With results suggesting that it has outsold Nokia, and its marketing department staging a provocative public relations campaign against Apple, South Korean manufacturer Samsung is dominating a competitive market
In a PR stunt it organized in Sydney last week, two black buses pulled up outside an Apple store and dozens of people jumped out, rushed up to the shop windows and began chanting: “Wake up!” while waving placards bearing the same words.
The PR campaign is backed by billboards counting down to the launch on Thursday of the Galaxy S3, the latest iteration of the South Korean manufacturer’s best-selling smartphone.
Samsung’s self-promotion is becoming increasingly aggressive. Its latest TV ad depicts Apple customers lining up for the latest product launch, slavishly following a fad and paying top dollar for an inferior product.
But the company’s new-found chutzpah is understandable. Last Thursday it was revealed that Samsung had overtaken all its competitors to become the largest seller of mobile phones worldwide, pushing Nokia off a perch it has commanded since 1998.
Samsung has not published quarterly units sold since its patent war with Apple escalated last year.
However, informed guesswork based on recent results for the first three months of this year suggest that, by any measure, Samsung has beat Nokia’s combined shipment of 82.7 million smartphones and more basic handsets known as “feature phones.”
Researcher Strategy Analytics released an estimate within minutes of Samsung’s results, saying it had achieved 93.5 million units, an increase of 24.6 million over the same quarter last year.
Another research firm, Gartner, which does not include the company’s Galaxy Note phone-tablet hybrid in its numbers, says Samsung sold between 87 and 89 million handsets — still comfortably more.
Apple has also been trumped. The mighty iPhone breezed through forecasts by shifting 35.1 million units in the period up to March 21, but Strategy Analytics estimates 44.5 million smartphones for Samsung in the same period.
This is no flash in the pan: Samsung outsold the iPhone for the whole of last year.
Samsung’s top-of-the-range Galaxy handsets have driven its success by offering better technology than the iPhone at lower prices, International Data Corp analyst Francisco Jeronimo said.
When the iPhone 4 was offering a five megapixel camera, the Galaxy S2 boasted eight megapixels and a brighter screen.
“So everyone asks, why buy an iPhone if I can have a better camera and better display at a better price?” Jeronimo said.
Samsung does not just copy, it innovates: the hybrid Galaxy Note was expected to sell 2 million units in its lifetime but actually sold 5 million in just five months, he added.
While the South Koreans may never have Apple’s cult following, a long history of producing high- quality, dependable TVs and white goods has made them a trusted brand in the West.
“If you want an alternative to Apple there is no one else at the moment,” Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said.
“It does not mean Samsung is bulletproof. Their rise is also because their competitors are just dying around them,” she added.
In the past year, Samsung has been the only top-five handset maker to increase market share in the face of the iPhone’s transformation from niche luxury item into a near-mass-market gadget.