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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.

By Yoni Heisler on Fri, 03/15/13 - 11:17am.

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also toed the party line with respect to Android fragmentation, noting that many Android users continue to use outdated versions of the Android OS while noting that fragmentation across the Android platform was "plain and simple."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