Apple and Samsung need more innovation soon, otherwise they're in big trouble – and the Galaxy X could well be just what the Dr ordered
Right folks, it is time we had those folding flexible OLED display smartphones that have been rumoured for years. This needs to happen, it needs to happen in the next 18 months or so and for very good reasons.
In short, the big smartphone players, that is the likes of Apple and Samsung, NEED this thing to happen to keep them afloat. Samsung, in particular, needs to kick the Galaxy X, the rumoured first handset with a folding and flexible display, into the market within the next year or so. Preferably as soon as possible. Like, this year.
Why? Well according to a report from the IDC, while the smartphone market is showing growth overall, Samsung and Apple's smartphone sales are at best flat, and depending on who you listen to in terms of similar reporting in the last 12 months, at worst declining.
From the most recent analysis, both companies are actually showing positive growth in terms of overall sales, profit, and revenues across their entire business portfolios - but that includes everything from accessories, to components, to TVs, computers, and refrigerators (in Samsung's case at least).
Samsung's flagships smartphones are actually selling more than their predecessors, but when it comes to overall smartphone sales specifically - that's including sales of every smartphone device in the portfolio - as a whole, both firms are not exactly acing it.
Apple in particular is seeing a decline in smartphone sales, although many believe that is due to consumers holding fire until the iPhone 8. Others, meanwhile, think it's due to Apple not innovating sufficiently in the last few generations - in other words there's not a lot of difference between the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 6s, for example.
Indeed, it could be argued that Apple is now playing catch-up with Samsung in the sense that it's now said to be buying curved OLED displays from Samsung for its next iPhone, in order to compete with Samsung's own Galaxy S flagships and their curved screens.
On the other hand, while all this is going on, several other major Chinese manufacturers have closed the gap between themselves and both Apple and Samsung in terms of smartphone sales.
The same IDC report which shows Apple and Samsung's smartphones sales flat year-on-year also show that Huawei, Oppo and Vivo, three Chinese smartphone OEMs who, only a few years ago, were mere upstarts, are now in the remaining three positions in the top five smartphone OEMs in the world.
By comparison to Samsung and Apple, they've also shown incredible growth in recent months and years.
So here's the rub, with innovation stagnating at the top, the rest of the market closes the gap. Before long, the things that once made the likes of Apple and Samsung market leaders, big, bold, unique features that made their phones desirable, are now ubiquitous.
And this is bad for Samsung and Apple, it's bad because demand for smartphones is still massive - it's growing, more and more people are buying them; global shipments went up 4.3% year-on-year to 347.4 million. That's a lot of phones!
Without anything new, with the stagnation and consumers not wanting to buy a "samey" flagship from the big two, it then becomes a case of consumers going elsewhere to save money.
Why spend massive amounts of cash on an iPhone when Huawei can make a well-built, shiny metal smartphone with a crazy-fast Kirin processor, excellent camera and ace display and battery technology for a fraction of the price?
It's simple, consumers vote with their wallets, and you need to dangle a suitably tantalising carrot in front of them to get their business.
Samsung and Apple need to switch things up. In a world of metal-bodied, curved display smartphones, where big battery life, fast processors and decent display and camera tech is not rare, the big hitters in the space don't have a very unique pitch any more.
That's where new form factors come in, something other than the standard shiny metal slab is needed to coax consumers - because that shiny metal slab is practically every phone right now, even in the budget category.
Failure to get something different - a phone that folds into a tablet, for example - onto the market in a timely fashion will see more and more smartphone fans moving onto equally green yet cheaper pastures when it comes to your standard smartphone design.
A bigger handful of other companies will then be taking a sizeable chunk of cash that would otherwise be going into Samsung and Apple's pockets.
From a consumer perspective, I don't actually see the described scenario as a bad thing - it's actually better for us to have a wider pool of quality products to choose from and much more competition to encourage innovation. I'm just telling it like it is, at least from my interpretation, in terms of the industry's two leading firms; if things do not change soon, they will be leaders no longer.