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Apple’s Biggest Weakness Highlighted by Samsung, Android-Makers’ Lies

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Many of Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android hardware partners, including Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF  ) , LG, and HTC, have been caught inflating their benchmark scores. According to AnandTech, several Android handsets, like Samsung's latest Galaxy Note 3, are loaded with code designed to cheat common testing software.

Fortunately for Google, these underhanded tactics should make little difference to Android's advance. Ironically, they highlight one of Android's greatest strengths -- a fundamental advantage the mobile operating system has over Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iOS.

The average smartphone buyer doesn't care about specs
Simply put, the average would-be smartphone buyer doesn't care about benchmarks. They don't consider clock speeds, or think about the number of cores the processor on their latest smartphone sports.

Apple's newest iPhone, the iPhone 5S, is unique in that it has a 64-bit processor, making it the most powerful smartphone on the planet. Yet, this is one fact that you won't find emphasized in Apple's advertising: Apple understands that numbers don't sell phones.

This year, at a Goldman Sachs conference, Apple's CEO Tim Cook explained why Apple doesn't care to talk about specs:

"The PC industry over the years, the way that companies competed were two things: specs and price. And so people would want to say, 'I've got the largest drive,' or, 'I've got the fastest processor,' ... The truth is, customers want a great experience, and they want quality ... that's rarely a function of any [specs] ... These are things ... companies invent because they can't have a great experience ... Do you know the speed of an [iPad chip]? ... Does it really matter at the end of the day?"

Cook's reasoning isn't confined to Apple. Motorola's latest phone, the Moto X, is underpowered compared to its Android rivals, and yet, the phone has been well reviewed. Rather than spend money on improving the device's internals, Google's subsidiary chose to do something different -- offering a stripped down interface with a highly customizable exterior.

So why do companies like Samsung care?
That raises the obvious question: If consumers aren't swayed by clock speeds, why go through the trouble of trying to game them? I can't speak for the companies in particular, but I think it's reasonable to assume that boosting benchmark scores is simply another way to get ahead of the competition.

Although it may be tiny, there is undoubtedly some subset of smartphone buyers that considers hardware performance. Among these consumers, better benchmark scores might just result in a few extra sales.

Cutthroat competition produces innovation
As Ars Technica points out, Samsung's Note 3 is an incredibly powerful handset, even factoring out Samsung's special software. Although it sports the same Qualcomm processor as the rival LG G2, an extra gigabyte of RAM gives it the edge. Samsung's willingness to inflate the scores of an already powerful phone highlights something about the Android market: competition is cutthroat.

Unlike Apple, Samsung has to worry about consumer defection. For Apple, consumers looking for an iOS device have only one choice: the iPhone. But Samsung's Galaxy phones run Android, just like literally hundreds of other handsets. If the latest Galaxy handset isn't up to their liking, they can easily make the jump to a phone manufactured by LG, Sony, HTC, or any other Android OEM. Although Samsung phones account for the majority of Android handsets sold today, that might not always be the case.

While the threat of competition may not benefit Samsung shareholders, it's great for the Android ecosystem in general, and by extension, Google. With multiple Android hardware makers competing so fiercely against one another, Android handsets have improved rapidly.

Phablets, for example, came out of the Android universe, as Samsung tinkered with different screen sizes. Motorola, with its Droid Maxx, has pushed the limits of smartphone battery life, while Sony was the first company to offer a water-resistant smartphone and tablet. In China, upstart companies like Xiaomi have been able to offer powerful, dirt-cheap handsets.

Google is leveraging the power of the open software model
By letting multiple hardware manufacturers use its mobile operating system, Google is leveraging the basic laws of economics against Apple. Sure, Google's hardware partners must compete with the iPhone, but the true competition is against each other.

That intense competition may occasionally result in some unfortunate outcomes, such as Samsung's alleged rigging of benchmark scores. Yet, more important are the innovations that have been produced by that competition; in the end, that could give Android the advantage over iOS.

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Read/Post Comments (10) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 04, 2013, at 9:49 PM, prginww wrote:

    You've got to be kidding. Apple has long focused on customer experience over spec sheets. Cheating proves the Android makers spend far too much time on the wrong things.

  • Report this Comment On October 04, 2013, at 10:40 PM, prginww wrote:

    This is just another example of how unethical Samsung is. I wouldn't be caught dead with one of their products.

  • Report this Comment On October 04, 2013, at 10:43 PM, prginww wrote:

    This article is a mess.

  • Report this Comment On October 04, 2013, at 11:17 PM, prginww wrote:

    In a retail environment that rewards the consumer when they upgrade their device every 2 years (and now is even encouraging upgrades every year), hardware specs mean very little. By the time your 1 year/2 year upgrade blackout is over, it is very unlikely the user experience will change so drastically that hardware speeds would matter. When it comes to laptops and desktops, consumers go longer between upgrades, so the latest hardware is likely far greater than the hardware of the model being replaced.

  • Report this Comment On October 05, 2013, at 1:36 AM, prginww wrote:

    The place where specs matter and where they are indirectly felt by consumers is in the ability of a handset to be updated with successive releases of the OS. Apple's iPhones are designed to perform well for three OS cycles. This allows consumers to choose between saving money by trading their phone less often or to save money by getting a better resale price when trading versus the competition. And that matters a lot.

  • Report this Comment On October 05, 2013, at 2:18 AM, prginww wrote:

    The truth is, specs do matter. However, in smartphones and tablets, the device makers try to hide that fact from the end user by using "apps". Frankly, I don't want to install an app for every website that I use, I want a browser PROGRAM that can run all of the sites at the same speed as my laptop so I get the same experience, not a cut down garbage experience tailored to the under powered devices. For that to occur, there needs to be a real step up in computing power and ARM based products can not offer that today. I think this is where Intel will re-assert itself to become king of the world as they have gotten their power down to a point where handsets have decent battery life. Oh, almost forgot to add that they have been shipping a 64-bit phone chip for almost 2 years now. Does Apple offer a good experience? - well, that depends on it you have ever used non-Apple based products. Even simple things like youtube offer a whole unexplored world to Apple users because the site is only partially accessible on any Apple product. Does a tree falling in the woods with no one around still make a noise? That is the question the media needs to ask on Apple products.

  • Report this Comment On October 05, 2013, at 4:28 AM, prginww wrote:

    Contrary to what Sam Mattera says, competition among Android OEMs doesn't drive innovation but kills it by encouraging destructive price wars and rapid profitless commoditization of the whole industry. As for Samsung's profits, Chinese Android OEMs will eviscerate those in 1-2 years. Without profits, Android OEMs don't have the deep pockets to invest the billions needed in R&D to keep up with Apple on 64-bit iOS 7, 64-bit A7 chip, fingerprint sensor that works, iTunes Radio, etc. In contrast, Apple's huge profits let it stay ahead and keep driving innovation forward. This is exactly what happened in the Windows PC industry. Competition among Windows PC makers drove down everyone's profits until everyone became a commodity, and there's no innovation to speak of there. A widely-distributed OS like Android or Windows encourages competition and eventually commoditization and no innovation. In contrast, Macs just keep getting better.

  • Report this Comment On October 05, 2013, at 4:30 AM, prginww wrote:

    With Windows or Android, there's no differentiator among their OEMs except price. Thus, price wars ensue until everyone's profitless and now both Windows and Android OEMs struggle for survival.

  • Report this Comment On October 05, 2013, at 5:05 AM, prginww wrote:

    Why do I find it harder to believe a phone that offers more features and higher performing hardware for a cheaper price is worse than a phone that is years out of date at it's release and doesn't bring anything to the board outside of a logo and a new name and requires several hurdles and loops that are completely unnecessary but is required of you to make it even remotely functional? I don't even care if my phone can really do anything outside of send and receive messages and calls, it's what I have it for to begin with, so why pay a large sum of money for a logo? If I get a smart phone it won't be an Apple phone, that much is certain.

  • Report this Comment On October 05, 2013, at 11:00 AM, prginww wrote:

    this site try so hard to make Apple looks bad and make Google and Sumsong good even the situation is fever Apple. So transparent and predicable. Still short on $APPL?

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