Taking a closer look at all the genius of the Samsung Galaxy S4 ad

Yesterday BGR posted a story with the following title:

“The genius of Samsung ads: Even the most gimmicky features look like must-haves”.

Ok. Last week I watched the Galaxy S4 ad and a week later I can still remember thinking “Again? Did they really need to show yet again that little trick of transferring files by rubbing phones? Haven’t they done that enough with all the other 10 videos promoting the feature? Even Microsoft mocked them by calling out ‘one-trick-pony’ when proud Galaxy users did their little bumping trick in the Lumia 920 ad.”

The BGR post goes on:

“Samsung isn’t doing anything new with this ad but is rather sticking to its very winning formula of showing how the Galaxy S4 makes life more enjoyable in real-world situations while using the right dose of humor to rib chief rival Apple. This new ad is particularly effective because it overwhelms us with new features whose cumulative effect is to make the iPhone 5 look out of date by comparison.”

I decided to watch the ad once again, paying close attention to all the features it presents.

Here we go:

00:23 – Answer the phone by waving over the device
00:36 – Transferring files by proximity
00:42 – Sequence shots in the same photo
01:00 – Keep pointing at the device to read a text message
01:13 – Remote control (with the tiny disclaimer Initial set-up required)

Next I looked up apps in the AppStore that brought the same features displayed in the ad. Before saying that the comparison isn’t fair, afterall not all of them are native iPhone apps, here’s a reminder that what we’re exploring here is the premise that iPhones are obsolete because they can’t do what the Galaxy S4 does.

00:23 – Answer the phone by waving over the device
Score! We start with an exclusive Galaxy S4 feature (although I’m convinced that Jaibroken devices can do the same thing).

To be perfectly honest, even if I had a Galaxy, I wouldn’t use this feature to answer the phone. First, I’m never in an environment that makes me use speakerphone. I actually think that it’s rude to use speakerphone in a public place. It’s like when people decide to listen to loud music in the bus. Nobody should have to listen to what you’re listening to. Same thing with calls. Now, could this be a nice feature to maybe use when you’re driving? Maybe. But does the Galaxy S4 come with the feature that pays your traffic tickets?

Second, when the phone rings and I can’t answer it, I just don’t. The possibility to wave at the phone wouldn’t change that.

In the end, I just don’t think this is a very practical feature. What demands less work? Answering the phone like this, or the way iPhone users are used to? And what caused more surprise (since what’s being discussed here is the capability to innovate, surprise and shift the paradigm?) when presented? Here’s the video for a quick comparison.

00:36 – Transferring files by proximity
There’s an app for that. For free. Since 2009. Bump is the 21st most downloaded free app for iPhone of all time, according to a list by Apple that’s at most a week old.

00:42 – Sequence shots in the same photo
There’s an app for that. That’s all.

01:00 – Keep pointing at the device to read a text message
Pretty much like the feature that answers the phone with the little wave over it, I just don’t think this is practical. Besides, in the ad everything always works. However we’ve seen that in real life things are… uhm… different.

01:13 – Remote control (Initial set-up required)
Initial set-up required? Oh, great. In that case the iPhone/AppleTV ecossystem sounds like the best option by far. There are so many ways to explore the interaction between the two that it’d demand a new article just for that. Not to mention that depending on your needs, you know, there’s an app for that.

Bottom line:
Except for the no-touch phone interactions, all (three) innovations that make the iPhone “seem obsolete by comparison” are not only available to iPhone users, but they’ve actually been around since before the Galaxy S4 existed.

I don’t know exactly what is the winning formula that the BGR post referred to. What I see here is infact another old formula. The one that adds existing features to the Galaxy. And, you know, the one that says that you’ll be cool if you transfer a photo by rubbing phones.

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