The reality of Android

Apple Samsung Patent Lawsuit Galaxy Nexus

While the trial between Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (005930) now wrapping up in San Jose, California has gotten the most attention over the past few weeks, it’s hardly the only legal battle these two behemoths are fighting. In another scuffle taking place with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, Samsung is defending its Galaxy Nexus smartphone against allegations that it copies Apple’s Siri voice assistant feature. There are plenty of interesting points and counterpoints emerging as the two companies exchange blows, but one in particular helps reinforce the stark contrast between perceptions of Google’s (GOOG) mobile OS on the Internet, and the reality of Android.

To read about Android devices on many blogs, in the comments sections of news sites and on social networks and forums, a recurring pain point users describe with regard to various phones from Samsung, HTC (2498), Motorola and other vendors is the presence of “skins.” Users want stock Android, or so it would appear, and these additional UI and service layers created by vendors do little beyond hogging resources and slowing phones down.

As loud and widespread as these complaints are, however, the group making them is a clear minority.

Apple’s legal team recently argued that the Galaxy Nexus is a hugely important device, and Samsung stole iPhone features in an effort to help bolster sales. “This was the beat-Apple strategy,” Apple’s lawyer recently argued, according to Bloomberg. “This was the top of the line, Cadillac phone they trotted out to compete with the iPhone.”

In its defense against Apple’s claims, Samsung pointed out a simple truth: the Galaxy Nexus is hardly a device that might help the company “beat Apple.” In fact, in the grand scheme of things, the flagship “pure Google” phone is pretty insignificant.

“This is a product that, at most, captured 0.5 percent of the market,” one of Samsung’s lawyers told the court. “Nothing in the record here would support a finding of irreparable harm [to Apple].”

Samsung’s lawyer also pointed out that while Apple’s iPhone sales totaled $16.2 billion in the June quarter alone, Galaxy Nexus sales amounted to just $250 million during its first two quarters of availability.

Meanwhile, Samsung has sold more than 10 million Galaxy Note smartphones since its launch, and more than 10 million Galaxy S III handsets in less than two months. Both of these popular smartphones feature Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface layer.

Android is the most popular smartphone operating system on the planet, and as Samsung’s arguments in court help convey, “pure Google” has precious little to do with the platform’s tremendous success.

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