Mobile giants Apple and Samsung have both made public their fiscal achievements for the first half of 2015 and one thing is clear, Samsung has failed to take a big enough bite out of Apple’s market share.
Poor old Samsung now faces a tough year ahead, to claw back some ground.
Part of the problem for all mobile manufacturers is that we’re hanging on to our handsets for longer, then switching to SIM-only deals to save some money, instead of splashing out on contracts with the newest flagship models.
That means mobile makers are having to pull out all the stops to encourage us to upgrade. Only Apple seems to buck that trend – and the proof is in its strong iPhone sales figures.
Cast your mind back a bit and it was all about Apple versus BlackBerry (I know, hard to recall!) but, having seen off its early rival fairly swiftly, Apple now has Samsung in the cross hairs.
It has stormed ahead in popularity, breathing life back into the flagging mobile market with the launch of its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus last year and, in July, declaring its intentions to have us ditch our wallets and pay by mobile via Apple Pay – no mean feat by any measure.
While Apple has long limited itself to offering just one or two finely-crafted handsets, Samsung’s response has been to fight back hard with frequent and high-profile handset launches, in an attempt to flood the market.
It does have flagship models of course, but sales of Samsung’s top-of-the-range Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge have been disappointing, with both failing to topple Apple’s crown on the bestseller lists.
Looking at the iPhone 6 versus the Samsung Galaxy S6 – in the first three months after each flagship launched – Apple stormed ahead in popularity. The iPhone 6 blew Samsung out of the water, generating two and a half times more sales through uSwitch.com than the Samsung Galaxy S6.
By launching just two phones in the past year, Apple has created a culture of exclusivity around its handsets. Compared to other tech companies, Apple isn’t actually doing anything particularly groundbreaking, and it’s rarely the first when implementing new technologies. Mobile payment technology existed before Apple Pay, and voice recognition existed before Siri.
But somehow Apple is simply the best at making this kind of wizardry go mainstream. The technologies it adopts often become the standard in mobile handsets, repackaging existing ideas, and making them an essential part of our user experience.
Creating an Apple ecosystem that includes the iPhone, Apple Watch, Macbook, Apple TV, iTunes and iPod, has also locked people into the Apple experience. If you’re an Apple convert, you’ll already know it’s kind of hard to escape once you start buying into the brand.
But really it was the launch of the iPhone 6 and its ‘phablet’ (that’s a phone-tablet hybrid to me and you) sibling, the 6 Plus, that stung Samsung the hardest. Until the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung had the phablet market wrapped up with its Galaxy Note range.
That move allowed Apple to capture the phablet market, eating into Samsung’s heartland in one swift strike. It also lost ground with its disappointing Galaxy S5, which failed to offer the shift in design that was required to capture the imagination of its dwindling fanbase. Many people considered the S5 a wasted upgrade, sticking with their S4 or moving over to Apple instead.
Samsung tried to rectify this with the launch of its S6 Edge handset and stand out features such as the dual curved display. A display that will also be seen in an upcoming BlackBerry flagship phone, just showing how Samsung can be ahead of the curve – no pun intended. However, you could argue the technology was a bit niche, appealing more to early adopters than the mass market.
The South Korean manufacturer needs to recapture those loyal customers who are sitting on the fence, and it’s no longer just about the killer handset. The recently-launched OnePlus 2 shows the success of a disruptive marketing strategy. By using exclusivity to attract consumers, that handset had over a million reservations in less than a week, not quite sales or pre-orders, but impressive none the less.
Content is also as important as the handset itself. Other manufacturers, such as Sony, have caught on, offering music and films with its devices – although it remains to be seen whether this tactic will be a success.
With Apple rumoured to release the updated iPhone 6s in September – an iterative update that is unlikely to deliver groundbreaking or revolutionary changes – Samsung has the chance to make up some lost ground.
Samsung is rumoured to be announcing a larger version of its S6 Edge, along with the expected next generation of its Note line, both of which could be challengers to the iPhone’s reign.
But the history books are stacked against Samsung. Apple is just really good at seeing off the competition, having practically assassinated Blackberry.