Samsung's latest Apple-inspired 'innovation': Samsung Wallet

February 27, 2013 10:29 AM EST

Where Apple [AAPL] goes, Samsung seems to follow, and the latest news out of Mobile World Congress today does nothing to reduce this perception as the Korean firm introduces its take on iOS' Passbook service, "Samsung Wallet".

Samsung Wallet, Apple Passbook

It's not just loyalists who are seeing Samsung's solution as blatant copy of Apple's Passbook -- Android Authority states: "Samsung blatantly copies Apple’s Passbook service, calls it “Wallet".

Samsung Wallet is a mobile app that's got a similar set of features to Apple's iWallet in training, Passbook. Even the app icons look similar: little coupons spread in a fan.

Just like Passbook, Samsung's Wallet lets users store event tickets, membership cards, coupons and boarding passes inside. When it comes to using these little nuggets of digital information, retailers who support the system can scan the barcode that's included within each ticket.

In a nod to future "innovation", Samsung has also introduced API's Android developers can use to implement the solution, which (like Passbook) also sends real-time information that relates to a user's saved tickets.

The similarities between the way Samsung Wallet and Passbook work have been widely spotted by everyone -- that similarity goes one step further as the Korean firm has also failed to integrate NFC support in its app.

Like Apple, that's likely a reflection of the lack of some key standards within the NFC ecosystem that will be required before Near Field Communications truly offers an internationally accepted solution. While NFC seems close to prime time, in truth more work is required.

The perils of innovation

Android Authority puts it thus:

"The first version of Android copied RIM’s BlackBerry operating system, but then Apple launched the iPhone, so Google decided to throw away everything they were working on and copy iOS instead."

For Apple the news must be a little like being caught inside a zombie movie.

No matter what that company does, new zombie attackers seem to crawl up from the dust. Assailed from all sides, Apple now knows patent law is an expensive and ineffective defence against competitors who many industry watchers concede seems at times to be on the verge of demonstrating crassly imitative behavior, thought that's just opinion and not, unless proven in the courts, a factual statement.

However, Samsung's track record for poking Cupertino with the copycat stick is emerging as a truly remarkable moment in technology development. It seems impossible to establish consistent international judgements on whether its actions are, or are not, imitative. Litigation between both sides has been the morning breakfast story for years at this point, and there's been no clear victory for either contender.

I can imagine that over at Apple HQ at least some heads will be watching what Samsung does with considerable interest: surely that company will reach market first with an original solution at some point? Perhaps Samsung may come up with something innovative Apple might draw inspiration from in the same way as Samsung Wallet seems to draw inspiration from Passbook.

Software sells

It is perhaps appropriate that in future all smartphones should offer similar sets of features. Software is the key to future evolution in mobile devices, as data moves into the cloud and devices become more transparent (wearable, for example) then devices won't be the attraction for sale, but software, services and security will drive the future Post-PC era.

Samsung even has a similar track record for labor relations, though unlike Apple the Korean firm isn't offering any transparency whatsoever when it comes to employee treatment. (A report claims, "China Labor Watch report said employees at Samsung supplier plants in China worked up to five times the legal overtime limit and were denied basic labour rights.")

It's not just smartphones and labor relations Samsung wants to match Apple at. The company wants to become as powerful a brand as the Californian firm. From the New York Times:

"David Ffoulkes-Jones, the chief executive of WDS, a unit of Xerox in Poole, England, that provides technical support for Samsung smartphones in Australia and other markets, said Samsung was intent on honing its brand image, creating the same lasting, indelible connection Apple has with its consumers."

Samsung is intent on becoming as big as Apple; by inference, this also puts it on some kind of inevitable collision with current smartphone software supplier, Google. Samsung has become synonymous with the Android brand. At some point the company will want to call the shots, and that's likely when Google will seriously play its Motorola Mobility card.

Meanwhile Samsung's flattery of Apple never ceases, its seeming imitation continuing apace with the release of Samsung Wallet. 

They'll be doing products with rounded corners next…

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