Apple leads as Samsung looks for direction

Commentary: As Samsung’s co-CEO admits his company is a ship without a captain, Apple’s Tim Cook seems to be poised to take his brand higher.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox

Leading his division by a long way?

Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox / Getty Images

For a company that has given a good impression of being a touch dull in recent times, Apple still seems to bump into successes like a sleepwalker stumbles into doorways.

Why, last week an NPD analysis suggested that Apple has already captured 85 percent of all the dollars spent on totally-wireless earphones. 

And how many of those AirPods have you even seen in real life? They're in shorter supply than international stability these days.

Equally, if you look at new products, when Apple releases one, it quickly becomes the generic name for the whole category. 

Just as iPad became the default name for tablets, so Apple Watch seems to be the default for smartwatches. And, look, Apple Watch seems to be doing remarkably well in relative sales terms, too. 

You can call it clever marketing. I can call it a singular lack of competition in far too many areas. 

Cupertino's major challenger in phones -- Samsung -- is playing catch-up, after its Galaxy Note 7 exploded in its face. Worse, as my colleague Shara Tibken reported, Samsung co-CEO Yoon Boo-Keun admitted on Sunday that his company is all over the place. 

He was referring to Samsung's mood after the jailing of its de facto head Jay Y. Lee for five years -- Lee was found guilty of bribery -- when he offered disheartening words.

"Nobody would get on a ship without a captain because you know it's dangerous," he said. "We are on such a ship." 

That's a startling admission. By comparison, Apple is on a vacation cruise. 

With the iPhone 8 -- or iPhone Edition or whatever it will be called -- due to be unveiled on September 12, Apple's management must be looking around and seeing an empty field where the opposition has turned up a couple of men short.

Samsung -- because it had to -- played it safe with the Note 8 release. And even though the phone has impressed reviewers, it's easy to think of it as a threat to the Galaxy S8, as much as it is to any upcoming iPhone.

But what if Apple releases a new phone that does the unthinkable and offers something that's not merely pretty, but surprisingly inventive?

Yes, Cupertino generally waits for other companies to launch things and then spends time in turning those things into what it believes are better designed, more user-friendly offerings.

Sometimes, though, when your opposition is a little weakened, there's surely a temptation to get further ahead of it.

While many believe every rumor about the new iPhones are already out there, what if Apple actually surprises in, say, the area of augmented reality?

CEO Tim Cook has long insisted that the company believes a greater future lies there than in, say, virtual reality. Indeed, he's suggested that AR can have as big an impact on human behavior as the iPhone itself.

If Apple actually does something in this area that makes humans marvel, that would leave its challengers a touch short of breath.

After a few ho-hum launches in the past couple of years, it does sound improbable. Not, however, impossible.

Of course, it's not as if Apple doesn't have problems. China looks like the biggest

Moreover, some analysts believe that once the iPhone breaks the $1,000 barrier, there will be a substantial move toward mid-segment phones.

But if the iPhone 8/Edition manages to be truly exciting -- and if the HomePod smart speaker turns out to be not only an attractive artifact for your living room, but a device housing a Siri who finally understands what you're saying -- Apple might enter 2018 in uncommonly fine spirits.

Why, it might even leave time for Cook to begin a run for president. Yes, of course he denies even the remotest interest. 

But that would be very exciting augmented reality, wouldn't it?