any leaps in terms of the core user behavior og experience. This is were Apple has been with the iPhone for some time (yearly update in software and phone model), and is beginning to enter with the iPad also (evidently by the incremental update of the ‘iPad 4/ new new iPad’. The Android makers are of course also making incremental innovation – evident in the still-going-strong focus upon new and faster hardware.

    The third level of innovation is ‘strategic innovation’ were we disrupt our existing marked capacities but without disrupting the core behavior of our consumers (other than perhaps the need for them to by new replacement hardware). This is a level of innovation that Apple has had the guts to a lot since the introduction of the first iMac where they got rid of the floppy disc. Since then Apple has been leading the race in abandoning ‘legacy technology’ as the CD-rom, Ethernet, and latest the 30-pin connector. Again this level of innovation focus on optimizing and making the marked more lean, but not on making entirely new user experiences.

    That’s were the kicker comes in with the fourth type of innovation: the radical innovation. This is the type of innovation in which we come up with entirely new ways of solving problems or develops new value propositions that did not exist before. This is were we went from CD’s, buggy MP3 players ect. to the iPod and the iTunes Music Store. And also were we went from almost no marked penetration for smartphones, to the iPhones way of not only disruption the marked, but also our user behavior for ‘what a mobile device could be used for’. Finally it is also the level of innovation which lies behind the introduction of the first successful tablet (were earlier attempts might be classified as high innovation since their only tried to shrink the Windows desktop 1:1 down in a touch device).
    Apple has been leading the game in radical innovation for more than a decade – introducing the disruptive categories that has shifted the markeds of both the music, phone, and pc industry. But that is also the problem. We begin to expect that every time Apple launches a product it must be on the level of radical innovation, but were we most of the time only get incremental updates of the once radical innovations. That’s healthy product management, but harder to accept for the users/mass media.

    When (and if) Apple enters a new marked (TV, watches ect.) we might again see a disruptive way of changing both the marked capacities and the cultural behavior of the consumers – and thus again claiming that Apple is way more innovative on the radical level than Samsung, but with Samsung being much more highly and incremental innovative in its existing product categories.

    My 50 cent, gentlemen

  • kurapix

    It depends how you copy things.

    Apple copied Xerox concepts of the mouse and GUI (Graphical User Interface) and made something else out of it. They copied the concepts but not exactly the products.
    Apple innovated with the iPhone but it highly reminds me of PDAs (Palm, etc).
    They built upon the tablet PC that Microsoft invented and improved it in order to get the ipad.
    Apple copied the concept of the Android interface you get when you swipe from uptop.

    Samsung made a great job at better integrating Android with the hardware.

    In the end, everyone play the “catch up game”.

    Also, when you bump up technical specs or software of a device, the company may be innovating but you may not see it:
    - new manufacturing process
    - new chip internal design
    - new circuits in chip
    - new materials (IGZO is an example)
    - new scheduling code that enable better reactivity (for instance)
    - more security: Apple made an excellent job there (it’s quite rare in the industry in my opinion)
    - etc
    There are tons of stuffs the user don’t see and will not see.

    There are tons of stuffs they can innovate upon.
    The one that I’d like to see on every devices: open source drivers. This would allow to keep devices updated for many years after support end.
    And another: have the same freedom (or more) that we get on PC and not be restricted to their forced languages or interface or app installer or etc.

    Innovation is not creating something from nothing.
    It’s creating, inventing new features or improvements.
    Most of the time, we build upon what already exist … why invent the wheel again? That’s the best way to bump into walls.

    The best way to innovate is to have a fully opened platform.
    Android is not fully opened, otherwise Google would integrate more changes to AOSP from external manufacturers. Even though, since the code is there, manufacturers can build upon it … and that’s the reason that Android improve and has innovation at a faster rate: openness.

    More brainpower is working on Android than on iOS as well.
    Sorry to disappoint but as long as it’s gonna be the case and major manufacturers work on it … Apple will have to fight for a loooong time in order not to lose too much of its market share. Look at what happened to BlackBerry … they didn’t innovate, they lose their market share. Same for Nokia or Motorola.

    The only advantage Apple had over others: master of hardware + software, so it allows them better integration.
    That time is over thought: Samsung know their hardware and the Android software. Google is going to up the game with Motorola at some points as well (You really think that Google just bought Motorola for fun? Come on … it’s for patents and their phone knowledge and manufacturing).

    And they lost their major innovation weapon: Steve Jobs died 2 years ago and not much new happened at Apple since then …

    Two cents from an engineer point of view …

  • ac1dra1n

    I think that the reason Samsung is doing so well is because it is taking initiative like Apple a few years ago. The iPhone, Apples flagship phone ofcourse, has the same hardware throughout, which allows for better integration. Samsung is doing the same thing. They are focusing more on their flagship phone to create a much tighter integration. I think that the connection is there. It’s not that Apple is falling off their game, they are just reaching a type of cycle. Look at the transition from the 3GS to 4. No new-to-the-market, groundbreaking features added really they just had a hardware update. The 4S really gave everything. It had much better integration than the 4. That cycle is repeating with the 5. There’s my 2 cents.

  • AdamD

    So after all this debate, the term “innovation” has boiled down to feature add’s/bug fixing and generally making improvements to an established product. With that in mind, is it really innovation that stirs an emotional reaction from consumers reading the title of this article? i don’t think so, It’s revolution that gets the emotional reaction. Take a step back and look at society as a whole, we are quite contempt to just cruise through the ages using the same devices and improving the tech. The car manufacturing industry is a prime example of this, where one piece of technology has been improved over the years. Why hasn’t a single manufacturer scrapped the idea of 4 wheels+ engine and revolutionized the way any of us get from A to B? For some reason society breaks apart a device and judges it by its individual components rather than assessing how well the device performs it’s purpose as a whole. If Samsung are out “innovating” apple, does that mean society is progressing towards a future of hovering holographic video conferencing? No. If society backs Samsung’s business model of “give the consumer what the market has proven they want” rather than “the consumer doesn’t know what they want yet” then we have 10 years of current smart phones+faster CPU’s to look forward too. Apple and Google have proven they can look at a human task and revolutionize the way we perform that task…. Samsung is not interested in revolutionizing anything, therefore they are completely irrelevant in leading our race forward and as such the title of this article looses any meaning.

  • marioyohanes

    The answer is NO! Why? Because the only thing Samsung innovate these days is marketing, that’s all. After all it is unfair comparing Apple to Samsung, because the answer will always be Apple is better than Samsung because they build iOS and its hardware, not just modifying Android made by Google with its own hardware. See the difference?

    Also most analysts tend to forget about the fact Apple is the only smartphone company in the world who custom design its own chip (A6/X). Do you know A6 is 60% faster than ARM Cortex A15 while it is actually ARM Cortex A9 and at the same time reducing its power usage by almost half than ARM’s original design? That’s innovation!

    Does Google innovating faster than Apple? That’s what I called a real debate.

  • zagatosz

    Samsung’s great talent is ripping off other peoples ideas and designs. Going back with Samsung you will find they copied Sharp TVs when they entered the TV market, Panasonic for VCRs,Minolta for cameras, LG for washing machines, and Apple for smart phones. Samsung makes some great products but they are the most shameless pirates in the corporate world and as Apple learned they can not be trusted and Apple is smart to move away from having them source major parts of their products from them because what one part of Samsung know all parts will soon know.

  • mg212

    1) Being an Apple user is mostly about lifestyle improvement, if not changes and how the products and the integration of those Apple products come together to enrich the users experience as well as their lives. This translate to dollars and cents to Apple. Apple focusses first on the design/lifestyle changes rather than the income.
    2) As for Samsung, the focus is mainly on the products itself and thus far, from observation is never about the lifestyle integrations. These catching game, by way of marketing, legal etc, are all good for the pockets of the executives in Samsung. Samsung focusses on the income first rather than the user experience.

    Following these different “school of thoughts”, it is obvious for Apple to be categorised into Disruptive (radical) Innovation and Samsung the Incremental Innovation. By being radical, Apple created new markets, for IPod, iPhone, iPad etc. Samsung is catching up in those new market segments but are still too myopic to only focus on certain products and the offshoots of those products, ie creating (false) choices by leaving out certain functions in their product line. Apple, generally will incorporate those functions in their products line only if it is in line with the direction of their vision (a fully integrated range of products)

    In essence, to use an Apple product is to embodied the Apple philosophy and to await the next product line that will further enrich the consumer’s experience.

    On the other hand, Samsung’s philosophy (being Human) is more for the short term cash grab for themselves and maintaining market share.

    How we use these products is entirely up to us, short term or longer term. Choice is ours to make.

    My 2 cents worth

About the author

Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Social Media Editor. Hailing from Roswell, New Mexico, but now spending his days in Phoenix, Arizona, he wastes most of his time eating burritos and reading Spanish romance novels. Twitter: @bst3r.

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