LG, Motorola, HTC, Sony. These are the big hitters that have largely disappeared since the “heyday” of smartphone innovation. While there have been some one hit wonders like the Essential Phone or Razer Phone, no-one has stuck around long enough to be a real player. Fast forward to today, and you can take one look at the flagship Android space (in the U.S.) to notice there’s a rather large problem:
These are the only two companies with enough staying power to be considered worthy. It would be just wrong to discount the Huawei or Xiaomi phones that were available in years past, but thanks to recent politics, neither of those companies can sell phones here in the States. And of course in Huawei’s case, it can’t even use Google’s Android anymore, instead, it’s relying on development of its own software with HarmonyOS. We’re still waiting to see what kind of influence Carl Pei’s Nothing could potentially have, especially after its acquisition of the remnants of Andy Rubin’s Essential. Samsung needs stiffer competition
Samsung IS Android, but is that good?
Samsung has been at the bleeding edge of innovation for the Android space. You could go so far as to say that Samsung IS Android, although Google is sticking around the smartphone game. Coming from someone who has both the Z Fold 2 and S21 Ultra, it’s easy to say that the “Galaxy effect” has gotten a bit long in the tooth.
I miss the days where you could walk into a big box store or your carrier store and see walls lined with flagship options. Flashing back to 2014, and we had the LG G3, HTC One M8, Moto X, Galaxy S5, Xperia Z3, and more. Today, we have the Galaxy S21, OnePlus 9 (presumably soon), and….
There’s nothing wrong with having two options for Android (ignoring iOS here), but the more the merrier. Google has already moved down to the budget and mid-range market, Motorola’s biggest success comes from the Moto G line, Sony is largely irrelevant, and LG is looking to get out of the business.
It’s even evident in the foldable market, with just the Z Fold 2 and Z Flip being the two best options. The Surface Duo is a niche device in an already niche market, and the Moto RAZR was nothing more than a failed experiment that had a lot of promise thanks to brand recognition, but Motorola failed horribly in execution. There are rumors that Google is working on a foldable phone, but we have no clue what that will even look at. LG took to CES 2021 to show us the Rollable, and we’ve seen similar options from TCL and others, but those feel more like concept devices and nothing that will actually make it to the market. Let alone the fact that LG could be
Samsung has created almost the perfect combination of hardware and software thanks to the move from TouchWiz to One UI. And Samsung’s hardware is only really rivaled by that of the iPhone here in the U.S. There’s a Galaxy device available for every price imaginable, and the S20 FE showed us that Samsung actually listens to its customers (save for some display QC issues).
As long as Google keeps the Pixel around, there will be something for the “purists” out there, and of course, there’s the vast world of rooting if you want to change up the software on your phone. But Google’s not in the flagship race at the moment, and
Samsung needs some competition
OnePlus is seemingly turning into Samsung Jr. with the introduction of the Nord line in 2020. From the OnePlus 8 Pro, 8T, and three different Nord models, the company is also trying to fill the space at every price point. But there really aren’t too many differences even between OxygenOS and One UI with the update to Android 11.
Imitation is the finest form of flattery, and OnePlus is really churning out some pretty awesome smartphones, even if the software updates are a source of potential frustration. But OnePlus can’t be the last line of defense from Samsung taking over the flagship market for good here in the U.S. We need more options, more choices, different flavors.
All of this is to say that we, as consumers, need to see more competition for Samsung in the Android space. The glass slabs are already stagnating, which is why we are seeing a pivoted focus to the foldable, but it’s only a matter of time before Samsung “gets bored”. And when that happens, it’ll bring boring devices to the masses and that’s not a smartphone world that I want to see.
I want to see a market flourishing, instead of seeing what Apple did from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 11 with practically the same design year-over-year. Save for the move from Aluminum to Glass/Stainless steel on the back and frame. Competition is healthy, and it’s more of a necessity for Android phones than ever before.