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How to Kill the iPhone


A three-point plan companies can use to fight fire with fire.

So I've been shopping for a new smartphone. As you may imagine, my head is about to explode.

Should I get the new Motorola (MOT) Droid with Google's (GOOG) hot Android 2.0 operating system? Or should I pick up a different Motorola smartphone with another version of Android? Maybe a Palm (PALM) Pre running WebOS? A Symbian-powered Nokia (NOK) phone? Maemo? Windows Mobile? Another BlackBerry (RIMM)?

Or should I just make the big switch to AT&T (T) and grab an Apple (AAPL) iPhone?

I can't be the only confused person out there. Consumers are being overloaded with too many companies making too many smartphones running too many operating systems with too many features that nobody cares about.

So you can imagine what I felt this morning when Samsung unveiled the details on its new Bada (nice name -- not) smartphone platform, which features plenty of bells and whistles like sophisticated touchscreen, motion sensing, and face detection, social-networking capabilities. The only question is: Does the world really need something else to think about when buying a phone?

Apple is winning the smartphone war for two reasons: high usability (network quality notwithstanding), and incredibly strong branding.

Samsung's garden-variety press release claims that the "Bada platform provides an easy, simple, and intuitive UI without compromising efficiency." But as we've learned with the Droid and other recent smartphones, there are always a few user-interface oversights that keep any product from catching the iPhone. Whether it's an unresponsive touch screen or a weird keyboard, it seems that nearly every non-iPhone smartphone falls just short of greatness for silly reasons.

And what's the purpose of introducing a new brand name, Bada, to the world? Why not just make an awesome Samsung phone and leave it at that? Why take the incredibly challenging burden of making yet another operating system stand out in a crowded market? It's hard enough to effectively market a phone -- keeping it simple would be far smarter.

Not one to merely complain, I'm going to offer Samsung a three-point plan on how to kill the iPhone:

1. Hire Leica to Design a New Phone

Leica makes some of the most iconic, expensive, and lusted-after cameras in the world. They're also incredibly easy to use and built like tanks -- two things you can't say about most mobile phones. Samsung's already partnered with Leica on the T929 phone, so why not take things full circle? German engineering and design prowess revolutionized the auto industry -- why not put it to work somewhere new? Such a move would ruffle feathers within Samsung's R&D hierarchy, but who cares? This is war!

2. Use the Right Testers

Perhaps inspired by influential tech bloggers and reviews, phone designers seem obsessed with packing as much bling into their products as possible, often at the expense of usability. The reason the iPhone is so popular isn't because of apps and fancy features; it's because the average person can pick it up and use it without thinking.

It's time for a new paradigm. Your killer phone isn't killer until an average class of first-graders can figure it out with zero instructions. And no tester should be between the ages of 10 and 70.

3. Don't Make 38 Phones

The more products any company makes, the less interesting and more commoditized each one appears. Playing it safe by building a diversified product portfolio is the status quo for most consumer-technology companies, but that's no way to achieve greatness. If you want to kill the iPhone, you're going to have to take some chances.

Build one spectacular product, give it a simple and easy-to-market name, and put it on the battlefield. It certainly worked for Apple. Why not fight fire with fire?
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