Is Apple underestimating the threat posed by Samsung?

Recent comments by Apple's Phil Schiller suggest that Apple may be downplaying the threat posed by Android, and in particular, Samsung.

While the iPhone remains one of the more popular smartphones on the planet, it's undeniable that Samsung continues to eat into Apple's marketshare. Sure, Apple's iPhone sales are growing, but at a slower rate than what Apple has been accustomed to.

What's more, and for reasons that perhaps can't be singularly identified, Samsung has somehow supplanted Apple as the tech world's darling. A quick scan of headlines at any major newspaper or tech publiccation would have one believe that Apple is doomed to fail and that Samsung is destined to succeed. Just recently, analyst Gene Munster was so bold as to proclaim that Samsung is innovating at a faster clip than Apple.

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Apple's Schiller criticizes Android: The pot calls the kettle black

This past Wednesday, Apple's Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller had a few choice words for Android in a rather forthcoming interview. Notably, Schiller's comments came just one day before Samsung took the wraps off of its brand new Samsung Galaxy S4.

Samsung is playing a fast and furious game in an attempt to not only catch up to Apple, but to lap it. With an insanely large marketing budget in tow, along with a more aggressive release cycle across its product line of varied handsets, Samsung is taking the fight right to Apple and isn't afraid to face the folks in Cupertino head-on.

That said, Schiller seemingly dismissed Android's gains with some of Apple's in-house data. First, Schiller noted that during 2012's holiday quarter, four times as many iPhone users came from the Android camp than vice versa.

Schiller also toed the party line with respect to Android fragmentation, noting that many Android users continue to use outdated versions of the Android OS while noting that fragmentation across the Android platform was "plain and simple."

And that extends to the news we are hearing this week that the Samsung Galaxy S 4 is being rumored to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old," he said. "Customers will have to wait to get an update."

Two things here.

First, the Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with the latest version of Android, so there's that.

And second, there's this pesky little issue of fragmentation. It's overblown.

Yes, Android is fragmented across many devices. Developers have to account for varying screen sizes etc., but with specific devices emerging as flagship Android handsets, fragmentation is becoming much less of an issue. Though hundreds of Android variations exist across a varied number of handsets, developers need only focus on a select few to reach the bulk of the Android userbase.

Schiller adds, "Android is often given as a free replacement for a feature phone and the experience isn't as good as an iPhone."

While true, those aren't the users developers are going after.

So while Schiller and Apple enthusiasts at large can argue that many Android sales are free giveaways to less-savvy consumers, Android enthusiasts can point to this as proof that fragmentation is overblown. Put simply, who cares about fragmentation if developers really aren't busying themselves with coding for each and every Android handset? And sure, apps on iOS are generally more elegant than their Android counterparts, but the gap is closing, slowly but surely.

The executive said the Android devices suffer in part because different elements come from multiple companies, whereas Apple is responsible for all its mobile hardware and as well as its iOS operating system.

"When you take an Android device out of the box, you have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with," he said. "They don't work seamlessly together."

Up to 9 accounts to get the same experience? That seems rather dramatic, and I'd be curious to know which 9 accounts Schiller is referring to.

That notwithstanding, Android continues to increase in popularity with Google recently announcing that they've now reached over 750 million activations globally.

The takeaway here, as far as I can tell, is that Schiller seems to be glossing over the success of Android by citing things like "fragmentation" and the like. He also dismisses Android handset makers for churning out devices with much bigger screens.

"Given the iPhone 5 is so thin and light, the reason that people are making their devices bigger is to get up to the battery life the iPhone 5 offers," he said.

Is Apple really taking Samsung, and Android in general, as seriously as it should?

A successful company, especially in the tech world, has to learn to adjust mid-stream and respond to what consumers want.

Remember that Steve Jobs once said that smaller tablets would be dead on arrival. A few years later we have the iPad Mini, thanks to the success of smaller and cheaper Android tablets.

That said, the fact of the matter is that many people really seem to like phones with larger screens. In today's competitive marketplace, the iPhone, with its one-size-fits-all design, just may not be enough for Apple to ward off the competition.

That's not to say Apple should come out with a Galaxy Note-type product, but they should appreciate that many consumers enjoy a big screen and not merely toss it aside as a "feature" meant to increase battery life.

Apple needs to start taking Android more seriously, and Schiller's interview seems to reflect a "Android is overrated" type of mentality that is borderline dangerous for Apple to hold onto.

The iPhone is great. It spearheaded the smartphone revolution. The iPhone 5, in my opinion, remains the best smartphone on the market, as I haven't played with the S4 just yet. And besides, we don't have a firm release date or pricepoint just yet anyhow.

That said, Samsung is really sticking it to Apple and Apple better appreciate the threat that Samsung poses.

Windows trumped the Mac back when the Mac offered a vastly more compelling and intuitive user experience. The gap between the S4 and the iPhone 5 is much smaller than the gap that historically existed between Windows and the Mac.

Hopefully the folks inside Apple are well aware of this and hopefully Schiller was just posturing to steal some of Samsung's thunder.

via Reuters

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