Samsung Doesn't Make the Best Android Phone Anymore

Samsung may make the most Android phones, but it doesn't make the best -- at least not anymore. Google's other hardware partners, including Sony and HTC, have stepped up their game.

Apr 2, 2014 at 11:00AM

Among Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) many hardware partners, no company ships as many handsets as Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) -- the Korean tech giant completely dominates the market for Android phones, selling far more handsets than any of its rivals.

But at least at the high end, Samsung is about to face some tough competition -- both Sony's (NYSE:SNE) Xperia Z2 and HTC's One M8 are arguably better phones than Samsung's upcoming flagship.

Xperia Z2 vs HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5
While the first Android-powered phone debuted in 2008, it wasn't until 2010 that Google's mobile operating system began to take off. That year (not so coincidently) Samsung unveiled the original Galaxy S, a phone that's since become the premiere Android handset (Microsoft, for example, simply refers to all high-end Android phones as "Galaxies").

But Samsung may have finally met its match. At least on paper, both the HTC One M8 and Sony's Xperia Z2 are every bit as good as Samsung's flagship, with large, 1080p screens, big batteries and zippy processors. Samsung's S5 is water-resistant, but not as resistant as Sony's Xperia Z2. The HTC One M8, meanwhile, has front-facing speakers and a far more attractive body than Samsung's Galaxy S5.

Of course, there are still reasons to prefer Samsung's flagship over HTC and Sony's -- Samsung's phone is the only one with a built-in heart rate monitor for example, or a removable battery. Those features could attract some buyers, but for the most part, they seem largely superfluous. Early reviewers have already labeled HTC's One M8 as the best Android phone of 2014, and Sony's flagship has received a similar level of praise.

Sony bets on mobile
That's great for Sony, as the Japanese electronics giant increasingly emphasizes its mobile electronics businesses. Earlier this year, Sony sold off its struggling PC unit and put its money-losing TV segment into a separate subsidiary. Sony's management has set ambitious targets for its Xperia line, and it now expects to ship 40 million smartphones in fiscal year 2013.

That won't come close to the 320 million handsets Samsung shipped in 2013, but unlike Samsung, Sony doesn't compete at the low end. It offers a few different versions of the Xperia Z, but nothing like the sub-$100 smartphones Samsung peddles in emerging markets.

Samsung's advantages
The Xperia Z2 could help Sony capture some of Samsung's high-end customers, but Sony has its work cut out for it. In addition to an established brand that's arguably more well-known than Android itself, Samsung has an extensive network of mini-shops within larger Best Buy stores -- Sony has its own retail operation, but it plans to close two-thirds of its existing stores.

Samsung's original Galaxy Gear smartwatch wasn't particularly well-received, but anyone who wants one (or already owns one) has no choice but to go with a Samsung-made phone. The same is true for the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit. Sony has its own rival smartwatch, but it works with nearly any handset running Google's Android.

More competition is great for Google
This increased competition is great for Google, as it ensures that no company -- particularly Samsung -- can exert too much control over its mobile operating system. Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google had become uneasy with Samsung's dominance, fearing it could exert a degree of control over its operating system.

While it seems unlikely that Sony or HTC will unseat Samsung, the Korean handset maker is no longer offering products that are head and shoulders above the competition. Samsung still has its advantages, but the competition has intensified significantly.

Samsung and Sony may have struck first, but Apple could be about to blow them away
Samsung and Sony have both released wearable devices, but neither has found much mainstream success. But just wait until you see this. One hundred of Apple's top engineers are busy building one in a secret lab. And an ABI Research report predicts 485 million of them could be sold over the next decade. But you can invest in it right now... for just a fraction of the price of AAPL stock. Click here to get the full story in this eye-opening new report.

Sam Mattera owns shares of Best Buy. The Motley Fool recommends Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.

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