Can Samsung Overtake Apple in 2013?

I was in London having a hearty English breakfast on the first free morning I had after attending the Internet World and the Big Data Show a couple of weeks ago, when I suddenly overheard that Samsung’s profits increased 41.5 percent in the first quarter of this year. The voice came from the television I was ignoring in a failed attempt to enjoy my free morning without thinking about technology-related matters.

Cup of tea in hand, all my attention switched from my lovely English breakfast to the news report. My working mood had been activated; I was ready to know what was going on with the big South Korean manufacturer's sales.

I have to admit that Samsung's news took me a little by surprise. I know, it shouldn't. Some of the reports I have seen lately coming from China have pointed at a strong Samsung, with high and steady sales. Maybe my surprise was based on the fact that it's hard to not see Apple rising high, as it used to be just a few years back — more precisely, before Steve Jobs' death. Some days before Samsung's profit rise, Apple reported its first profit decline in more than a decade, and indicated no major releases until the fall. Should we admit that there is, in fact, “a before and after” Apple's iconic CEO?

A little retrospective
In 2012's fourth quarter, we were in the never-ending space of smartphone wars. According to market research firm Strategy Analytics’ “Handset Country Share Tracker” report, last year's fourth quarter ended this way for Samsung and Apple: Apple's iPhone 5 overtook Samsung's Galaxy S3 to become the world's best-selling smartphone model for the first time.

Fast forward to the present
So there I was, still with my tea in hand, hearing about Samsung's 41.5 percent increase in sales in 2013's first quarter — even before its Galaxy S4 reached the market. How did it happen? One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that one of the reasons Samsung is beating Apple is because the South Korean manufacturer is offering more options than just one smartphone, whereas Apple only has the iPhone.

The future will tell
Apple needs to offer an alternative to the iPhone — a new device targeting a different consumer group. Apple needs to expand. At least in this case, Apple needs to look at Samsung and learn. It needs to have at least the same number of smartphones in the market as Samsung if it wants to play the upgrade game with the same number of cards in hand. If not, then Apple should concentrate on delivering a stunning upgrade of its iPhone in the fall, instead of quick ones every semester just to keep up with Samsung's pace.

There is no doubt that the smartphone arena has turned out to be more interesting than ever this year. What are your predictions and bets for the next quarter?

33 comments on “Can Samsung Overtake Apple in 2013?

  1. SP
    May 14, 2013

    Samsung has a very aggressive marketing strategy and in many parts of Asia, they are really doing very well. One can easily see many Samsung smartphones with people. There may be chances that Samsung can overtake in Quarter revenues. But Apple phones are classic. And Samsung cannot beat that.

  2. elctrnx_lyf
    May 14, 2013

    What apple needs to do now. This is much bigger than a billion dollar question. If we look at samsung it is clear they are not just gaining market share because they are cheap. Infavt samsung smart phones are priced similar to apple but the only difference is the variety of options what samsung can offer and what apple is offerin at this moment. Probablt Apple may be alreafy working on a strategy to gain the market share. They have strong proven history interms of quality products, all the need to do is to give the user a flexibility to chose among many options.

  3. _hm
    May 14, 2013

    Samsung products are quite good. But all Apple products are classic and they have their own market segment.

    Apple is more for innovation and looking for new avenues. Samsung is for follower which just waits to almost copy concepts and products.

    Apple should not care much about Samsung, it will be big distraction.


  4. Lavender
    May 14, 2013

    Classic sometimes means outdate. Recently, Apple is trapped by so much trouble; and its iphone is expensive for most consumers. 

  5. Adeniji Kayode
    May 15, 2013


    I expect Samsung to come relatively close even if it will not overtake Apple.

    Consumers seems to be looking more towards Samsung now probaly due to slight differences in price, but then Samsung is doing a good job.

  6. Susan Fourtané
    May 15, 2013


    “Classic sometimes means outdate.” 

    No. Classic is always classic. Classic is timeless. Classic is classy.  

    ” its iphone is expensive for most consumers.”

    No. That was true with the first iPhone. It's not true today. The starting price for Samsung's Galaxy S4 is $700. It's $500 for the Galaxy S3.

    All the high-end smartphones are around the same price today. That's one of the reasons why the competence is so tight. 

    The only more econonomical smartphones in the market are the Nokia Asha series. 


  7. Susan Fourtané
    May 15, 2013


    “Samsung products are quite good. But all Apple products are classic and they have their own market segment.”

    Precisely. And classic is always appreciated by the ones who can see the timeless beauty and value in classic products. The same applies to a car, a dress, a piece of music, a film, a piece of jewellery. Classic is classy and timeless. Always. 

    “Apple should not care much about Samsung, it will be big distraction.”

    Exactly. That's why Apple needs to concentrate on its own business and stop realising updates every time Samsung gets a new phone into the market. It's not about quantity in updates, it's about quality. It seems like someone at Apple has forgotten about that, which was Apple's mantra for a long time. Right?


  8. Susan Fourtané
    May 15, 2013


    Yes, I also believe Apple's phones are classic. There is always a market for classic. The next Quarter is going to be interesting, indeed.

    Samsung has an impressive marketing strategy, that's true. Although lately Samsung's commercials are a little agressive against Apple, to my liking. 


  9. Susan Fourtané
    May 15, 2013


    Yes, yes. Exactly. I agree with all your comment. 


  10. Susan Fourtané
    May 15, 2013


    That about the price difference is becoming a thing from the past. Have you seen the Galaxy S4's starting price? I posted it in one of the comments below. 


    May 15, 2013

    I speak to a lot of people about this and there is a large and growing body that is starting to believe that Apple is not omnipotent.  There is still a very large group of Apple die hards though and these guys wilsl take some time to turn.   It's like Tiger Woods in the golf world.  He has been proven not to be invincible but others have to be able to complete at a decent level to steal his crown.

  12. Susan Fourtané
    May 15, 2013


    I love your comparison with Tiger Woods. 🙂

    Then it means that Apple has set a mark for the level of quality others have to achieve in order to try to steal its crown. Well, we should thank Apple for that. 


  13. Wale Bakare
    May 15, 2013

    >>The only more econonomical smartphones in the market are the Nokia Asha series.<<

    The game changer has been Samsung Galaxy phone – it sales upstaged Apple iPhone in the world markets. If Nokia could produce a ” killer ” smartphone i bet Nokia would have a revise prices too. 

  14. _hm
    May 15, 2013

    @Susan: Thanks and I agree with you. Like old HP slogan “there is always better way”, one has to dream and work very hard to realize it. Innovation takes lots of effort and only 10% of them make it commercial success. Our best wishes to both Apple and Samsung. But Samsung needs works harder to come even close to Apple and its magnum opsuses.


  15. Daniel
    May 15, 2013

    Susan, the market growth indicates a similar direction. If the Samsung is able to keep this profit and sales growth throughout other quarters of 2013, there is no doubt that Samsung will overtake Apple.

  16. Daniel
    May 15, 2013

    “Apple's phones are classic. There is always a market for classic. The next Quarter is going to be interesting, indeed.”

    Susan, Apple iPhone are classic and there is no doubt for that. But that doesn't brings any sales unless and until some good initiatives from Apple Marketing department.

  17. Lavender
    May 15, 2013


        Yes, classic has great influence. But classic can also be created. In today' changeable world, continuous upgrading, wide range of customer resource is the really contributor. 

    Last year's flagging economic enviroment limited consumer's spending even in this year. Mid and low-end smartphones are most compelling to consumers. So, Apple's iphone is expensive. If I gona buy one, iphone is not my choice. 

  18. Susan Fourtané
    May 16, 2013


    What Nokia is doing right is to have two different series for two different markets with the Ashas and the Lumias. Nokia wants to keep a low-end smartphone so there is no need to revise prices there. Lumia is coming slower but firmly into the Samsung and Apple space. Nokia's strategy may not be aggresive but it's stable. 


  19. Susan Fourtané
    May 16, 2013


    What do you think would make a Nokia killer smartphone? 


  20. Susan Fourtané
    May 16, 2013


    I was wondering if they don't miss the point having as first motivation beat the competitor. What would it happen if both Samsung and Apple devote their efforts to better serve their consumers instead of playing the quick update game? 


  21. Susan Fourtané
    May 16, 2013


    “If Samsung is able to keep this profit and sales growth throughout other quarters of 2013, there is no doubt that Samsung will overtake Apple.”

    That is the big question. Will Samsung will be able to keep the same results it got in the first quarter long enough to make it count? 


  22. Susan Fourtané
    May 16, 2013


    We were not saying that classic means sales. We were saying that classic always have appeal to a good number of people. Chanel is classic. However, you don't see every woman in the street wearing Chanel. Despite that, Chanel profits are great. 

    Number of sales and profit are two different things. 


  23. Susan Fourtané
    May 16, 2013


    Why would you want to create something classic if you said before that classic is not updated? I don't see your point here.

    “Mid and low-end smartphones are most compelling to consumers.”

    Maybe you mean to some consumers. There are obviously a good number of people buying high-end smartphones, or the companies wouldn't be manufacturing them. 

    “So, Apple's iphone is expensive. If I gona buy one, iphone is not my choice. “

    Don't you think Samsung smartphones are also expensive? What phone would you buy? 



  24. Lavender
    May 16, 2013


    What I mean is that Samsung may also create classic, after all, there have always been innovation in Samsung's Galaxy smartphone, such as the latest use of AMOLED. But from iphone 4s to iphone 5, there is no innovational functions in it. 

    As for smartphone price, Samsung not only introduces high-end model, but also mid and low-end smartphones, which are more appealing to consumers in emerging markes, including China, India, Africa regions. These markets can contribute a lot of market shares. 

  25. Mr. Roques
    May 16, 2013

    There have been rumors that Apple was going to release a mini iPhone or a low price phone. Do you have any news on that? Samsung has had a strategy to release new devices twice a year. That has helped them stay in the headlines.

  26. _hm
    May 16, 2013

    @Susan: Do you think Apple follows quick update? I do not think so. It is media who get infatuated with Apple new release and Apple stock price.


  27. cookiejar
    May 17, 2013

    No doubt, Steve Jobs was an eccentric and iconic corporate leader. 

    We only have to look at history to see what happened to Apple the first time Jobs got kicked out, when Apple management thought they could do better without him.  Apple was saved from impending bankruptcy by of all people Bill Gates. 

    I believe we're simply seeing history repeating itself, though I don't think Bill Gates will be the savior this time as there's no more Steve Jobs.  Are we about to witness another Kodak moment?

  28. gpbobby
    May 18, 2013

    I guess there is always some room for improvement in all things, but my experience with Apple's on-line help as well as their stores has been close to perfect. They are considerate, and for the most part very knowlegeable. That's what keeps me coming back for more.

  29. Patrick_yu
    May 20, 2013

    Susan, Many of the “good number of people” probably don't care about what they are getting for their hard-earned money. In essence, they are paying more “real” money for the iPhone? which generally come with lesser HW spec & features” than almost all the high-end smartphones from the other OEMs. I hope these people who are simply throwing money away can wake up soon!

    Your question of “what phone would you buy is simple to answer”. For those ages 35 years and above, for those age 14 and below, iPhone is simply a bad device because it stress the eyes. Because a lot of people use smartphone to play games, internet surfing, read news, watch movies and TV, the bigger the screen display, the less stress on the eyes. This is particular important for the kids whose eyes are still adapting to the world. iPhone is slightly better than its predecessors. Still, iPhone5's screen is so much smaller than the 4.3/4.5/4.7/5.0 used by the other high-end smartphones. Please don't say that 4.3″ or 4.5″ is too big for the hands because they are not. Compared to iPhone5, 4.5″ offers much larger viewing area yet very manageable with one finger. I recall, 6 to 8 years ago, almost all the technology analysts and editors kept saying that the Japanese high-tech gizmos have small buttons that are uncomfortable. It is because “we Americans have big hands and large fingers!”. How time has changed. Americans have been putting up with the smallish display and tiny on-screen virtual keyboard but are no longer concerned of their large hands and fingers! As analyst, you own the world an opinion which is a result of as many aspects of a product as possible, not just one-side view of only the good points of Apple's products! In particular, your audiences are no longer pure Americans or native Americans. As the readers of EBN come from all over the world, it is only appropriate that your reports and analysis cover the viewpoints of the diverse ethnics as much as possible.


  30. Himanshugupta
    May 20, 2013

    Samsung has been very aggressive about its pricing and marketing. It has about 14 smartphones catering to the needs of all price and user ranges while Apple has effectively 3-4 smartphones that too at a premium price. As far as the brand value goes, Samsung now commands the same respect to smartphone user as any other brands so in such a situation i think that Samsung can overtake Apple in maybe 2 years (assuming they keep their innovation engine running like last year). Apple needs to diversify and come up with product like Google Glass.

  31. Daniel
    May 21, 2013

    “That is the big question. Will Samsung will be able to keep the same results it got in the first quarter long enough to make it count? “

    Susan, I think so because after the releasing of S4, there sales figures are gone up and moreover so far Apple hadn't announced any new releases.

  32. Adeniji Kayode
    May 22, 2013


    “Stable” I,m happy hear that.

  33. Susan Fourtané
    May 31, 2013

    Thanks, Adeniji. 🙂 


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