One can argue that iPhone X’s overall package of applications, security and privacy, camera, and ecosystem make it the smartphone leader. Fair enough. What about camera and display? Both are subjective but science rules and iPhone doesn’t make the grade.
Android and iPhone might seem like similar platforms, but there are sufficient differences to keep them segregated for many years. Hardware components are similar and more easily compared as to which is best and which is not.
For example, DXOMark reviews various smartphone cameras using specific tests and has determined that iPhone X scores a 97; just a point below Google Pixel 2, and two points below Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. Could you tell the difference between photos from each? Probably not.
What about displays?
Which smartphone has the best OLED display? Samsung manufactures the iPhone X display, and DisplayMate— a company which uses science to test such devices– says the new Galaxy Note 9 has the best display. You’ll be disappointed not to see a comparison of top models, but again, would you be able to tell the difference between displays from any of the top models (particularly if the displays were manufactured by Samsung)? Probably not. That’s why machines are used to differentiate various models.
What about the chips that power today’s smartphones?
For now, Apple seems to have an edge in benchmark tests, even with last year’s iPhone X vs. this year’s Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (according to a series of benchmarks which appeared in Tom’s Guide).
Here’s the problem with all those benchmarks for camera, display, and CPUs. Most of us cannot tell the difference. An iPhone X display looks fabulous. So does the Note 9. And iPhone’s camera puts out superb photos and takes excellent movies. So does the Pixel 2. And so do half a dozen other premium smartphones from also-ran makers. Speed benchmarks? Most of us would never notice the difference between apps running on top smartphone brands.
What does all this mean?
First, it means most of us cannot tell the difference between major components in popular devices. Second, it means that specifications are good for bragging rights but most of us don’t care. Third, it also means that brands matter. iPhone is a platform and a brand. Android is a platform made of many brands, and few of those devices compete well against the iPhone line.
Finally, these comparisons also tell me that differentiation is more and more difficult to develop. The whole package is worth more than individual parts. For a new smartphone maker to put a dent in the smartphone universe the way Apple’s iPhone did in 2007, it must– absolutely must– be an obviously superior product in ways iPhone was vs. Android, Palm, Nokia, and BlackBerry a decade ago.
If it’s not obviously superior to average customers, why should or would they switch? Apple isn’t losing customers en masse to Samsung or Google or Lenovo or Chinese knock off makers, despite some hardware components which are superior.
I asked a friend if he was given sufficient reason to switch from iPhone to Galaxy because of Samsung’s TV commercial portrayals of Apple Store geniuses. He said, “Where do Samsung customer go to get their smartphones or tablets repaired?”
President Clinton once said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Let me paraphrase that and aim it at Samsung, Google, and competitors. “It’s the ecosystem, stupid.”