When Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) unveiled its Galaxy Note 4 just more than a week ago, it felt like a less-than-subtle attempt to steal the spotlight ahead of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) widely anticipated Sept 9. media event. And it seemed to work -- at first.
The Galaxy Note 4 doesn't exactly introduce anything groundbreaking, but its beefy specs and incremental improvements over the Galaxy Note 3 still had many longtime phablet fans nodding their heads in approval. Some of those features include an advanced stylus pen, sharper 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display, better 16 megapixel rear camera, faster charging, improved fingerprint scanner, and even a UV sensor, all packed into a slick metal frame with a soft textured back cover.
Samsung prefaced the event with a several-months-long advertising campaign poking fun at Apple's expected phablet device. The day after Apple's event, Samsung even posted this gem:
But now that Apple has officially unveiled its 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, the folks in Cupertino may just get the last laugh. First, Apple began taking pre-orders for the iPhone 6 Plus on Friday, and it launches on September 19. That gives it a nice little head start over Samsung's already-announced October release for the Galaxy Note 4.
In addition, while its overall specs appear roughly similar to the Galaxy Note 4 -- save, perhaps, its seriously impressive new A8 Chip -- Apple spent plenty of time during its unveiling to explain why the iPhone 6 Plus is "bigger than just bigger."
To be sure, you'd be hard-pressed to find any electronics enthusiast who'd argue Apple's iPhone 6 Plus isn't gorgeously designed. From its ridiculously thin 7.1 mm profile to its curved edges and seamless contours, the iPhone 6 Plus enjoys a novelty in the aesthetics department that other devices simply can't claim. Apple also detailed everything from its revamped user interface, the new Retina HD display, to a comprehensive new NFC-based Apple Pay system that aims to completely replace your wallet.
We knew this day was coming
What's more, we already know Apple has long been aware of its need to create a larger iPhone to appease consumers' changing demands. In fact, as fellow Fool Chris Neiger pointed out in April, one of Apple's internal fiscal 2014 planning slides -- bluntly titled, "Consumers want what we don't have" -- revealed data showing that the majority of smartphone growth was being driven by sub-$300 devices that are larger than four inches. Sure enough, the iPhone 6 Plus will debut with a subsidized price starting at $299.
Samsung executives haven't released a specific price for the Galaxy Note 4, but have said it will be priced in the "premium" range. Make no mistake: If the price is anywhere near the same, Samsung will lose share, simply by Apple's presence in the phablet market.
So what's at stake? Last December, Samsung revealed that sales for its Galaxy Note 3 -- which currently has a subsidized price of $199 -- passed 10 million units in just two months following its Sept. 25, 2013 launch. The Galaxy Note II, for its part, took four months to reach the same milestone in 2012. And you can bet Samsung was aiming to up the ante, once again, with the Galaxy Note 4, especially considering the latest IDC data indicates phablet shipment volumes are expected to grow more than 200% year over year to nearly 175 million.
If Apple can use the iPhone 6 Plus to grab any meaningful chunk of that market, it could have significant negative repercussions for Samsung's business and the Galaxy Note line.
This certainly doesn't guarantee the Galaxy Note 4 will fail. Samsung still has its own die-hard fan base, after all. And its advertisements -- however sarcastic they might be -- are sure to resonate with skeptical consumers who are aware that Samsung dominates the phablet niche it popularized in the first place.
But it's also important to note that dominance was achieved without the participation of Samsung's archrival. Whether Apple was late to the game won't matter to consumers who already equate its vast ecosystem of products with high quality and superior ease of use. In the end, if there's one company and device capable of ousting Samsung from its leadership position in oversized smartphones, it's Apple and its iPhone 6 Plus.
Steve Symington owns shares of Apple. 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.