Let’s All Differentiate Together

As the holiday season draws closer, a plethora of mobile phones have been announced; some have even hit the streets already while others are due out well before the all-important Thanksgiving deadline. Despite the array of devices that will soon be available, choosing between them is proving to be somewhat more complex as they all look and work in very similar ways.

 In large part, these similarities are due to the common operating system (most run one variation of Android or another) which means that once the device is switched on there is little obvious differentiation. For this reason, the OEMs have been working hard to differentiate through external design, such as HTC, which has a very different feel to the usual Android “type,” and – of course – the Samsung Galaxy S III which stands out from the field.

So, in a bid to better differentiate, the various OEMs have clearly put thought into what else they can do typically coming up with three strategies:

  • The camera, The Nokia Lumia lets even a shaky hand take a steady picture.  The Sony Xperia TL is sporting 13-megapixels, and so on.
  • DLNA-based connections to the TV, and
  • Near Field Communication (NFC).

The problem is, quite a few manufacturers have all come up with these same differentiations at the same time.

Nokia, Samsung and Sony stand out for their focus (pardon the pun) on the camera, adding not just improved hardware, but also focusing on the software side (multi-shot pictures to allow for the best headshot, low light improvements and so forth). The same three have also jumped into NFC and all highlight the ability to sync to speakers, headphones and so forth. Samsung and Sony take the fight one final round, both highlighting software to better enable DLNA connections to the TV (such as Samsung’s All Share) while LG also jumps in with similarly-themed Dual Screen Dual Play and highlighted zero shutter lag.

The net result is that most of the holiday phones will look and play in very similar ways and this will make differentiating them far harder for the consumer, as well as for the retail rep tasked with highlighting the unique selling points of one versus another. With this in mind, Nokia does score one very significant advantage as it is the only device to offer wireless charging. Whether this is enough to draw in the consumer remains to be seen, but at least it is an obvious difference that the retail reps can jump on. 

But does it matter that these OEMs have all differentiated in a similar direction? The real key here is less how they differentiate between each other, but rather how they stand out from the iPhone 5. From that perspective, they are all doing rather well: better cameras, NFC, an open sharing solution (DLNA) and, in one case, wireless charging all help highlight the fact that this year’s iPhone is an innovation laggard.