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ATPM 17.08
August 2011


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by Mark Tennent,

To See Is to Understand

I had the opportunity to see the new Samsung phones and tablets recently. Not the ones on sale, but prototypes of the devices that will be on sale soon.

They are all very nice gadgets, the phone especially, with its superb screen and camera, although the phone’s back flexes alarmingly because it is made of plastic. Apparently this is to protect the phone if it is dropped, as I am sure we have all done to our phones. My concern was more about how it will react to living in the average bloke’s hip pocket. Sitting down and pressing the phone’s back into a bunch of keys seemed as though it would crack the case with ease.

Samsung will be selling a revised tablet, more along the lines I suggested when Apple’s first iPad came out. It has a smaller screen size than an iPad but is far thinner than Samsung’s existing tablets, and with the screen centred in the frame. The gadget was out of juice when I saw it, so all I could do was touch and feel it. At nearly pocket-sized, it might suit handbag-toting commuters, but I think most will go for the new Samsung iPad-alike.

This is a very lust-worthy piece of kit with a fast operating system and user interface, if a little less slick than iOS. Being prototypes, no prices were mentioned, but if they get their costings a lot lower than Apple’s iPad 2, Samsung will be onto a winner. The Windows and non-Apple fanbois are, if anything, more rabid than Apple’s followers, and will lap up the new iPadalikes when they are on sale.

This is all assuming Apple lets Samsung get away with it. As far as I could see, the new Samsung is identical to Apple’s iPad, even down to the location and appearance of the buttons. To see it is to understand why Apple has had such a huge row with Samsung. Until recently, their relationship was worth over $5 billion to Samsung to make parts for Apple’s iOS mobile devices. In April, Apple accused Samsung of “slavishly” copying the iPad and iPhone. I can see what they are getting at.

It might make sense for Apple to find new suppliers because Samsung is competing with Apple, making its own phones and pads running Android. Having your major competitor’s designs in your own factories makes it easy to guess the direction Apple is heading, as well as knowing how much Apple will probably sell them at.

Equally, Apple’s business is enormous, worth tens of billions each year to Samsung and all the other manufacturers. It will take months for a Samsung replacement to gear up, even if the contracts in place will let Apple move. We can assume they will still be partners in the months to come, just as Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel are at Red Bull Racing. They’ve only knocked each other off the circuit once, or is it twice, or maybe three times now?

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