Monday, March 3, 2014

Leave the Galaxy S5 alone

Now that the post-release cacophony of tech articles relating to the S5 is dying down, I'd like to put my two cents in. I'll preface this by saying that I wrote an article a year ago referencing what I saw as severe diminishing returns in the smartphone industry. The Galaxy S5 did nothing to disprove the trend I noted in that article, and yet, I am writing today to defend it. Why? Read on.

This may be a case of me playing devil's advocate, because if I have to read one more article complaining about the S5's lack of innovation, I'd probably delete Feedly off my Nexus 7. The problem is that what they are saying is painfully obvious, in fact, I and others have been saying that smartphones have stopped noticeably improving for a while now.

So really, I am not truly defending the S5, more so pointing out that you can't all gang up on it as the sole culprit in a world where bland smartphone releases are the norm. Just look at the iPhone 5S. Apple painted an iPhone 5 three "new" colors, added a slightly faster processor, a fingerprint sensor, and called it a day. The lauded HTC One was cool mainly due to its looks; in reality its insides were barely better than the GS3 or HTC One X. And so on and so forth for a million other smartphone sequels.

When I see articles crying about how Samsung merely added a better processor, a faux leather back, and a slightly better camera, I just sit back in my chair and shake my head. Where have you people been for the past three years? This is what the smartphone industry is. It's nothing new. This shouldn't be a surprise to anybody, least of all somebody writing for a tech website.

As a proud owner of an iPhone 4S, I've experienced this trend first hand. Indeed, going to an Apple Store, it's almost pitiful how little of a difference there is between the 5 and my 4S in terms of real world usage. Having seen the 5S in action, it fares a bit better in iOS7 than my 4S, but as long as I turn off the animations my phone is still more than fast enough to get everything I need done in a speedy time-frame. And compared to the 5C, my phone still looks sexy as hell with the classic black front and back encased in the iconic stainless steel band.

I've heard similar stories from Android users who still sport a Galaxy S3 or even S2. Anecdotes aside, the truth of the matter is that since around 2010, most high end smartphones released can do most of the basics well; that is, browsing, e-mail, light gaming, most apps, etc.

That is why I don't understand the hate for the GS5. It's only following in the footsteps of every other high end release of the past several years. Why would you expect anything different now? Besides, you only have yourselves to blame; if you did not buy a new phone every 6 months, companies like Apple and Samsung wouldn't feel pressed to release yearly updates that merely offer bland specification boosts from the previous year's model.

So, stop complaining, and do something about it! Keep your phones for more than a year. Enjoy it. Get the most out of it that you can. If you want to see innovation, then smartphone companies need to know that people prefer to hold on to their phones for a longer amount of time than they do currently. That would lead to a shift where they only release high end phones every two years and not one, thereby making it easier to innovate given longer development times.

Wouldn't that solve a lot of problems? The 4S to 5 was a half step forward. The 4S to 5S is a bit more substantial. The difference between a GS4 and GS5 is laughable. Between the GS3 and GS5, not so much. So either you guys accept a new phone every two years instead of every one, or quit crying about a lack of innovation. It's either or. You can't have your Galaxy S and eat it too. 

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About The Author

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Nicholas Garcia (M.A.) is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Davis. He is also a Co-Founder of the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Previously, he contributed to and the Davis Humanities Institute.