“If future iterations of Android don’t keep pace with iOS, then Samsung would be exposed here as the best processor and best specs don’t win you a smartphone war anymore,” says Ashish Panjabi, COO at Jacky’s Group of Companies.
The below interview is our effort to uncover exactly how this intense competition between Apple and Samsung is perceived in the Middle East.
Both Apple and Samsung breed immense loyalty amongst customers, why do you believe this is so?
The smartphone battle has largely become one of ecosystems. In the case of Apple, they’ve fought hard to build up their ecosystem by hooking users onto iTunes right from the start.
Sadly in our region, we’ve not had the benefit of being able to buy movies, music or TV shows from Apple with a UAE-based account but the App Store has proved to be very popular. In addition to that, Apple made a big stride forward when they introduced iCloud. With iCloud, you suddenly found that all your devices had the same content, whether it be your photographs, address books, calendar or e-mail, you found the same information on your Mac, iPhone or iPad.
With Samsung, they’ve largely banked on the fact that they’ve had a strong Android backbone. There is a big difference between using a Samsung device that supports Windows Phone 7, Bada or Android. What has clearly been the most successful for Samsung has been the Android devices they’ve been marketing; where Samsung has been able to capitalise on the strengths of Android that Google has put in place.
What is different though in the case of Samsung is that even though there are multiple Android-device manufacturers, Samsung has been able to lead by innovating faster than most other Android-device manufacturers. The competition for Samsung wasn’t necessarily Apple to begin with but it was the likes of HTC, Motorola, LG and Sony Ericsson who were all pushing their own offerings on Android.
Once you’ve invested heavily into an ecosystem, whether it be iOS or Android, moving from one to the other is never going to be very straightforward which explains why most users don’t migrate from one platform to the other.
- Where do both these companies fall short?
Apple from a product innovation point of view has always been able to blow us away but the refresh cycles from a design perspective haven’t quite lived up to the expectations of most consumers. For example, when Apple introduced the iPhone 4S, most users expected a different design but Apple recycled the iPhone 4 design. They’ve done the same with three generations of iPad’s as well. Whilst most consumers have been tolerant, it is a question of time as to when and how long will it before they revolt. For example, Apple has stuck to a 3.7″ screen size on their iPhone at a time when most of the competition has moved onto larger LCD displays. While 3.7″ is nice, 4″ would be nicer.
Samsung for their part has fantastic designs and specifications but they’ve still not created the fanboy (or fangirl) culture that Apple has despite trying as hard as they have. Samsung are very quick to talk about the specs of their devices but the reality is that many consumers don’t care.
Most Apple users don’t know the speed of the processor in their iPhone but nearly every other manufacturer makes it a point to highlight this. Samsung is also fairly dependent on Google at the moment. If future iterations of Android don’t keep pace with iOS, then Samsung would be exposed here as the best processor and best specs don’t win you a smartphone war anymore. Even if Samsung were to keep Microsoft as Plan B, there is no guarantee they’ll get the same level of support from Microsoft given their association with Nokia.
- The war between Apple and Samsung is old news for many of us, Where did it all begin and how is this competition two impacting the Middle East region?
There are two wars being fought here. One is between that of a components supplier who decided to become a competitor and the second is a proxy war between two rival operating systems, Android and iOS. The latter doesn’t seem to be the focus of the litigation at the moment though I expected this to be a precursor to an Apple vs. Google lawsuit but for whatever reason, Apple hasn’t pursued this.
As far as us in the Middle East are concerned, there is no impact. The attempted bans that Apple has tried to place on Samsung products has been largely focused on Western markets whether it be the US, Germany, Australia or the UK. We haven’t seen anything here. If anything, when products of Samsung were banned in other countries, we found more supply into our market.
- How do you think this situation is likely to change in the coming months? Why do you believe this is so?
When any brand becomes too strong, there is always an anti-trust risk that arises. Whether it be Samsung-Android or Apple, they’d be careful how they maneuver themselves and their services as there have been lessons that Microsoft has learned the hard way and most others will look to avoid. It is good to be a strong player, it is a problem when you are too strong a player.
Apple currently dominates most relationships they’re in whether it be a supplier or carrier, so they would be vary I’m sure of the fact that they need to show their “sensitive” side every once in a while. This is probably why Apple CEO, Tim Cook has been a little more open about Apple’s supply chain and why they’ve opened up a bit more than they did in the Steve Jobs era.