Samsung released the Galaxy S III in Europe on May 29, which means that the mobile clone wars will start any minute now. The difference between the release of the S3 and other Android devices is that this time, Samsung clearly has the Apple iPhone 4S in its sights, complete with a clone of Apples attention-grabbing Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant. However, its worth noting that Samsung has chosen the vastly less romantic name of S-Voice for this personal assistant.
The Samsung S3 runs the most recent version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The phone hardware seems to be an evolutionary update from earlier Galaxy devices. Theres the usual front and rear facing cameras with resolution of 8 and 2 megapixels, respectively. Theres something called Smart Stay in which the phone watches you while you read or watch whatever is on the screen and it only goes to sleep when you do (or when you tell it to).
Samsung has also launched a music service it calls the Music Hub that is intended to compete directly with iTunes. The phone was released first in London, where excited buyers lined up outside stores selling the Galaxy S III as much as 24 hours in advance. Sound familiar?
The Galaxy S III will arrive in the United States about three weeks after the launch in Europe. If past patterns are an example, the phone will be offered by pretty much every carrier which carries the Galaxy S2 now, which is basically all of them.
With the launch of a new smartphone that looks a lot like the white iPhone, along with some apps that seem to be a lot like whats on the iPhone and a music service that competes with iTunes, it would seem that Samsung has thrown the gauntlet directly at Apples feet. Theres no question at this point that Samsung is gunning for Apple.
Theres also no question that Apple will accept the challenge and then hand it off to the company lawyers who will file suit against Samsung for everything from copying the Siri personal assistant to generally being annoying. But Samsung and Apple have tangled before and its a safe bet that Samsungs lawyers vetted the new product thoroughly before letting it be released into the world.
But just because Samsung has certainly had its lawyers do their homework doesnt mean Apple isnt going to try and tie up the new device in court for as long as possible. And this will likely happen almost immediately in Europe where Apples lawyers have apparently found a supply of judges who dont really understand copyright and patent law, but are willing to rule on it anyway.
Litigation Wont Prevent Galaxy S III From Challenging iPhone
The resulting intellectual property fight will likely tie up some product launches in Europe, but probably not in the United States. The reason isnt that judges in the U.S. understand patents or copyrights any better than their European counterparts, but rather that the U.S. system grinds along so slowly that Samsung could go through an entire product cycle before any kind of decision would be handed down on one side or the other. Furthermore, any decision would be stayed anyway while appeals go on for perhaps decades.
But during this sure-to-happen series of legal battles, the Galaxy S III is going to be giving Apple some serious competition. First of all, the S3 isnt from Apple, which for many people is all the reason they need. Second, itll be available from virtually any carrier, which means itll work whereever you are, something the iPhone does not do (I cant get a useful signal for an iPhone where I live or work, for example).
Adding to the complicated situation for Samsung is the fact that the U.S. introduction of the Galaxy S III is happening immediately after Apples World Wide Developers Conference, which starts June 11. While its by no means certain Apple will introduce the iPhone 5 during the conferences opening day, there are strong indications that it will. Apple usually announces a major product at the WWDC and the iPad 3 has already been announced this year.
If the iPhone 5 actually is announced on June 11, it may take a lot of the wind out of Samsungs sales. Or it may not. If, as has been rumored, the iPhone 5 is a lot more like the Samsung Galaxy Note than it is like the iPhone 4S, then there could be room for both in the market. At this point, Apples moves will have a strong influence on whether the S3 gets immediate traction.
But in a way, its also up to Siri. Apples personal assistant has a madcap quality to some of its answers that keep users attention planted firmly on this feature. So the most serious question about the S3 v. iPhone rivalry to come is whether S-Voice can tell a joke as well as Siri or whether it can discuss the meaning of life with actor John Malkovich as it does in a current widely distributed television commercial. Sadly, even Siri only gets the right answer (42) to that question part of the time and the answer is recognized only by fans of Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy book series.