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The Galaxy S9’s familiarity reminds me of the Galaxy S5

by Justin Herrick | February 25, 2018February 25, 2018 10:30 am PST

Now we know how Samsung plans to tackle Apple’s iPhone X. The Galaxy S9 is official, and it sticks to a successful formula. While the phone doesn’t look too different than the Galaxy S8, the Galaxy S9 does pack a bunch of upgraded components. It has a stronger and more efficient processor, and its groundbreaking camera offers variable aperture. This time around Samsung is clearly focusing on what’s inside; however, that’s leading to some serious criticism.

The mobile industry has been down this road before. And back then it was also Samsung at the center of contention. People wanted to see The Next Galaxy™ take a big step forward, but the company resisted and introduced minor cosmetic improvements along with better internals.

It’s not 2014, but years later the Galaxy S9 seems a lot like one of Samsung’s previous flagships. Just don’t blame Samsung. As was the case with the Galaxy S5, Samsung understands the current state of the market doesn’t necessitate more innovation yet.

So many phones have been released in the last four years. Still, only a handful of brands remain the most popular. But let’s remember exactly what the industry looked like in 2014 because that helps us understand why Samsung has played it safe with the Galaxy S9 in 2018.

Apple and Samsung dominated the industry then as they do now. It’s been an endless arms race between the two companies to be your brand of choice. Certainly that hasn’t changed.

In 2014, the iPhone 5S was selling terrifically. Samsung, meanwhile, experienced record-breaking sales with the Galaxy S4 in 2013 and stood tall as Apple’s biggest threat. Expectations for Samsung’s next flagship were set extremely high. The world set its eyes on MWC 2014 in February to see how Samsung would respond to the iPhone 5S. Then the company took the stage in Barcelona and shockingly delivered what immediately felt like a dud.

The Galaxy S5 wasn’t exciting.

What bothered the masses about the Galaxy S5 was its appearance. The major difference between the Galaxy S5 and its predecessor was the transition from a plastic back to one of rubber. People had thought Samsung would switch over to glass or metal since that’s what Apple had done years prior, so they were greatly let down by seeing a Galaxy S4 redux.

If you’re going to nitpick for lack of innovation, you have to do it for everyone and not just the industry leader. HTC, Motorola, and LG also bored us. That tells you it was an industry-wide matter, not a company-specific one.

There’s no denying the disappointment of the Galaxy S9 coming across as boring. I love seeing new things as much as the next person, but you can’t fault Samsung for looking ahead. It’s working on in-display fingerprint scanners, foldable displays, and who knows what else. By recycling the Galaxy S8, the company can invest more in the future while still shipping a quality product now.

Recall the jump from the Galaxy S5 to the Galaxy S6. It was huge, and that’s only because Samsung utilized its resources to ensure the metal and glass build provided the long-wanted premium experience. Time also allowed the curved edges on the display to feel less like a gimmick.

Samsung embraced familiarity in 2014, and that’s what it has done again in 2018. The company looks at a successful product, recognizes there’s not a whole lot wrong with it, and makes proper adjustments. Four years ago, the Galaxy S4 wasn’t panned. Last year, the Galaxy S8 wasn’t panned. But their successors that share similar designs manage to get roasted despite the specifications getting a raise across the board.

To me, that’s consumers being greedy with their demands. We should give Samsung a break this year so we get groundbreaking technology next year.


Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...

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