Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung have cemented themselves as the two most dominant smartphone vendors in the world. The two frenemies have formed a seemingly unbreakable duopoly on the hardware front, while iOS and Google Android do likewise on the software side.
Combined, Apple and Samsung have grown their share of the global smartphone market from 20% just three years ago to now account for half of the market.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of their rivalry is that their strategies couldn't be further apart. Apple has always focused on product depth over product breadth, dedicating its resources to a very clear vision of what it believes is the best product for the consumer. The Mac maker puts a lot of thought into formulating this image, which also inevitably entails more concentrated risk should a product theoretically flop.
That's exactly why the company has only released one new iPhone model per year thus far, although that may change this year. Even if Apple releases an affordable iPhone this year, that's still just two distinct models, which is far fewer than the competition.
In contrast, Samsung really doesn't have any strong opinions or views as to what people actually want. That's why it essentially tries everything to test out the market and see what sticks. The South Korean giant experiments with every conceivable form factor and price point in an effort to discover what people want, as opposed to adhering with a pre-conceived notion like Apple does. This translates into less risk per product launch, and allows Samsung to fail cheaply when it misses the mark.
The latest evidence of Samsung's broad strategy is the Galaxy S4 Zoom, which piggybacks off Samsung's Galaxy Camera that was launched last year. The Galaxy Camera is a point-and-shoot that features a touchscreen and runs on Android but lacks phone functions. The Galaxy S4 Zoom adds those phone features back in to a similar form factor.
The new device straddles the line between phone and camera, but leans more heavily on the camera side. Unfortunately, the camera form factor doesn't lend well to being a phone, and the large lens characteristic of most point-and-shoot cameras is bound to get in the way. This is an unavoidable trade-off with packing a phone into a point-and-shoot.
It's not feasible to think that the Galaxy S4 Zoom will take off. It will probably be relegated to a niche market segment. Samsung actively pursues these niche categories, while Apple sticks to the mainstream market.
The saving grace for Samsung is that once the Galaxy S4 Zoom fails, at least it'll be cheap.
Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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