It’s becoming increasingly hard not to buy a Samsung or Apple phone, or at the very least, avoid being convinced they’re the only options for the keen phone buyer. It’s incredibly frustrating. They’re not the only two smartphone brands out there, and no matter what their rabid fan bases or grouchy reviewers say, they’re equally as flawed as the brands that are being unfairly ignored.
We’re already dangerously close to only having the choice of these two brands in stores, and no-one is going to benefit from that duopoly, except Samsung and Apple. If the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and iPhone X were perfect — by which I mean flawless, 10/10, the best you can possibly ever get — that’d be fine. But they’re not.
If you’re buying a smartphone this year, then it’s time to take a good, long, hard look at yourself and what you really want from the device that’s going to at your side for the foreseeable future.
We’re not saying don’t buy the Galaxy S9 or iPhone X, we just want to make sure you’re not ignoring other fine devices just because of the noise from the massive marketing machines driving Samsung and Apple deep into the public consciousness.
Stop listening to the whiners
Where to start? This week, we’re hearing about how the new LG G7 ThinQ doesn’t have an obvious major selling point, and that it’s evidence of a company that’s lost. The screen notch is a problem. The artificial intelligence is a problem. Even the name is a problem. We’re not deluded here, LG’s definitely lost in the smartphone wilderness, unsure of the direction it needs to take to find its way back to civilization. But that doesn’t mean the G7 ThinQ is a bad phone.
The LG G7 ThinQ (left) and Huawei P20 Pro. Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Here’s our first change-the-way-you-think task. From this point on, stop echoing the nonsense about “hated trends.” The notch, for example. When you’ve looked at a phone with a notch for more than a few hours, you forget it’s there. The reasons for and against it are so incredibly dull, I’m on the verge of filling my ears with cement the next time someone mentions how it should or shouldn’t be implemented.
Is the artificial intelligence an issue? Fine, it’s an option, so don’t use it. You don’t like the name of the phone? We don’t either, it’s rubbish; but if this passes your lips as a reason you won’t be buying it, then we really don’t know what to tell you. Take these away and you’re left with a Snapdragon 845-powered phone with an attractive design, a wide-angle camera, amazing audio, a super bright screen, and even a 3.5mm headphone jack. Remember how much moaning there was about that being missing from phones? Look, there’s one here! Buy, buy, buy!
It just happens to be LG’s turn in the stocks at the moment. Last month it was Huawei because the P20 Pro is apparently the equivalent of inviting a shady man in an overcoat, dark glasses, and a fedora to dinner and not noticing he didn’t leave afterwards. Next it’ll probably be HTC. The HTC U12 Plus, if it’s called that, has an illogical name, will likely not have the world’s most visually exciting design, and if AI is mentioned somewhere, then it’s all over. The OnePlus 6 is also on its way, which we know will have a notch, as will the Honor 10.
Take Samsung and Apple to task
Arguments levied at these perfectly acceptable, well-made, and high-performance phones also apply to Samsung and Apple, with just a few tweaks to the wording. Samsung’s 2018 flagship phone is fundamentally dull, and when examined in any detail, suffers from the same lack of those ephemeral “compelling reasons” to buy as the G7 ThinQ and every other current flagship phone. But its huge brand name obscures all. “It’s a Samsung,” says the Android-buying world, “therefore it should be my first choice.”
There is a single reason to buy the Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus: The camera. It’s fantastic; but every other feature is a damp squib. For all the people who won’t use the G7’s monster speaker or audio capability, there are just as many people who won’t use Samsung’s cringe-making AR Emojis. Once the novelty of slow-mo videos wears off, because they’re very hard to do properly, it’ll become as little used as LG’s AI camera enhancements.
The S9 doesn’t have a notch, but it does have a very similar design to the Galaxy S8, and arguably the Galaxy S7 before it. Come on, let’s get mad about that. Nah, let’s not, because like the notch, it’s utterly irrelevant.
What we should get mad about is Samsung’s cash-grab at the expense of you, the customer. It signed a deal with Verizon to pre-install apps on new and existing Verizon Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus phones, purely to receive a share of the ad revenue. It’ll tell you it’s about delivering “quality content,” but that’s bollocks. It’s about money, at your expense. We’re not mad about the apps, because you can uninstall them, but it’s the principle.
Samsung’s transgressions are quickly forgiven, while LG, HTC, Huawei, and most other flagship phone makers’ will be pulled up again and again, and used as erroneous reasons not to buy the phone. It’s the same selective blindness that affects Apple buyers. The iPhone X is much too expensive, Face ID is a pain, the notched screen is apparently the root of all evil, and the operating system is bloated with features no-one ever uses. Worst of all, it has (whisper it) an Apple logo on the back. Oh, the humanity.
Yet, Strategy Analytics estimates Apple sold 16 million iPhone X models during the first three months of 2018, and it was for the second quarter running, the world’s most popular smartphone. Samsung hasn’t released its Galaxy S9 sales numbers, but Strategy Analytics also estimates it sold in total more than 78 million phones over the same period. Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo — all major players in China — filled the remaining top five spots.
Don’t dismiss choice
Brand loyalty is the domain of the unimaginative. Just because you liked an old Galaxy phone, doesn’t mean you should buy the latest one, in the same way that loving the iPhone 5 isn’t a reason to buy an iPhone 8. It also applies to anyone wanting to jump away from Apple then simply choosing Samsung, and vice versa. You’re not being daring, or showing your individuality, because these two are inherently the same mega-corp, just with a different name and using different software.
If you buy a new smartphone this year, try the alternatives. There isn’t a single manufacturer offering the perfect package. Each has flaws, and each has positives. Read the reviews, visit the stores and carriers, use the devices, and try to ignore anyone who tells you “X phone is way better than Y phone, for spurious Z reason” until you’ve tried it for yourself.
We’re spoiled for choice in 2018 when it comes to great phones — whether it has a Samsung, Apple, LG, Google, Huawei, OnePlus, HTC, or even a BlackBerry badge on it — so don’t get caught up in the blinkered assumption that there are only two phone brands worthy of attention. Buy the one you then think is best, and be proud of your informed decision. If we stop, choice will erode away, and we really don’t want that.
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