East End Tech: Is Apple Seeing a Revenge of the Nerds?

I’m a proud, early adopter of Apple. I’ve raved about its products countless times in this column. My romance with Apple began with early iMacs. We dated on and off for years, but it was hard to fully commit when my friends and work colleagues were still using Dells and PC products.

But when the almighty iPod came along, the love was sparked forever. Or so I thought. I was dumbstruck by how simple and clean it was. The idea behind the iPod was even cooler: my music could now travel with me and provide an instant soundtrack on any occasion.

I distinctly recall showing mine off at a party. People gathered around, wanting to know how I got it. At the time I thought: “There is no chance that anyone will ever top this gadget.”

That party took place about 12 years ago, and we all know what’s happened since.

Apple has enjoyed the greatest run and most unforeseen comeback in modern corporate history. People forget that before Steve Jobs returned to the fold, Apple was a dying brand. The company lost money. Its very survival was in jeopardy. Today, Apple is arguably the richest company in the world, despite its recent stock sell-off.

But guess what? Small cracks are starting to form in Apple’s fortress of global tech domination. One company has risen up and is seriously challenging the almighty Cupertino Death Star.

It’s not Facebook, Microsoft, Sony or any of the usual suspects. It’s Samsung—another tech company whose fortunes were on the decline just a few years ago. Which product enabled Samsung to begin its own remarkable growth story? The Galaxy Smartphone.

Consider this: Last quarter, Samsung sold 70 million Galaxy handsets worldwide. That’s more than double the amount of iPhones. In the U.S., the company recently announced a deal to put Samsung mini-stores inside Best Buy outlets, a smart way to get its devices into consumers’ hands. Samsung also plans to launch its own app store, with much lower commissions than Apple’s controversial 30% take. This news has game developers and content owners eager to work directly with Samsung—not Apple.

Why does the Galaxy sell so well? It’s not the price. Top-of-the-line Galaxy S4s can cost almost as much as iPhone brethren. It’s much simpler than that. Samsung has come up with a set of cool features that are more appealing to young consumers. (There was also that little patent infringement lawsuit. Samsung was ordered to pay Apple $1 billion, but who’s counting?)

The screen is significantly larger than the iPhone. It has a longer battery life, which is a huge complaint among Apple loyalists. Plus, you can actually swap out the battery on the Galaxy. You’ll need a chisel and scotch tape to do that on your iPhone.

What about the camera? Well, the Galaxy S4 boasts a 13-megapixel version with state-of-the-art software that helps you manipulate and enhance your images with amazing results. The iPhone 5? Eight megapixels and that’s about it. You’ll need to purchase third-party apps to improve those images.

Like the iPhone, the Galaxy has a second camera to enable front and back view. Only the Galaxy lets you record and shoot images from both lenses at the same time.

There are also crazy features that Apple hasn’t introduced. The Galaxy tracks your eyes and dims the screen when you look away, to save battery life. It also stops a video if you happen to glance elsewhere. Tilt your head up or down and the web page you’ve been reading automatically scrolls.

For slobs among us, the Galaxy has an “air gesture” feature that lets you surf, navigate and dial without physically touching the screen. It’s a nice addition if you’re munching on greasy French fries or sticky ice cream.

With the Galaxy, you get the impression that Samsung really looked at how consumers use their phones and developed the best features for their behavior. With the iPhone, you get the impression that Apple wanted to build something really elegant and beautiful.

It will be interesting to see how this tech war plays out. The next battleground appears to be the James Bond SmartWatch.

As a consumer, I’m thrilled. No matter the outcome we all benefit from these better, smarter, more amazing devices.

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