Apple VS Samsung Samsung vs Apple: Have the tables finally turned?

Recent analysis shows that more of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S III phones were sold in the 3rd quarter of this year than the Apple iPhone 4S. Is this the beginning of a new era? And just what is Samsung's secret?

During the past quarter, Samsung shipped 18 million units while Apple only managed to sell 16.2 million. That’s a big deal considering the iron grip that Apple has held on the smartphone business for the past few years.

Although the data referred to mixes shipped and sold units and is basically like comparing apples to oranges (well, actually its comparing Apples to Samsungs..), the result is still far from insignificant, and may be the first step down a bleak road for the Cupertino developer.

Arch rivals Samsung and Apple have been battling each other for years for domination of the smartphone market. Both manufacturers employ a more or less similar strategy, that of focusing on a single flagship device rather than diversifying and playing the laws of large numbers, as has been the case with HTC, Motorola, LG et al. By doing so, Samsung were able to build up their brand recognition and make their product into the ‘must-have’ device that is craved annually by a mass market.

While in the background Apple have been taking on Samsung in the courts for copying the likeness of their products, in the main arena of pushing product there was nothing Apple could do to stop Samsung from “copying” their winning strategy, and ultimately it has been this strategy that has let Samsung rise above their opponent.

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After three iterations of the Galaxy S, Samsung have gotten into the swing of how to control every aspect of their smartphone strategy. From hardware manufacture to design to advertising, Samsung is completely self-sufficient. This is the real Ace up Samsung’s sleeve, and gives them unlimited potential in the mobile computing market.

Apple, though trying hard to migrate from relying on 3rd party fabricators to internally developed ARM chips for their CPUs, still have to rely on outside sources for their phone’s displays and flash memory. Until now Samsung have been the major source of these parts for Apple, so the Korean maker have been profiting even when their competitors do better than them.

That’s not to say that Apple doesn’t have control over its production chain. It is this very control which has been another key part of their strategy, as they can cheaply and quickly manufacture in bulk thanks to their huge orders every year. When Apple is in town, it is harder for other phone makers to even get similar parts, since contracted manufactures in places like Taiwan and mainland China are too busy cooking up batches for Apple’s annual sales bonanzas. Samsung is about the only other player capable of such a high-stakes battle. And they play it just as well as Apple.

It is hard to say which way the feud between Apple and Samsung will go. Maybe Samsung’s lack of creativity will be the thorn in their side that stops them from really getting ahead of their foe. But one thing is for sure, where there’s more competition, there’s more benefit for the user. As long as the fire between the two smartphone makers keeps smoldering, there will be no end to the rapid innovation and progress of the mobile market.

Sales numbers courtesy of tech.sina.com.cn