Samsung dances to Apple's tune again and it's getting dull

It's one thing to release a fine phone. It's quite another to get people excited about it. Samsung appears to be struggling.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Doesn't she look bored to you?

Screenshot by ZDNet

Every time one of the two big handset makers comes out with a phone, I want to feel something.

No, not during the choreographed launch spectacle, but in the days afterward.

Those are the days when the companies' finest creative brains release ads to excite the whole world. Or, at least, the whole of their respective ecosystems.

So here we are beholding the Samsung Galaxy S21s and I again held my breath. On Thursday, I released it with nary a noise, as Samsung released its, um, exciting S21 ad.

Samsung's big idea to get you rushing toward the S21 Ultra is, oh, an ad that shows two women dancing. Yes, that's it.

The big idea? That the ad was shot on the phone. Yes, that's it.

I fear you may fear you've seen this one before. Yes, that's what I'm feeling.

As far back as 2015, Apple launched the "Shot On iPhone 6" campaign, an idea that's been intimately associated with the brand ever since.

More than a year later, Samsung conceived the revolutionary "Captured on Galaxy S7." Because who wouldn't rather be captured than shot?

But wait, Samsung has developed its latest campaign with highly lateral thinking.

This new campaign is called "Filmed #withGalaxy."

Not only has captured become filmed, but the hashtag has been neatly inserted to get you to -- what's the word? -- share it and all the artistic things you do with your S21.

Please forgive me for recapturing Los Lobos, but is this all there is?

Is the only thing that might convince anyone to get an S21 the ability to shoot lovely video? (Shall we debate whether this video's really lovely another time?)

It's odd that Samsung seems to have become a little dull, even the tiniest bit lazy.

There were times where the company led Apple by the nose and made it smell what it's like to be ahead.

Yet even though Samsung has forged forward with innovations such as the folding phone, it hasn't managed lately to make its brand feel like the one you have to join.

When your products are very nice, but not generating the pained envy of iPhone owners, you might think of making your whole brand stand for something more, in order to involve people more.

Perhaps the company thinks it can get its share of the Android faithful and that's quite enough, for now, thank you.

It's worth wondering, though, what the Samsung brand stands for these days. Apple still occasionally creates products that seem quickly to become oddly ubiquitous -- the still-ugly AirPods, for example. It bolsters that with a strong message of humanity and especially privacy. (China excepted.)

But with Cupertino often bordering on the superior and sanctimonious, it's a fine opportunity for Samsung to be the aggressive, insightful, witty underdog.

Yet what is Samsung, at least in the US? A bit of an underachiever? A company that (arguably) creates the nicest Android phones? But a revolutionary? How about a company that regularly captures the emotions of the young?

Perhaps not, given that more than 80% of teens claim their next phone will be an iPhone.

So Samsung's just dancing along, playing a nice tune, and hoping you'll like it?

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