With Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) next iPhone widely expected to ship with a larger screen, Samsung's (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) high-end Galaxy handsets could be poised to struggle. For years, the biggest (literally) difference between Samsung's handsets and Apple's iPhone has been the screen size: If a consumer wanted a big phone, they more or less had to go with a Samsung-made handset. A larger iPhone, then, would nullify one of Samsung's major selling points.
But Samsung has a new tactic: this time taking aim at the iPhone's battery. A recent Samsung ad dubs Apple's customers "Wall Huggers" and stresses the battery life advantage of its Galaxy handsets.
Samsung exploits the iPhone's weakness
"There they are, clustered around power outlets," Samsung's ad begins. "Tethered to the wall. Denied the freedom to enjoy even the most basic things....Wall Huggers."
Samsung's choice of words may be a case of marketing exaggeration, but it is -- to a large extent -- justified. Poor battery life has been a constant complaint among Apple's customers; a case manufacturers have moved to exploit what may be one of the iPhone's biggest weaknesses. Samsung's phones have suffered battery drain in the past, but newer models have seen marked improvements. Its current flagship, the Galaxy S5, has been found to last several hours longer than Apple's competing iPhone 5s in various battery life tests.
As with its screens, Samsung's battery life advantage may be a case of size: The Galaxy S5 sports a battery that is almost twice as large as Apple's iPhone 5s. But there are other advantages, some of which are unique to Samsung's design: Samsung's Galaxy S5, with its removable backplate, allows its owners to swap in a spare battery on the fly.
What customers want
While Apple's choice of screen size has remained the focal point of its upcoming flagship, and has attracted positive attention among analysts and investors, the battery life of the iPhone 6 could ultimately prove far more important.
According to a recent survey from WalletHero, would-be iPhone 6 buyers cite improved battery life as the most crucial feature that would convince them to buy Apple's next handset. Screen size is still important, with 85% of respondents saying a larger screen would influence their decision positively, but battery life came out ahead -- a full 97% of WalletHero's respondents said they would be enticed to buy Apple's iPhone 6 if it offered better battery life.
Apple's iPhone 6 could offer a bigger battery
Apple could be about to deliver just that, assuming recent rumors have any validity. Last week, French blog nowhereelse posted what are said to be leaked images of the iPhone 6's battery. At 1,800 mAh, it would be roughly 20% larger than the battery currently in Apple's iPhone 5s.
Admittedly, a French blog is far from the best source for details on Apple's upcoming products, but a larger battery would make sense from a logical standpoint. Samsung's batteries have increased in size along with its handsets' displays -- the larger body allowing for a bigger battery chamber.
Even at 1,800 mAh, it would still be significantly smaller than the 2,800 mAh battery powering Samsung's Galaxy S5. Yet, Apple could offer superior battery life with better materials. In the past, when pressed as to why Apple has not yet offered a larger screen variant of the iPhone, Apple's CEO Tim Cook has cited current problems with competing large screen handsets -- in particular, the battery life a larger screen may demand.
To solve this problem, Samsung has simply used larger batteries -- Apple could do it through better display technology.
Battery life may be more important than screen size
Hype for the iPhone 6 has had a noticeable affect on Apple's share price in recent weeks, as analysts and investors have bid up the stock on an anticipation of a record iPhone release.
The release should benefit Apple shareholders, and may weigh on Samsung's business, but investors surveying the situation may wish to key in on something other than screen size. With Samsung's market efforts shifting, and consumers demanding it -- battery life, not screen size, could be the most vital aspect of Apple's next handset.
Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. 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.