Samsung's S4 Delayed

Apr.25.13 | About: Samsung Electronics (SSNLF)

In a word, meh.

Two of the biggest U.S. wireless carriers said they would delay the release of Samsung Electronics Co.'s latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4, which was slated to go on sale this month.

Both T-Mobile USA and Sprint Nextel Corp. said they would start selling the phone days later than expected because of Samsung inventory issues, a setback for the South Korean handset maker.


The S4 is basically an S3 with "specsmanship" games and a bunch of "features" that work 10% of the time as intended. The reviews keep coming in pointing to the same thing -- gimmicks like "recognizing" that you looked away from the phone or are 'hovering' your finger above it are great when they work as intended, but unless you can get them to work 99%-plus of the time as intended, they're worthless as they aggravate more often than do "as expected."

Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) are victims of their own success. Neither firm has anything "new and exciting" in the pipeline, and incremental improvements only go so far. This is the lesson I've talked about for years from the PC industry, which a few years ago reached the point where real, quantifiable improvements in productivity were no longer obtained from buying a new machine.

The difference between a dual-core and quad-core processor in a smartphone is ... bragging rights. It's not about "what I need" in the mobile case, it's all about power budget, which is left unaddressed because people are unwilling to walk around with this big fat brick in their pocket that is 90% battery.

Frankly, I think the S2 and S3 are in the "sweet spot" for Samsung and the iPhone 4 (or maybe 4S) are there for Apple. The next step is gimmickry rather than objectively quantifiable improvement in user experience. It is into this decaying future that BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) stepped with the Z-10 and now will follow on with the Q-10, manifesting the physical keyboard that many who actually generate content (e.g., emails) want.

One has to understand the smartphone market through the lens of the people who make them. Android and IOS devices both exist as (very expensive) tools to funnel your money as a consumer to third parties via both advertising and "apps," just as televisions exist as tools to funnel your money to advertisers on the TV! In all three cases, the giant con job is that these companies manage to get you to buy their products instead of them giving them to you in exchange for you using them, thereby exposing your eyeballs to the advertising messages that are incessantly spammed through them. That this "business model" works is demonstrable proof of the insane nature of the consumer in this country, not to mention worldwide.

But now we're in the place where $600 devices are starting to run into resistance. Not only is the macroeconomic environment shaky to begin with, but the model of "More, more, more!" has run into the wall where the user perception of improvement obtained from each new increment is lacking. I'm sure there will be the "fanboy" reaction to the actual delivery of S4 devices just as there was for the iPhone5. But I also suspect this is the end of that phenomena until and unless either Apple, Samsung or both actually introduce something that is different and does drive the user experience -- not the advertiser's penetration into your life.