Samsung Galaxy v Apple iPhone - the smartphone duopoly


Rory Cellan-Jones and CCS Insight's Ben Wood assess Samsung's new Galaxy phone

The excitement has been mounting for weeks. Fans have speculated about the precise specifications of the device, the company behind it has been doing everything it can to preserve the mystery and build up the anticipation. Yes, Samsung has learned quite a lot from Apple about the art of hype.

I've been to several major gadget launches - the original iPhone, Sony's PlayStation 3, Microsoft's Xbox Kinect - and last night's unveiling of the Galaxy S3 smartphone in London's Earl's Court may well have been the most over the top and extravagant yet. In the cavernous halls where everyone from Pink Floyd to Madonna has strutted their stuff, thousands gathered to see a rectangular slab of plastic and metal.

Why? Because only one smartphone has challenged - perhaps surpassed - the iPhone in terms of sales, technology and consumer appeal. And the latest version will undoubtedly set the standard for Apple and the rest of the industry to try to match.

For all the extravagant talk of a device which allows you to "live the life extraordinary", the latest Galaxy looks at first sight like any other modern touchscreen phone. It does have a bigger sharper screen than its predecessor, and some clever touches. There's a voice recognition function which seemed in the demo to do everything that Apple's Siri does and more, there's eye-tracking technology which means that the phone goes to sleep when you stop looking at it, and there's NFC (Near Field Communication) built in, allowing users to simply tap each other's phones to share content.

But at its heart is the latest Ice Cream Sandwich version of the Android operating system - and that's on plenty of other impressive phones from the likes of HTC, LG and Sony. Why the new Galaxy matters is that the previous models have established it in consumer minds as the number one Android phone - and in this business, it's increasingly apparent that the winner takes all.

Image of mobile phones Could there soon be only two players left standing?

Look across the wider smartphone battlefield, and it seems that there could soon be just two players left standing. Last week Apple revealed that it had sold 35 million iPhones in the last quarter, a figure that left industry analysts gasping for breath. Only for them to suffer another fainting fit on learning that Samsung had sold more than 44 million smartphones in the same period. With the Korean firm's cheaper phones also roaring ahead, it has now overtaken Nokia as the world's biggest mobile maker.

But what is truly astonishing is the share of industry profits these two companies are winning. Look at this infographic of recent profit trends in mobile phones, compiled by a respected mobile industry analyst, Horace Dediu.

It shows that Apple captured 73% of phone industry profits over the last three months, with Samsung getting 26%. HTC got 1% and the rest made losses, or profits so small they barely register.

From the mobile operators' point of view this emerging duopoly must be deeply worrying. Having been forced to bend to Apple's will, they were very happy to see the emergence of Android, with its promise of a multitude of manufacturers competing for their attention. Now it looks as though Samsung is in position to call all the shots in the Android market.

What happens next? Could RIM, which has been previewing its new Blackberry 10 system this week, make a comeback in the autumn with innovative phones that revive its appeal? Will Nokia's Lumia range - apparently doing reasonably well in the United States - pull the Finnish giant out of its death spiral? Or will a Chinese giant like Huawei start flexing its muscles in Western markets?

The mobile networks will hope that all of those eventualities - however unlikely - come to pass. But in the meantime, they will all be helping Samsung with its massive marketing push behind the Galaxy S3 - and making it into an inevitable and very profitable hit.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    "built-in user experience"? Marketing twaddle! And there is no chance of your iphone developing a serious fault, not at the rate they keep churning out a new model. I think all mobile phone manufacturers are becoming guilty of this, the rate at which newer & better phones appear is becoming a joke!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    All I know is I have more minutes and texts than I can use, plus 1gb of data for £12/month with my Samsung Galaxy Ace which has satnav plus a host of other features.
    I know some people might look down their noses,but what do you want from a 'phone?
    If you're happy to spend another £30/month to "look good" then,by all means,go ahead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Apple have made billions out of (suckers) who live in their walled garden. These people (mugs) get an average service at high cost, whereas many Android users get many services for free - but Apple users obviously have money to waste so good luck to Apple - was that a dividend I just got?

    Apple users are buying the lifestyle - but do they really 'need' what their phones can do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    How many of the people criticising iPhones here have actually had one?
    A lot of Apple's products don't look that special on paper, until you actually use one: it's the built-in user experience that makes them special. And in 17 years of using Apple products, I've only ever owned 4 (3 Macs and an iPhone): they haven't gone wrong at all. How many times have other brands failed in the same period?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Love my S2 and would love to get S3. However, I can see the smart phone market ending up just like the computer market. All models are all very similar to each other at the various price level.

    My two sons have iphone 4s and I have to say they are well made phones, but for whats under the hood they are way over priced. But at the moment its fashionable to have an iphone, but for how long ; )

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    but do you realise you are not paying a premium for any of the above reasons as apple phone are renowned for breaking down, not allowing you to do what you want (reliability) and as for stability just never hope you have to take one back to apple like over 50% have had too as your little red markers will show you invalidated your warentee.
    what you mean you did not check out of the box

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    I'm prepared to pay a premium for the performance, design, stability and reliability I have enjoyed for the past three years with all three of my Apple devices.

    P.S. For less than £10 you can buy a new iPhone 4 battery complete with screwdriver. Three screws later and the battery is replaced. You can't buy a decent replacement battery for another phone for much less.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Too dificult for you to understand its not the fact flash is not going to be continued but the fact apple are happy to limit a floored device.
    I notice you ignore the fact you cant replace the battery hence if a heavy user in under a year you could end up with a brick that you have to replace at your cost.
    I still prefer a phone i can do what i want with, not what apple say i can do

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    @Darren Shepperd: a bit late to be complaining about the lack of Flash, given that Adobe have announced they are no longer developing Flash for any mobile browser whatsoever. Like it or not, they have admitted that Apple was right: Flash was a battery hog, and its demise is now inevitable. There may be good reasons in your eyes not to buy an iPhone, but lack of Flash should not be one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Iphone the darling of the foolish and those following a fashion, its why Apple are not even close when it comes to most popular phones after all who but a fool would buy a phone you cant replace the battery in or cant use certain sites not because of any legal reason just because apple say we wont allow you to.
    Would anyone buy a car that the makers made unable to run on one day of the week

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Samsung (and other companies) simply take their lead from Apple who are by far superior.
    You can imitate but you can't better the master.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Apple only ever sold overpriced underspecced phones- the masses fell for the adverts (which ended up having to be revised due to innaccuracy and misselling -and they are still at it with the Ipad 3 - 4G??!! in the UK?? -erm nope, not for a few years!!!). ~People are gullible - sell an Iphone for £20/month- people wont value it- sell it for £35+ /month- its a 'must have'! Oh dear!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    There's nothing fanboy about this, but my iphone 4s is really easy to use, all my colleagues, and my son (who has my old 3gs) have iphones, so we can all use iMessage. We have 3 iPads so can redownload our purchased apps, share contacts, music etc... It really is an ecosystem buy-in thing. Our investment in apple now is huge, but they do need to keep delivering, as they have been up till now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I bought a Windows phone not because I couldn't afford an iPhone but because the WinPhone OS is slick, fast, elegant, easy to use and, above all, DIFFERENT to all of the other samey devices out there. Since the Nokia WinPhones are also beautifully made, robust, cheaper and have excellent cameras it was a no-brainer. They may not 'gain traction' here but it is not because they aren't good!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    When Android was first introduced it really appealed more to the techy/nerdy crowd whereas the iPhone was marketed for mass appeal. Things have moved on but in some respects Android is still known for it's customisation rather like the Linux vs PC difference. Apple is a safer bet, a standard and in vogue for those to show off their real or apparent opulence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    It's the "must have" generation. My ex even bought my 13 year old daughter a PAYG iPhone 4S at £500. Ridiculous. I think the Apple iPhone has become a defacto standard despite it's specs not being top of the range. As for phones a lot of the problem is available tariffs where the best tariffs include the most expensive phones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    What is it about a phone that leads to such fanaticism. At the end of the day, ifyou're happy with yours,why trade in petty "mine's better than yours" squabbles. I can only presume such contributors have other parts of their lives in which they feel inferior. Surprised the HTC One X didn't receive such exposure on the BBC, but all I know is that I've got one big decision to make come upgrade time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    10. Miss Ingoff
    I said "most" :)

    11. Alex
    It's pretty easy to switch, and not feel you've "invested" too much. For a balanced view of both sides (i.e. no fanboys), see here for switching from Android to iOS:

    And the reverse:

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Great coverage Rory, Samsung really have stirred the hipe over the SIII, but the points that where covered at the event seem to replicate all ready existing products, tapping two phones together is an app on the iphone called the bump, talking to a your phone. . . done, the only USP I can see at the moment is the eye tracking. The look and speed of the phone are awesome though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    So apparently "Samsung are outclassing Apple" according to MarkG. I've only just stopped laughing. Samsung and class don't go together - ever. Have you bought their cheap "pile them high and sell them cheap" products? They've copied Apple from day one. I'd suggest people look at the Apple sales figures and earnings, when they're not playing with their cheap, plastic Samsung toys that is . . .


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