About InnovationPosted: September 4, 2012
Original Article: Korean critics call for Samsung to ‘reinvent itself as a first-mover’ in wake of US verdict @ The Verge
I own both as well… there’s innovation and then there’s editing. Android does a lot of editing (bigger screens, bigger chips, more fine tuning options) but they all don’t always seem to mesh well in the end. I don’t think Samsung has it in them to innovate in the smartphone division. Apple’s iPhone was a big leap innovation in comparison to the mass market user interface experience on smartphones prior to it, Android stole their idea & edited on top of it to give a more open (yet clunky) alternative. They’ve refined a great deal, as have Apple.. with a bunch of edits. The only people I see truly innovating at the moment is Microsoft & I’m certainly not a Microsoft fan. I really don’t ever see Samsung taking that kind of initiative to truly bring something different to the mass market. So copy and edit, they shall continue to do. (http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/3/3289795/korean-critics-samsung-first-mover-us-trial#113520149)
There’s a big difference between editing and innovation. I like all of the edits Android and iOS have brought but there is a very clear and genuine difference between the UI experience on smartphone’s before and after the iPhone. And the edits Android made existed well before the iPhone in mass market smartphones. Widgets were in smartphones. Multitouch technology did not exist in a mass marketed smartphone devices & it clearly changed the atmosphere and moved tides. I like a larger screen but it’s not innovation it’s a larger screen. High resolution display was also another great addition, innovation? Maybe, maybe not. The only reason I see Microsoft’s universal changes as innovation is because it is a drastic departure from the way things were & may be a sign of how the way things will be. Just look at July and other recently updated sites. They’re beginning a trend. As did Apple with the iPhone. (http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/3/3289795/korean-critics-samsung-first-mover-us-trial#113517787)
A product is not a sum of it’s parts, but how it is put together in a cohesive and intelligent way to solve a problem. Just because a smartphone device uses existing technology in regards to it’s screen, CPU, memory, storage, and battery doesn’t mean the end product is not innovative.
The definition of innovation, provided by Merriam-Webster, is “a new idea, method, or device”. That definition is very broad and can mean pretty much anything. The way I see it, most people are subscribing to this very broad definition of innovation, but only to the device that they prefer. To the other device(s), they use a very narrow definition and very selectively at that.
From what I read, Tuan X used a very narrow definition of innovation, but applied it to both camps. That is why he used the term “edits” to describe something “new” but not “ground-breaking”. He mentions larger displays as an example. When applying the broader definition of “innovation”, yes, 3.5 inches is different from 3.0 and 3.2 and is “new”. But when applying the narrower definition, then no, a 0.3″ inch increase in display size is hardly considered “ground-breaking”. High-DPI may not seem much feature-wise, but requires a lot of technology (screen, GPU, RAM, battery, OS modifications just to name a few) to back it up. I agree with Tuan X that it is debatable whether or not it is truly “ground-breaking”, but Apple certainly thinks it is.
The way I see it, Apple’s iPhone was innovative in the fact that it combined the functions of an iPod, a mobile phone, and an internet communication device, used a capacitive touchscreen as it’s main user input method, minimalized the device front face in order to emphasize the screen, made a colorful grid of icons with a fixed row on the bottom as it’s main UI, integrated swiping and pinch-to-zoom as the main navigation method into the OS, separated each different functions into it’s own full-screen apps so that basically the device becomes the app, and produced it in a single mass-market device. Previous products may have attempted to address bits and pieces of the above, but not a single one addressed all of them in one cohesive device.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 was innovative, not in the hardware specs, but in how it designed the UI. It was still a capacitive touchscreen driven device, but the software UI consisted of tiles of dynamic information with an emphasis on content text over app icons and graphics with a layout that intentionally extends past the screen to depict more information. Again, many products before it might have included some of these features, but not all of them in a single cohesive manner for the UI of a mass-market mobile device. I don’t believe they introduced a new UI concept just because they “can” (although there are strong arguments that support the fact that they “must”, see recent Samsung vs Apple trial results). I believe they truly wanted to solve the problem of the mobile phone UI where it took too much work to get information. They make this point strongly in their advertisements. They wanted information to be “glanceable” so that you can get off your phone and back to real life.
My main point is that if you want discuss “innovation”, use the same definition across both camps and don’t apply it to a single “feature” but to the product overall and how it is used to solve a problem.