Apple Versus Samsung: A Global Battle

Apple and samsung smart phones

Apple Versus Samsung: A Global Battle
| Published March 18, 2014 |

By Thursday Review staff

In the smart phone wars, Samsung and Apple may be battling head-to-head and toe-to-toe in the U.S. and Canadian markets, but overseas, Apple is beginning to win the hearts and minds of consumers.

Samsung, which has traditionally been the leader among smart phone users in developing nations, lost some ground to Apple last year; Apple moved up to a roughly 21% share of those foreign markets, while Samsung saw a small 3 point decline to 29%.

Apple has always been the brand with the cache and the bling among upscale users and product buyers, especially in the major markets, but Samsung has remained in a solid first-place position with those consumers on a budget. Apple’s phones and other handheld devices have generally been more expensive than those of its competitors, whereas Samsung managed to carve out the middle niche to become the dominant mid-priced manufacturer.

In the U.S., Apple has maintained a slight advantage, but overseas—and especially in the big Asian markets—Samsung has held the edge. In China, for example, Samsung is the number one seller, followed closely by Lenovo, with Apple coming in a solid third. But if Apple’s recent gains are an indication of long-term movement in the mobile markets, Apple could become number one worldwide very soon.

The two smartphones most often pitted against one another lately are the iPhone (models 5 and 5s) and Samsung’s Galaxy S4. But Samsung has lost ground in both the U.S. and overseas, and late last year it saw its Galaxy sales drop to third place behind Apple’s top two iPhone products. Nokia also produces a fairly popular smartphone, the Asha 501. Other leading brands include Blackberry and HTC.

Smartphone makers are in a fierce competition for shares of phone sales in the big emerging markets—Brazil, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia—where tens of millions of consumers may go in search of their first (or second) smartphone within the next year or two. The potential for profit is enormous, and missed cues about what those consumers want (or don’t want) versus what they are willing to spend will surely affect the strategic decisions of these companies for years.

Samsung responded aggressively to its recent declines by releasing its newest version of the Galaxy, a device which has several improvements over previous models—a larger touch screen, a brighter, sharper display, and a spiffed-up rear-facing camera with greater pixel capabilities. The new Galaxy is resistant to shallow water conditions for up to 30 minutes (though Samsung added the caveat that they would prefer customers not deliberately test that theory).

Still, the Apple brand and logo possess panache, and that advantage has given Apple the ability to carve a slightly larger share of the market despite the higher price tag associated with its products. In the meantime, several companies (independent of the five major players) are investing in designs for phone cheap enough to be sold to middle-and-working class consumers in many of those same growing overseas markets.

Worldwide, smartphones make up nearly 55% percent of all mobile and handheld devices sold, and the total sales now run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Coming Soon: A Better, Bigger Galaxy; Thursday Review staff; February 28, 2014.