What exactly defines an innovator these days?
Has Apple lost its title of “most innovative” because it hasn’t changed the world since 2010? Or does Samsung now own that title, even though it hasn’t changed the world since … uh, when was that again?
Obviously, innovation comes in many flavors.
Sometimes it’s about creating revolutions, other times it’s about adding features. Sometimes it’s about creating things that people fall in love with, other times it’s simply about creating things.
It’s because of the Samsung vs. Apple innovation debate that I’m so eager to see what will happen with the smartwatch category.
For the first time, no one can accuse Samsung of copying Apple as they did with iPhone and iPad. It literally beat Apple to the punch on this one.
When (and if) Apple unveils an iWatch, the world will finally see — in the starkest terms — the true difference between Samsung innovation and Apple innovation.
At least that’s how I felt before last week.
At the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Samsung did an excellent job of demonstrating one big difference all by itself.
Less than six months after launching the Galaxy Gear watch, Samsung announced it will replace that device with two models, the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo. These aren’t just upgrades — they’re new watches, running a completely different OS. Android has been replaced by Samsung’s home-grown Tizen OS.
So what happens to the people who just months ago bought into Samsung’s last “next big thing”? Well, they get stuck with a Galaxy Gear, which will be quickly forgotten. They also become living proof that Samsung values innovation over customers.
Apple’s innovation philosophy is quite different. Its highest priority is creating a product that people can fall in love with — a product that will improve customers’ lives without frustrating them in the process.
There’s no timetable for that. It might be three years, as it was between iPhone and iPad. It might be six years, as it was between iPod and iPhone.
Samsung, on the other hand, believes innovation is a race that can be won by sheer force. It prioritizes on the number of models, the number of features and the number of innovations per year.
Of course, Apple loves features too. (Witness Siri, Touch ID, slo-mo video, etc.) The difference is, when Apple innovates, it’s innovating in the most user-centric way. That’s consistent with one thing I heard Steve Jobs say often: Apple’s highest priority is earning the love of its customers.
How much love do you think Samsung just generated by turning those relatively new Galaxy Gears into garage-sale items?
By its actions, Samsung is telling us that the device they only recently launched wasn’t the best they could do. But it was an innovation, and that’s what counts.
The bottom line is, it’s impossible to judge who’s leading in innovation by tallying products and features.
Meaningful innovation will forever be about quality, not quantity.