Samsung is the Porsche of the mobile phone world
It’s a shame. I’d like to think I had some inside knowledge. That I could recommend something offbeat and, in some cases, I can. If you are a vlogger, you might want the £2,000 Sony Xperia Pro with its HDMI port. Someone who only wants 5G may look out for some of the £150 bargains from Xiaomi which pop up from time to time but, in the main, the answer is Samsung.
I find this as frustrating as finding a Porsche in every issue of the car magazine EVO. If any new supercar comes out it’s tested against a Porsche 911. If a new 911 is launched with a slightly different cup holder it gets a full five-page feature.
That’s because for most people in the market for a supercar it’s a better bet than the Audi R8, Lotus Evora or Jaguar F-type.
Motoring journalists explain that this is because the 911 is just so good. It’s solid, and inspiring to drive. It makes you feel good. There are loads of experts who can help with problems from the most routine to the obscure.
And so it is with Samsung. It may be a bland, uninspiring choice. It may show a complete lack of individualism. It may be the first thing you see when you walk into Curry’s, but it is what you should buy. The system software is solid, the camera on the S21 Ultra is the best in the business and you have the best choice of cases and accessories.
Phones got boring 15 years ago when they all became black rectangles. So, there isn’t much to choose between them. I challenge anyone who isn’t the most extreme geek to look around a crowded room and say what phones people are using. There was time when you could do that. Indeed, Nokia’s anthropologist Jan Chipchase – the man who gave phones torches - said he could work out which phone someone had by looking at the person and then would wait for confirmation when they pulled it from their pocket. You couldn’t do that today.
With one exception.
I’ve just bought a Samsung Z3 Flip. The excitement is has generated was like falling through a timewarp. When I edited a mobile phone magazine, and always had the latest models, people would gawp at my phone and ask to hold it. Twenty years on they are doing that again.
A phone that folds is really special. It isn’t a boring Porsche; it’s a Lamborghini, with it’s shouty flip-up doors.
Motorola research in the early 2000s found that if consumers felt good about their phone, say a Razr, they would forgive its faults. Erm, the Razr’s software. So too is it with the crease in the middle of the screen on the Samsung. Some reviewers say you can’t really see it when there is a bright display. This is tosh. You can always feel it as you scroll, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a good thing it reminds me that I have a special phone and so I’m a special person. OK, I want to be more special, so I have ordered the Cyrclephone, but that’s more mid-life-crisis Morgan.
You’ve been reading this and thinking “What about Apple?” The problem is that Apple is Tesla. Functionally very good but uninspiring. Yes the Plaid can outsprint any Ferrari, but drive one and it still feels as though there is something missing. Tesla and Apple owners both share the vegan cyclist attitude of superiority so it’s a good fit. But it’s not the phone you should recommend – that phone is a Porsche, sorry Samsung.
Simon Rockman bridges writing about technology and implementing it. As the editor of UK5G Innovation Briefing he visits many of the 5G applications. As Chief of Staff at Telet Research he works with a team installing 5G networks in not-spots. An experienced technology writer, he was the editor of Personal Computer World in the late 1980s and went on to found What Mobile magazine which he ran for ten years, and has reviewed over 300 handsets. As the mobile correspondent for The Register, he championed CW writing a number of articles supporting the organisation. He has also had senior roles in telecoms having been the Creative Experience Director at Motorola where he looked at new uses for mobile and Head of Requirements at Sony Ericsson where we worked on innovative devices at entry level. He was the Head of the Mobile Money Information Exchange at the GSMA and has launched Fuss Free Phones an MVNO aimed at older users