It has been rightly said that real competitive analysis is about learning to love your competitor. The Samsung-Apple relationship seems like Ed Sheeran constantly singing, “I’m in love with the shape of you”. Samsung loves Apple so much that it can’t stop following the beloved’s lead.
At an event ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Samsung unwrapped its latest pair of superphones, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. One of Samsung’s messages with the new Galaxy S9 is that it’s “Built for the Way We Communicate Today”. And while that’s a laudable goal, one of the key features behind that message – the AR Emoji – seems like a rip-off of Apple’s Animoji. With the so-called ‘AR Emojis’, the company hopes to create a virtual presence for their users that mimics their facial expressions and body language.
Apple had introduced Animoji last year, giving a 3D approach to the widely-used flat emojis, making the Face ID technology a bit more useful. The uncanny resemblance of Samsung’s ‘AR Emoji’ to Apple’s Animoji is ought to be a sure prick in the sales of iPhone X.
When The Wall Street Journal asked D.J. Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile business, about the inspiration for his company’s emojis, he said, “Their approach and my approach are totally different. I do work seriously based off my own roadmap.” He claims that the technology is entirely different, and is invented by Samsung. Yeah, we believe you, Koh!
In Koh’s defense, it’s improbable that Samsung could have developed the code for AR Emoji within few months of Animoji’s release. But the timing for the public release of the AR Emoji was indeed driven by the need to compete with Apple’s offering.
Moreover, AR Emoji isn’t really a straight copy. The iPhone X’s Animoji uses the multi-camera array to track every facial movement or expression so that it can be portrayed onto one of the existing emojis, including a unicorn and a fox, but not a human. The result is that a talking chicken, cute bunny, or a pile of smelly poop will be mimicking your expressions.
On the other hand, the Galaxy S9 lets you create your own emoji; one that’s exclusively for you. From customising the skin tone and whether it should be more of a human prototype or your animated self, to picking the outfit, haircolor, hairstyle, and more, you can make an emoji that truly represents you. The AR Emoji also includes some licensed Disney characters that can be animated.
It has now been over a decade since Apple first charged Samsung with a series of patent infringement lawsuits for copying the overall technicalities and aesthetics of the iPhone. Steve Jobs had declared that he was “willing to go thermonuclear” in the battle against the Android giant, and it’s no surprise that Apple’s patent suit with Samsung stretched across all corners of the globe and involved lawsuits in as many as 12 different countries. The two companies battled it out in court for years over copyright issues, which revealed some critical internal documents, showing the extent to which Samsung went in its efforts to copy Apple. Remember the top-secret 132-page manual that explained how Samsung set out to copy Apple’s iPhone pixel by pixel? The drama was surely more entertaining than any of our favourite reality shows.
Court battles or not, Samsung has continued to copy Apple. But then again, if they are taking the technology forward and pushing Apple to one up them, then it’s righteously good for consumers.