Google's Partners Are Pushing Another Radical Feature Apple's iPhone Lacks

Google's hardware partners Sony and Samsung have begun to push a new hardware feature missing from Apple's iPhone.

Mar 1, 2014 at 1:15PM

Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone lacks a number of hardware features common to most expensive Android handsets. You won't find an Apple-made handset with NFC technology, nor can you purchase an iPhone with a screen size remotely comparable to those offered by Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) hardware partners.

Now, another feature can be added to the list: Both Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) have embraced waterproofing, offering flagship phones that can survive a dip in the pool.

Apple closing the gap
While Samsung is often criticized for copying the iPhone, Apple has added a fair number of features to its smartphone that were originally embraced by Google's hardware partners. Samsung, for example, offered 4G LTE on its second Galaxy S handset -- Apple didn't bother with the feature until the iPhone 5.

Samsung was first to popularize the concept of a larger screen, originally with its Galaxy Note phablet, and later with its own flagships. Google's other hardware partners, including Sony, quickly followed.

Apple still lacks a larger iPhone, but that should change relatively soon. Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, has never ruled out the idea of a larger iPhone, and numerous reputable media outlets have reported that the iPhone 6, when it ships later this year, will sport a larger screen.

That could put Google's hardware partners in a tricky spot -- while there are many factors that may have influenced consumers to chose an Android phone over Apple's iPhone, the bigger screen has been, over the past few years, a major defining characteristic. If Apple were to finally follow Samsung and Sony in offering a larger iPhone, it could capture some of Google's users.

Is waterproofing the new must-have feature?
But Samsung and Sony seemed to have moved on to the next thing -- in this case, waterproofing. Sony struck first: the original Xperia Z, released last year, can survive underwater at a depth of up to 1 meter.

Samsung followed suit, releasing a special variant of the Galaxy S4 (known as the S4 Active) that was likewise waterproof. However, the S4 Active was a limited release, restricted to a few carriers (AT&T in the U.S.).

This year, Samsung has made waterproofing a focus: All flagship S5s will have the feature. Sony, likewise, remains wed to waterproofing -- like the original Xperia Z, the Xperia Z2 can survive water submersion.

There are, of course, some trade-offs: To make the phone waterproof, all of its ports must be covered. A number of tech critics have found the necessity annoying: Business Insider's Steve Kovach, reviewing Sony's Xperia Z, wrote:

But because the Xperia Z is water resistant, you'll have to put up with some compromises with the design. Every port and opening is covered with a tiny hatch that you have to pry open with your fingernail whenever you want to access the headphone jack, USB charger, or SD card slot. The hatches may keep water out, but they also keep you from quickly getting to the ports. And when they're open, each hatch hangs from a flimsy plastic thread, which is distracting and ugly.

PCWorld also found the port covers annoying, but ultimately concluded that users could live with them.

The advantages of fragmentation
Despite the trade-offs, some iPhone owners are calling for Apple to make a waterproof smartphone: TechCrunch's Matt Burns recently urged Cupertino to follow the trend. Will Apple do so? Maybe, but if the company's recent history is any example, probably not anytime soon.

I can't say for certain if waterproofing will emerge as the next great smartphone trend. While some users may consider waterproofing a must-have feature, others (like me) could probably not care less.

It does, however, highlight the advantage of Android's fragmentation -- a situation that has largely been characterized as a negative for Google. While it definitely has its drawbacks, making software development more difficult, it also has its advantages. In this case, hardware innovation. While Sony and Samsung compete with Apple, they also compete with each other. To differentiate their products, they must be willing to experiment with the design.

Ultimately, that leads to features -- like larger screens and waterproofing -- that set their devices apart, and win consumers over.

A better investment than Apple?
There's a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it's one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information

Compare Brokers