The Note 7 Recall & iPhone Missteps Give Fertile Ground to Pixel Phones, Android OEMs
The last week has not been easy on Apple and Samsung: the two largest smartphone companies have been under fire from their respective camps, with Samsung in particular currently facing a recall of unprecedented magnitude.
The iPhone 7 is actually a solid-looking phone with hardware advancements that should put competitors on edge, but the internet hasn’t taken the death – nay, assassination – of the 3.5mm jack very kindly, nor the company’s justification. If you’ve browsed sites like YouTube or Reddit, or even Facebook, you probably came across a dozen memes, parody videos, and general criticism of Apple’s decision. The days closely following the announcement, even Apple hubs like r/apple and various Apple-centric YouTubers had plenty of negative things to say about the new iPhone, especially given how messy the pre-order process was for many interested customers, especially those under the upgrade program.
Samsung’s situation also brought plenty of internet memes and parody videos, but it’s clear that it’s a serious and dangerous situation in comparison. More Note 7 units are burning up every day, various airlines and administrations are warning travelers about carrying the device, people are having property damaged or outright destroyed. All of this means terrible press and even worse optics for Samsung, perhaps forever tarnishing the Note brand — don’t be surprised if you see an “S8 Stylus” a year from now. I’ve personally been blasted by notifications from Samsung due to my various Note units (I am currently on my third, and that’s before the recall): T-mobile, Amazon, and Samsung itself have sent me text messages and emails, the last batch explicitly requesting that I power down my device for good. This doesn’t include the countless calls from worried or curious family members and friends, asking if i had any issues with my device, or urging me to stop using it. In short, this is a disaster that is costing Samsung billions of dollars in market value.
Granted, with the summaries displayed above, Samsung’s situation is certainly more worrying and damaging that Apple, even if people see through the “courage” and rightfully complain about the introduction of yet more Apple-branded or licensed accessories they must now pay for. The damage to Samsung’s reputation, in particular, means that various other OEMs are now getting not only a spotlight, but a chance at securing the coveted upgrade/purchase of the people that are giving up on their Notes, or avoiding them at all costs. With Samsung’s grip on the H2 2016 customers loosening, and Apple’s iPhone 7 being sneered at by not just bloggers and late-night show hosts but also the everyday consumer, OEMs have a huge incentive to fill the vacuum and get gears in motion for sharp and surgical marketing campaigns or releases. And at the helm of potential releases, we have Google’s upcoming “Pixel” phone, the kind of launch that could truly benefit in this context.
The Nexus line might be no more, but the Pixel might be the phone we need at this moment in time. In fact, we have been saying this since April, long before we knew we’d actually be getting one. Google’s upcoming Pixel device is said to include exclusive features, in a way further straying away from Stock Android as we knew it on Nexus devices. That being said, this isn’t a bad thing, and it gives Google more flexibility as to which features it can incorporate regardless of what’s built into AOSP. In fact, the new functionality might be what lets Google push the Pixel as more than a reference device or a phone for purists, like the Nexus has traditionally been regarded as, and make it a much more appealing phone for the masses. This could work even better given we are hearing Google is working with US carriers for this release; sure, nobody likes a Verizon branded phone nor what that typically entails, but from a sales perspective this would give Google’s phone even more traction among regular customers.
With a first generation release, Google will not be able to match the in-store presence of Apple nor Samsung (well, only if Note 7 shipments are delayed for too long!) but it will at least serve to get its foot out the door, and that alone is perfect for the current situation. With Samsung – the face of Android, even ahead of Google for casual consumers – being temporarily down-but-not-out, a Pixel release could gather a lot of curiosity and enthusiasm. This is amplified by the fact that those disappointed or upset at the new iPhone 7 now have another flagship smartphone from a big-name company to look forward to, and Google branding would definitely resonate with everyone who has ever used a browser. The degree of success the Pixel phones can attain with this release is unpredictable given the devices are a month away, even though we already know most of their specifications. But a key takeaway of its potential is that this is Google-branded hardware, allegedly advertised as such, to showcase an Android vision that Google is comfortable with.
And while we can say that Google’s Pixel release is one that’ll benefit from name and strategy, other OEMs can make good use of Samsung and Apple’s situation with disappointed or worried customers. LG, for example, is releasing its LG V20, which aims to improve upon the V10’s best-received features while trimming corners and cutting fat, and redeeming the company after the LG G5’s failure. LG is no stranger to hardware defects, but said issues haven’t gained the widespread attention of the Note 7’s battery combustion and all that LG has to do in this case is ensure the device won’t randomly brick itself .
Other companies like OnePlus have also been making good use of the situation: sassy tweets like this one regarding the OnePlus 3’s headphone jack have gained a lot of attention on twitter and reddit. Lenovo took a jab at Samsung’s battery defect when advertising their battery case.
Smartphone companies have typically exploited their competitors’ shortcomings, such as the lack of microSD or removable battery in the Galaxy S6 and the like, but now every company with a safe device or a headphone jack can claim to have something over other top smartphones.
It’s a great time for those looking to eat away at Samsung’s and Apple’s market share, particularly Android OEMs who have been under the shadow of the South Korean giant for years or newcomers with a lot of promise or big names. This is an achilles’ heel that companies are quick to exploit by marketing and producing accordingly, and I believe Google is best situated to make the best out of it with a killer Pixel release. We said it then and we say it now: the time is right for a Pixel phone — with Samsung bleeding in stock and Apple getting dissed at this scale, this might be an opportunity for Android OEMs that’ll never repeat itself. Make the best of it, Google, and show the world what Android is really about!
Think Google and others can take advantage of Samsung’s and Apple’s missteps? Sound off below!
Update: Further coverage revealed Note 7 was not to blame for child’s burn. Article has been ammended.