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Sorry, iPhone Users: The Galaxy Ring Won't Work for You. Why That's a Mistake

When Samsung teased the Galaxy Ring in January, there were many looming questions about specs and availability. But one question that dominated my mind was: Will Samsung "pull an Apple"? Meaning, will this discreet new health tracker only be available to those with a Samsung phone – and who are willing to stay within the confines of a clearly defined ecosystem

The answer, we now know, is yes.

When Samsung finally shared the availability of the Galaxy Ring at its Unpacked event on Wednesday, it noted the new health wearable could only be paired with an Android device that runs the Samsung Health app. But more specifically, a Galaxy smartphone is required to access Health AI features like Energy Score, which analyzes metrics like average sleep time and heart rate variability. 

I wasn't shocked by this decision, but I was disappointed. I'd been holding out hope that the company would play nice, rather than take a page out of Apple's exclusivity book. Instead, it appears Samsung is using the Galaxy Ring to fortify its own walled garden.

Samsung has certainly worked to bolster and promote its Galaxy ecosystem for years. Buy a Galaxy smartphone, watch, tablet, laptop and earbuds, and experience seamless connectivity across devices – you don't just have to go to Apple for that. Factor in the broader range of appliances and TVs the company makes, and it's easy to form brand loyalty. 

Apple's ecosystem, which links everything from iPhones to MacBooks to the Apple Watch, has been part of its allure for many fans, thanks to its convenience. Even I, as someone who recently switched from a Galaxy phone to an iPhone, have been reveling in the convenience of copying and pasting links across my iPhone and MacBook, and AirDropping photos and videos in an instant.

But that connectivity has also spurred plenty of disdain from those outside Apple's walled garden. For instance, the Apple Watch doesn't work with Android phones (though, to be fair, the Galaxy Watch similarly doesn't work with iPhones). The Apple TV Plus app isn't available on Google Play. And although AirPods work with non-Apple devices, you won't be able to access all features, like summoning Siri

That exclusivity has even pushed the US Department of Justice to leverage a sweeping antitrust complaint against Apple, in which it accuses the iPhone maker of hindering competition. Notably, it alleges Apple "undermines cross-platform messaging" by not extending its iMessage service to Android. (Apple, for its part, has maintained that keeping iMessage exclusive to its own devices is in the interest of user privacy and security, and notes that upcoming support for RCS messaging will improve communication with non-iPhone users.) 

Samsung hasn't gotten as much blowback for its ecosystem, largely because the company's phones don't have as much of a stronghold in the US. But it's also been less adamant about creating a divide between the haves and the have-nots. Texting someone from a Samsung phone is a pretty consistent experience, regardless of whether they have the same kind of device – any differences are generally a result of Apple's restrictions. The Galaxy Watch, while not compatible with the iPhone, pairs well with Google's Pixel phones (though you'll need a Galaxy phone to access certain features like AI and ECG measurements). And Samsung's SmartThings app for home appliances is available on Apple's App Store, so you can use an iPhone or iPad to remotely control your fridge, for instance. 

But now, the Galaxy Ring is helping Samsung stand apart from competitors like Apple and Google. And Samsung is using that distinction to try to lure people into its Galaxy ecosystem. 

Whether the Ring will be enough to entice new fans remains to be seen. But I feel making the product compatible with Android and iOS phones could have done more to conjure interest in other Galaxy devices. If someone with an iPhone enjoys using the Ring, they might start eyeing other Galaxy products like phones, smartwatches and tablets. And as CNET's Patrick Holland noted in his Galaxy Ring wishlist, "Keeping the ring exclusive to Samsung, or even just to Android phones, will deter people from buying it."

Samsung appears to be at a crossroads here: follow the path of exclusivity that competitors have forged, or open the Ring up to more people and hope they buy into the ecosystem? By taking the former route, Samsung is seemingly gearing up to fight fire with fire – exclusivity with exclusivity. And consumers, once again, will be caught in the crossfire.

Source: cnet.com

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