May 04, 2012, 8:44 AM —
The iPhone is the iPhone, because Apple's phone gets roughly one update per year, and looks the same from carrier to carrier. The only Android phone that comes close to being an equivalent, in recognition and universal acceptance, is Samsung's Galaxy series. The newest version, the Galaxy SIII (or S3), was announced yesterday, to great fanfare. But why this one phone, among so many?
The main reason is that its predecessor, the Galaxy SII, was a bona fide international success. It's what helped Samsung end up splitting 99% of global handset profits with Apple. But there must be something more to it than just follow-up anticipation. I write a mostly weekly rumor roundup, and let me tell you, there isn't a week that went by in the last few months that I couldn't have packed the whole thing entirely with SIII rumors. But it's just one Android phone, and no particular aspect of its hardware wasn't going to be available on other phones. So what's the big deal?
After some anthropological surveys (that is, I went a really long way back in Google Reader), I hit upon the following explanations:
The SIII has roughly 45 "EXCLUSIVE!" stickers on its box
Most Android phones are announced with a few standard selling points: the size and resolution of the screen, the power of the processor and graphics chips, and maybe a few software niceties, such as a business-minded contact manager. Sometimes there's a big whammy, like the size and stylus of the Galaxy Note. But mostly, it's a faster, maybe prettier screen on which to read Gmail.
Not the SIII. This guy has "Pop up play," so you can watch a video while doing anything else on your phone. "Smart Stay" actually watches your eyes through the front-facing video camera. "S Voice" is a Siri-style voice assistant and dictation service, "Direct Call" calls the person you're texting if you put the phone to your ear in the middle of writing a text, and Flipboard, the popular social-media-as-magazine app for iOS, is a temporary exclusive on the SIII among Android phones.