Smartphone rivalry: Apple vs. Samsung

By Maureen Aylward

Recent news that Apple has taken over the top spot in the smartphone sector leads us to wondering about Samsung and Nokia. We asked our Zintro experts about the market dynamics and how things in the smartphone sector will shake out over the next few months.

Manas Ganguly, a category manager in data devices, says that smartphones are not only about devices, they include a variety of technology that make up the ecosystem of the devices, including software, games, maps, location-based services, navigation, applications, Apple push notification service, user interfaces, backend integration with services, developers, content, aggregators, and partnerships with other constituents of the ecosystem. “The smartphone rivalry is about one ecosystem against another trying to engage and enrich consumer experiences around media that is carried by the device. As such, the Samsung and Apple rivalry is the tipping point of a much larger war between Apple and Android,” says Ganguly.

Ganguly says that Samsung is the largest contributor to Android smartphone volumes globally and much of the cutting edge Android services have been featured in Samsung smartphones. Android also has HTC and Motorola among its other significant device partners. “Nokia has yet to perfect the smartphone domain, not so much in terms of devices but rather the ecosystem, technology, partners and the like,” says Ganguly. “Microsoft may be a partner in this area. Microsoft with its own competency in the online digital space is the third part of this unique and interesting competition that is now maturing. While Microsoft has joined late, Nokia’s inherent strengths as a device manufacturer and distribution is what a Microsoft Windows Phone could ride on to get on par with Apple and Android.”

Apple, Android, and Microsoft come with different competencies. “Apple is the innovator brand, but is stringent in terms of control on its innovation and integration across its devices. This adds a great deal of exclusivity to the Apple brand,” says Ganguly. “Android, on the other hand, is open and encourages wide diversity of partnerships across its platform. Android obviously has its competence in Google’s presence across web-based platforms and a huge repertoire of web-based services. Microsoft is the legacy company that is trying to reinvent itself in a swanky new avatar that is more relevant to the mobile generation.”

Ganguly says market dynamics will depend upon factors such as experience and engagement with the users, range of services offered, and the time to market for innovations. “The objective is to host the user’s lifestyle on platforms in a seamless manner creating stickiness and monetization ability for the platforms. Currently, the Android platform has made major inroads in this segment. However, it is Apple who is the most successful in terms of monetizing its user base and that is what really matters. Microsoft hasn’t really started, and we will have to wait for the Nokia-Windows Phone partnership to kick in before placing our bets on Microsoft,” he says.

TechGeorge, an expert in the telecom industry, thinks that Apple sees Samsung as a true competitor. “Apple now has some $75 billion USD in its reserves. They have a lot of power to move competitors out of the way. Apple does focus attacks other rivals, such as HTC and smaller players, but any industry watcher can actually notice that Apple’s biggest efforts are being put into taking as many pieces of the pie away from Samsung as possible,” says TechGeorge.

Regarding Nokia, TechGeorge says that it has been suffering from not following the market in terms of operating systems and relying more on hardware specs rather than making smartphones that appeal to the masses. “The fact that Nokia had to partner with Microsoft to use Windows Phone 7 as its smartphone platform tells you that they were just not able to make an OS to compete with Android,” he says. “I think Nokia made a smart decision choosing WP7 instead of Android because it may give them a competitive differentiation against all the Android OEMs if they can make WP7 a key player.”

TechGeorge points out that RIM is suffering from the same problems since Apple launched the iPhone. “RIM is making up the old OS with nicer lay outs, but underneath there’s still the same old OS which is hard to find your way around,” he says.  “The bottom line is that the traditional competitors in the mobility world are trying to find a way not to fail against iOS and Android as the key players in the current market.”

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