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Samsung tops Apple in marketing muscle

S Korean giant wins in global smartphone sales stakes, forcing US maker to adapt

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 3:25am

Its products may not, as one British judge put it, be as "cool" as bitter rival Apple's, but Samsung Electronics is speeding away from the iPhone maker in the race for the global smartphone market.

The South Korean giant first took the smartphone top spot from Apple in the third quarter of last year, grabbing a 20 per cent slice of worldwide sales, compared with Apple's 14.5 per cent, according to telecoms research firm IDC.

Jump ahead to the just-finished third quarter and Samsung's share has surged to 31.3 per cent, with Apple on 15 per cent.

Popular perceptions of the two companies, which are locked in a series of patent infringement lawsuits in 10 countries, could hardly be more different.

Apple is seen as the supreme innovator, single-handedly creating or re-inventing entire markets with a small number of imaginative, stylish products that inspire devotion among those who can afford them.

Samsung, by contrast, is the corporate behemoth that picks up ideas, refines them with extraordinary efficiency, and packages them in a wide product range that covers the full market spectrum

The hysteria that surrounds most Apple launches is testament to the expectations it generates as a product and design pioneer, a role to which Samsung has never particularly aspired.

Ironically, Apple's design muscle saw it lose one of its patent fights with Samsung when a British judge ruled in July that Samsung's Galaxy tablet was not "cool" enough to be confused with Apple's iPad.

However, Apple has been forced to adapt in the face of Samsung's rise. On Friday it released the iPad mini, which is a scaled-down version of its tablet computer, but failed to generate the same excitement as previous launches.

Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs had once derided the whole concept of small tablets, saying they should be packaged with sandpaper, "so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size".

In a reversal, the iPad mini saw Apple following Samsung into a segment the South Korean firm had already entered earlier this year with the 7-inch version of its Galaxy Tab 2.

But in general, Apple has been the pioneer and Samsung has played catch-up. Nevertheless, Samsung has shown itself to be unbeatable when it comes to assault on new markets.

"The copycat label still sticks to Samsung whether it likes it or not, but there's still a great business in that," senior IDC research analyst Kevin Restivo said.

Analysts point to two key factors behind Samsung's success in the hugely competitive smartphone market. They are its embrace of Google's Android operating system and its full-spectrum marketing strategy.

By adopting the popular Android platform and concentrating solely on hardware, Samsung was able to leapfrog smartphone makers such as Nokia and Blackberry-maker RIM, who stuck with their own operating systems.

The main issue for Samsung, according to analysts, is how it handles relations with Google, given its dependency on the Android platform.

Google's recent acquisition of smartphone maker Motorola Mobility is being seen as a trend that would see power in the smartphone market shift from the hardware to software companies.

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