Samsung's (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF ) next flagship smartphone might be the most powerful handset ever released. According to the rumored spec sheet that made the rounds last week, Samsung's Galaxy S5 will boast an ultra-HD, 5.25-inch screen, 3GB of RAM, a 64-bit processor, and a 4,000 mAh battery. In other words, Samsung's next phone should be insanely fast, with the absolute best display and all-day battery life. It could also feature a unibody metal design, rather than Samsung's characteristic plastic.
While the phone will undoubtedly be characterized by some as an "iPhone killer," Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) should be more concerned than Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) . Samsung's dominance over the Android ecosystem has only intensified as of late, and this new phone could cement Samsung's control over Google's mobile operating system.
The critics might not like them, but buyers sure do
In general, Samsung phones are not well-liked by the tech media -- most reviewers seem to prefer other Android handsets instead. Computerworld, for example, believes the top Android phone is Motorola's Moto X, while PCWorld thinks Google's own Nexus 5 is the best Android phone on the market. Techradar loves Sony's Xperia Z, and Business Insider thinks buyers should go with HTC's One, as long as they get the unlocked version from Google Play.
Yet despite receiving so much praise, these phones have largely been commercial failures. The Moto X was shipping only 100,000 smartphones per week shortly after its release, a paltry figure given that Samsung had shipped 20 million Galaxy S4s within two months of its launch, and Motorola went so far as to basically give the phone away on Cyber Monday. Sony still expects to sell 42 million smartphones this fiscal year but is losing its most loyal customers to Apple in its home market of Japan. Meanwhile, HTC has been rumored to be on the verge of bankruptcy.
In short, though Samsung's competitors have offered solid handsets, they have simply been unable to compete. Research firm Localytics now estimates that nearly two-thirds of all handsets running Google's Android are made by Samsung.
Will Samsung go rogue?
This is somewhat of a problem for Google, as Samsung's dominance could result in the company's eventually taking partial control of Android, something Google executives are fearful of, according to The Wall Street Journal. Google gives Android away in the hopes that it will lead to more users on Google's services, such as Gmail, Google search, and Google Play.
But Samsung has started to push its own alternatives to many of Google's services, including its own app store. In contrast to Apple, Samsung doesn't own the operating system that powers its handsets. Buyers locked into Apple's ecosystem have one choice when it comes to buying a new smartphone: Apple. But an owner of a Samsung handset could easily switch to a device made by a different company.
In October, Samsung held its first developers conference, urging mobile developers to build their Android apps with Samsung's hardware in mind. Moreover, its Galaxy Gear smartwatch is somewhat of a slap in the face to Google, as it requires its owners to use Samsung's app store instead of Google Play.
Apple consumers remain fiercely loyal
While the Samsung-versus-Apple narrative continues to be pushed, Google-versus-Samsung might be the more interesting story. Owners of Apple's iPhones are fiercely loyal -- studies from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners and Yankee Group have shown that the vast majority of iPhone owners buy another handset from Apple when it comes time to upgrade.
Better and better Samsung phones could, in theory, lead some Apple customers to make the switch. More likely, however, is that Samsung continues to consolidate its control of the Android ecosystem, pushing out Google's other hardware partners in the process. With Samsung pushing alternatives to Google's services, Samsung's total dominance could put Google in an unfortunate position.
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