IMHO – the Samsung Galaxy S3 is what the iPhone 4S should have been

Is Samsung's rate of innovation outpacing Apple? And if it is, is Apple's position at the top of the smartphone tree tenable?

Samsung had a point to make at its Galaxy S3 launch, namely that its new phone wasn’t about breaking the spec barrier. Instead, it insisted, the latest Galaxy phone was “designed for humans.”

That’s something the Koreans (and everyone else) have learned at least in part from Apple’s uniquely intuitive user interfaces. Alarmingly complicated sequences (press two buttons, release, hold another button for more than two seconds, etc) have largely been relegated to the world of programmable microwave ovens and car manufacturers’ satnav.

Meanwhile, Apple – like Aesop’s fabulous tortoise – has been caught napping on the side of the information superhighway. The iPhone 4S launched to consternation that bordered on revolt. Where was the iPhone 5 for a start? And the iPad 3 turned up fatter than its previous incarnation, bearing an admittedly glorious screen but little else that could be accused of much more than keeping up with the Samsungs.

Undoubtedly, its iPhone and iPad are still at the top of their respective categories. Only a fool would claim that any other devices had access to such a rich catalogue of apps. And Apple’s aluminium and glass design still feels somehow more grown-up than even the weightiest plastic constructions of competitors.

Read the Apple iPhone 4S review

Meanwhile, Samsung has launched a phone that knows when you’re looking at it and recognises your mates. It charges wirelessly a la Palm Pre. And it’s got the two things Apple really needed to bake into its iPhone 5 recipe – a bigger screen and NFC.

Samsung made another point at its S3 launch – that it had listened to what its customers wanted. They wanted a bigger screen, a less cluttered UI and a more intuitive control system. They wanted to be ready for the long-promised NFC revolution. They wanted new features to explore.

Apple’s fans have been calling out for changes, too. Yet Apple – so far – seems to be only half listening. That’s why in many ways the Samsung Galaxy S3 feels like the launch the iPhone 4S should have been.

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