Apr 16 2014, 2:12pm CDT | by Forbes
It’s less than a year after Samsung’s landmark Galaxy S4 Android superphone went on sale, and already the follow-up Galaxy S5 is in the wild and reportedly selling like… not hot cakes, exactly; more like… an iPhone. And that is exactly the type of response that Samsung has been trying to essentially manufacture with the assistance of a massive marketing budget, and with the same efficiency that it manufacturers a dizzying array of devices, and often on short order.
The current discovery process of the Apple vs. Samsung trial reveals quite the obsession inside Samsung with battling Apple and the iPhone. As the Wall Street Journal reports, former Samsung America CEO Dale Sohn once wrote in a presentation that “beating Apple is no longer merely an objective. It is our survival strategy.” In emails to other top brass at the company from June 2012, Sohn referred to the impending release of the iPhone 5 as an imminent “tsunami” and implored that “we have to set up a counter plan to neutralize this tsunami.”
How exactly to go after Apple had long been a key question at the company. In another email brought forth in court by Apple this month, this one from October 2011, Samsung’s Sohn acknowledged Apple’s status as a major purchaser of Samsung components, and suggested pursuing a sort of proxy war by asking Google to launch a campaign against Apple, highlighting some of the top Android products in the market.
Clearly, by the summer of 2012 Samsung had decided it needed to mount its own offensive to confront Apple and the iPhone head on. It was only about nine months later that the Galaxy S4 was introduced with much campy (and expensive) fanfare at a bizarre, Broadway-themed launch event at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Samsung was going to go big rather than go home.
The result has been the consolidation of the smart phone market in the eyes of consumers into not just a battle between Android and Apple, but a more narrow feud between just Samsung and Apple. Sure there are other players, but the sales figures tend to speak for themselves, with the iPhone continuing to be a top seller, followed immediately by Samsung’s flagships.
Samsung’s strategy to deflect the Apple iPhone tsunami seems to be to create tidal waves in its own image, competing for consumers with a relentless onslaught of marketing muscle and new products that constantly keep the Samsung brand front and center.
While new iterations of the iPhone tend to roll out every 12-18 months, Samsung has setup a release schedule in which a new Android flagship (so far it’s been the latest Galaxy Note, followed by the latest in Galaxy S series) hits the market every 6-8 months. This strategy means that the latest iPhone will always be competing with both a current bestselling Samsung phone and a brand-spanking new Samsung phone.
While Apple is still the reigning global phenomenon, Samsung continues to narrow the gap. ZDNet Korea reported that first day sales of the Galaxy S5 doubled that of the Galaxy S4′s debut in some countries, particularly in Europe, with many markets selling out of the Galaxy S5 right away.
“(The S5) is selling faster than the S4 so far, though it’s difficult to share specific numbers as we’re still at early stages,” Samsung’s Yoon Han-kil told Reuters. ”S5 sales should be much better than the S4.”
And the majority of those sales are likely to count towards neutralizing the Apple-based threat that Samsung execs were fretting about almost two years ago. Each person who buys a Galaxy S5 in the coming weeks is probably not going to buy an iPhone 6 when it comes out later this year, at least not right away.
Samsung has also been working furiously, almost embarrassingly, to strike a preemptive blow against Apple in the wearables market. After the original Galaxy Gear smartwatch failed to impress, the company is now back to its old tricks, throw three new models of smartwatches against the wall to see what sticks with consumers.
It seems Samsung saw a tsunami coming out of Apple a few years ago, and it has responded by creating its own deluge of products. It remains to be seen which will overwhelm the other, but the collateral damage is clear: Samsung set out to neutralize Apple but so far has just managed to neutralize every other already faltering smartphone maker in the business.
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