Apple this week unveiled the iPhone X, described by CEO Tim Cook as “the future of the smartphone.” Future iPhone X owners (the phone starts shipping on November 3) should be thanking Samsung.
I’m not just referring to the fact that Samsung is the sole supplier of the iPhone X’s OLED screen, letting Apple finally start moving away from LCD screens. I’m referring to the fact that all the great new iPhone X features are already available in many Android phones, and Samsung is the one that has pushed them to the forefront.
But yes, the edge-to-edge screen is worth calling out first. Samsung is the king of smartphone screens. There’s a reason Apple had to tap its rival as a supplier for the iPhone X. And yet it’s Samsung that has made edge-to-edge screens popular this year with the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, and Galaxy Note8, all which sport beautiful screens with higher resolutions and pixel densities than the iPhone X’s. Apple is merely following in the path Samsung has blazed, but only for its $999 phone — the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are left out.
The iPhone 8/8 Plus models are, however, getting one feature that the iPhone X boasts: wireless charging. That technology is further along, and again Samsung is the frontrunner. The company brought wireless charging support to its smartphone line in March 2013 with the introduction of the Galaxy S4, which supported inductive charging with an optional rear cover. There is a whole ecosystem of wireless charging accessories and pads that Apple can tap into, thanks to Samsung making the technology mainstream. In fact, Apple is depending on that ecosystem — while Samsung offers its own wireless charging accessories, Apple is only releasing its own charging mat next year.
That leaves us with facial recognition, and Apple’s controversial decision to ditch Touch ID for Face ID. Again, being able to unlock your phone with your face is nothing new, and Samsung was the company to push it (along with Google’s help) starting with the Galaxy Nexus in November 2011, but also across its Galaxy S line. Samsung’s phones don’t limit you to just facial recognition; they also have iris scanners and fingerprint sensors. The fingerprint sensor placement is terrible on all three Samsung flagships this year, mind you, but then again the iPhone X doesn’t even have one. The counterpoint here is that Samsung’s technology can be fooled with a photo of your face, while the iPhone X’s facial recognition feature incorporates depth by leveraging an infrared camera to produce a 3D mesh.
Apple, Samsung, and all the other phone makers steal features from each other and iterate on the regular. It’s a two-way street, or really an all-way crosswalk. The iPhone X is just the latest example that makes Samsung appear way ahead of the game. And of course, Galaxy owners would never have their great devices if it wasn’t for the iPhone.
Samsung is simply returning the favor.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.