Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is now the most valuable company on Earth and its most valuable brand. It's a feat driven by the fact that it continues to improve its smartphone market share in an already crowded and competitive landscape.
Part of the appeal of the iPhone lineup was that it was unique and, to a lesser degree, a market leader with its design and form factor. Some market rivals unveiled similar designs of their own. Others launched initiatives such as the HTC M8 and M7, a far cry from Apple's iPhone in terms of market share or impact simply because HTC has devolved from a significant market share position to a placeholder in the Android universe, serving a niche of users who prioritize build quality and design over functionality.
Samsung Group (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) needs a win in the global smartphone market more than any other large manufacturer; Apple controls the bulk of market profits and Microsoft is building its market share by aggressive entries into the low-end market. The Galaxy S5—which was unable to match the iPhone 5S and 6 as a premium device—was a disaster for Samsung. This was further exacerbated by an Apple lawsuit which could effectively wipe out the profits of Samsung’s smartphone division, putting further pressure on the company.
Samsung seems to have taken a step back in its analysis of the situation; it appears to believe emulating success is easier than experimenting given its smartphone division’s current financial position. One could say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery—but this might not apply to business models. The Samsung Galaxy S6 takes its design lessons from Apple’s iPhone 6 in more ways than one. It drops the signature removable battery, plastic cases, and additional memory to build an Android-based phone that is essentially the closest thing to an iPhone that Samsung has ever designed.
The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge pack superior hardware capabilities; unsurprising given the fact they came more than half a year after the iPhone 6 and bearing in mind Samsung’s penchant for high-end hardware compared to similar iPhone devices (real world performance notwithstanding).
Samsung now has its own payment solution known as Samsung Pay in addition to options to move to Google Wallet for users desiring the added functionality. Its acquisition of LoopPay means there is little to no investment required on the part of retailers to support the new platform, a key distinction from Apple Pay.
More hardware features include a larger screen with a much sharper pixel density (PPI or pixels per inch) and a much faster processor in the shape of Qualcomm’s 64 bit Snapdragon 810 chip. A performance potential Android 5.0, or Lollipop, is expected to build on over time. Given the disparity in RAM availability (with Samsung adding 3 GB of RAM to triple Apple’s offering), the Samsung Galaxy S6 might be a more effectively future-proofed device than the iPhone 6.
Giving the Samsung Galaxy S6 a glass back is a significant design upgrade for the phone, although adding a fingerprint sensor is considered a reactive move given the feature’s popularity on iOS.
Eliminating the back cover and memory card slots gives the phone an aura of refinement in the same light as recent HTC devices which have foregone the expansion slots. Samsung has taken more than a leaf out of Apple’s book this time, effectively designing the Android version of an iPhone and using their hardware superiority and timing to place it squarely between two iPhone products, setting a baseline for a newer model and beating the previous version significantly in this round.
The success of the Samsung Galaxy S6 is crucial for the Korean tech giant given its current market position and relative lack of profitability from its massive smartphone division. Samsung has simply chosen to play it safe; deciding to emulate its largest rival, Apple, which has consistently beaten the Koreans in profitability and market share growth. In many ways, this could stem Samsung’s hemorrhaging for Samsung. It seems to be a solid entry into the market, and while it might not tempt users invested heavily in Apple’s ecosystem, it might sway people considering a switch to iOS from Android, as well as users of older Samsung devices waiting for a significant upgrade in terms of features and design.
Samsung’s move has caused something of an identity crisis for Apple’s iPhone lineup. The S6 is similar enough to Apple’s devices for there to be concern that they might be overlooked or considered its equal by newer, less tech-savvy users, as well as light users on iOS looking for a change.
The Galaxy S6 and the Note 4 might be two of Samsung’s most impressively designed smartphones to date and the initiative might prove rewarding for the tech giant in the long run. Apple could be forced to make significant hardware and design changes to its upcoming iPhone in a bid to differentiate its device from the rest of the herd. It could be said Apple is a victim of its own success. The ascendency of the iPhone 6 and Samsung’s subsequent decline has prompted the Korean giant to aggressively mine the success of its great rival.
The Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge might not win any points for originality, but they have significant design improvements to shake up the market and become a sizable threat to the iPhone, the main driver of revenue for the Cupertino-based company. The Galaxy S6 threatens the iPhone 6 identity by attaching itself to the market leader and blurring the differences—thus challenging the very identity that is key to Apple retaining sales figures and market share in the near future.