Image Credit: The Next Web
Samsung and Apple are no strangers in the courtroom. The two companies have exchanged patent infringement suits over the past several years, with the most notable victory for Apple coming by way of a $1 billion+ award granted to Apple in the U.S. in 2012. While subsequent rulings have called into question the validity of some of the patents by which Apple secured victory in the case, Samsung continues to face scrutiny in the court of public opinion, where many still proclaim Samsung to be an Apple copycat.
Samsung caused quite a stir this morning at an event at Mobile World Congress when it announced the latest application to come out of the company’s software development team. The company unveiled Samsung Wallet, an application which heavily mirrors the functionality found in Apple’s Passbook. Samsung Wallet will provide Galaxy users the ability to store event tickets, boarding passes, rewards program information, and coupons in one central application, where users can then use the information in the appropriate venue via a scannable QR code displayed onscreen. Wallet will also notify users when their rewards and coupons can be redeemed (presumably using GPS technology), also nearly identical to the way Passbook operates today.
Nobody can question that these types of technology are the future. Google has been working in a similar vein with Google Wallet, for example, which focuses more on NFC payment and rewards redemption than Samsung’s application of the same name. Apple’s Passbook, introduced with iOS 6, operates in nearly exactly the same way as Samsung’s Wallet and there are many striking similarities between Apple and Samsung’s products that have some crying foul. But is the similar nature of these programs a blatant ripoff of Apple’s technology by Samsung, or is it an inevitable lookalike due to the limitation of these types of applications?
Image Credit: The Verge
Nowhere is copying more evident than with Samsung’s choice of app icon for Wallet. As you can see in the above image, Samsung Wallet’s icon looks fundamentally identical to that of Passbook, indicating that Samsung’s inspiration likely looked to Apple for inspiration rather than create something unique or innovative of its own. If nothing else, this is something Samsung has to change before going live with Wallet, as the current logo is a PR nightmare waiting to happen.
From what we’ve seen of the app thus far, the presentation of information is another area that looks similar in the two applications. Both Samsung Wallet and Apple Passbook present your information visually on the screen in a similar fashion, with tickets and boarding passes on-screen looking like they would on paper, and places individual passes vertically on top of each other so users can scroll through and pick the one they want to use.
Samsung’s implementation differs from Passbook’s a bit, with the ability to scroll through similar passes by swiping left and right in addition to up and down. In this way, at least, Samsung did offer its own minute innovations on the digital wallet, though the jury is out on whether that’s enough of an innovation to fend off the inevitable copycat accusations.
That said, the ability to innovate with Passbook-like applications is fairly limited. Companies must present the relevant information to the user visually on the screen, and there are only so many ways such functionality can be presented. Still, we’d like to see Samsung rethink the presentation a bit, perhaps using different shapes, interactions, or other means of differentiation into the final products. Remember, what was offered by Samsung today was a conceptual preview of what’s to come, not necessarily a final product.
At the end of the day, programs like Apple Passbook or Samsung Wallet have the primary function of storing certain types of your information and displaying them in a way that’s relevant to the user and usable by merchants. With functionality so similar, it’s difficult to imagine how Wallet could have been implemented in a much different way, though some obvious oversights on Samsung’s part could have been avoided.
The official application will likely be unveiled alongside the Galaxy S IV at Samsung’s event on March 14th. Hopefully by that time, the company will rethink its choice of App logo, and perhaps unveil some additional design choices that will distance it from the competition. Android needs a Passbook-like application, and since Samsung is essentially synonymous with Android at this point, Samsung’s Wallet is the best contender for the title. Sure, it functions much like its iOS competitor, but a blatant ripoff it is not.
This article was written by Anthony Domanico
Anthony is the Editor in Chief of Techgress, and a big mobile and gaming geek. He's covered mobile technology for the better part of three years, and gets excited about shiny, new things. He currently uses an iPhone, iPad Mini, and Nexus 7, but Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry devices are never too far away.