updated 11:15 pm EDT, Tue March 19, 2013
Cites lackluster debut of Samsung S4, expected 'iPhone 5S'
After watching the sometimes-awkward public debut of Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone, research analysts Yankee Group are predicting that while the model will do well in the US, it won't stop the slow gains in Apple's North American marketshare. Calling the device "just another iteration on the Galaxy design to be slightly bigger, faster and with a few new apps," the company echoed widespread sentiment that Samsung may have overreached in marketing the phone as a major upgrade.
While Apple does the same thing with its iPhone releases -- making every other year a "polishing" of the new design rather than a revamp -- it labels them accordingly, with the "S" designation to signal that the iPhone 4S (for example) is a refinement of the iPhone 4 rather than a reinvention. "If Samsung were Apple, it would have named this design the Galaxy S IIIS," the firm noted.
"We fully expect the Galaxy S4 to be an excellent flagship phone for Samsung, but [we] don't see the S4 allowing Samsung to gain ground against Apple in the crucial US market," Yankee Group VP of Research Carl Howe said. In the company's chart of how various smartphone companies are likely to do in calendar 2013, only Apple was seen to be likely to gain share, and also topped the list of devices smartphone buyers wanted to purchase their next device.
Samsung's percentage on the latter issue was lower (about 15 percent compared to Apple's 40 percent response) than even the "Unsure/Don't Know" response at just under 20 percent. All the other manufacturers were predicted to either lose share or make insignificant gains in 2013. Samsung rivals HTC and BlackBerry were among those predicted to lose the most share in the US.
Two factors may account for this beyond simply the impression that the S4 is just an incremental "spec bump" -- the change of processor in the US version compared to the international version, and the expected arrival sometime this summer of the next model of iPhone (itself expected to be incremental in nature, with the probable name of "iPhone 5S").
While the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon used as the core of the US version of the Galaxy S4 is significantly faster in raw processor scores than either the Galaxy S III or the iPhone 5, it will be widely perceived as being less powerful than the "octa-core" Exynos chip used outside the US. Another issue may be the growing perception in the US market that Samsung spends an inordinate amount of time blatantly copying Apple's concepts and inventions -- either real or rumored.
The company recently made the laughable claim that it has been working on a smartwatch for "so long" when in fact not even the most ardent Samsung sleuths had ever heard of the concept -- and still haven't seen the first patent application -- until a former Apple designer, Bruce "Tog" Tognazinni, wrote a speculative blog post in early February on why such a product might be a good idea.
While Samsung's Android smartphones will continue to do well in the US and particularly in other regions where the wider variety of price points and feature sets are more appropriate, Yankee Group's predictions are based on surveys of estimated ownership share and surveys of consumer intent to buy within the next six months. Howe also observed that Samsung "isn't generating the same kind of brand loyalty that Apple owners have," saying that in the same survey only 61 percent of Samsung owners intended to buy another Samsung phone, but 85 percent of iPhone owners said they will get another iPhone.