iPhone 5 Versus Galaxy S4 A War Of Less Versus More

by Brian S Hall   |   April 27th, 2013

Last week, within the span of 24 hours, the two dominant players in the global smartphone wars released…not new smartphones, but new commercials. Both were very well done. They are also very different. Both ads reveal the core differences between Samsung and Apple, and possibly between Android and iPhone users.

First up, Samsung.

Now, the latest iPhone commercial from Apple.

Corporate Values Revealed

Apple’s latest iPhone ad is sixty seconds of creamy, delicious awesomeness. The commercial spurns crass marketing appeals. Rather, it uplifts us, revealing that life is spread over an infinite number of sparkling moments which may occur at any time, at any place, and all ready to be captured forever, thanks to Apple.

The images are so powerful, so palpably iconic – and so emotionally directed – that words only get in the way. Indeed, there are almost no words spoken or presented until the very end: “Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera.”

Contrast Apple’s focused, less is more approach with Samsung’s newest commercial. It starts loud and bold, the music of Vivaldi framed with brash, confident slogans.  The Samsung ad shows off the device’s camera, the screen, the speakers, bludgeoning the viewer with an audio and visual assault clearly meant to match the power and functionality of the device itself.

The Galaxy S4, the ad suggests, is all about…more. More display. More sound. More features. More of everything.

For Apple, less is more. Emotion trumps function. Not so with Samsung – and by default, Android. More is more, and function – not emotion – matter most. More is better. More is bigger, bolder, louder, crisper, more functional. More is more.

Less Versus More

Which ad is best? Standing on their own, that’s easy: Apple’s ad is great while Samsung’s is only good. Yet on the more important question – how will each new ad help its respective company win the smartphone wars – well, that’s harder to answer. After all, design, innovation, product focus, global supply chain, carrier relationships, retail footprint, content, apps and services are all extremely vital to the two combatants, no matter how good or bad the advertising.

However, on the values level – emotion versus function, less versus more – I suspect this is a war without end.

For Apple, there must always be that deep emotional connection between the user and the product. The product should uplift, possibly ennoble the user. Apple products, as their commercials reveal, strip everything away until the end result is (near) perfection. Less is more.

Score one for Apple.

But this value, while it resonates with many, will not convince everyone. The global smartphone market is big. Really big. It’s already over 1 billion strong and growing. Smartphones are now outselling feature phones. It’s wise to assume that before this decade is out at least 2 billion and potentially 5 billion people will possess a smartphone. That is a staggering number, nearly unparalleled in product history.

Do five billion people on this planet consume wheat? Corn? Meat? The scope of the smartphone market is nearly incalculable.

These devices, then, like cars, like the PC that sat on our desk for years, like food, must serve a purpose – many purposes, in fact. I already use my smartphone to write blog posts, monitor my finances, track my fitness, edit presentations and outline my next book. Soon, I will use it as my car key, house key, credit card, debit card, glucose monitor. What next? I can’t say but I know my next device must offer more.

Score one for Samsung.

The Smartphone Wars Continues

It seems unlikely that any rival or any new technology, Google Glass, for example, is going to unseat Samsung or Apple anytime soon. Expect these two companies to remain the dominant “personal computing” companies through at least this decade. They will battle it out in the marketplace and in the courts. They will fight over suppliers and content licensing. They will seek to win on pixel counts, integration, UI, features, price and innovation.

But I suspect the biggest difference between the two will remain just as it has been revealed in their latest commercials: Apple will remain focused emotional appeal, a less is more approach, and on what the product means to you. Samsung will stay focused on adding new features, increasing old specs, and promoting what their product can do for you.

These are core values, deeply held, and unlikely to change. Which side you choose likely reveals far more about you than simply which platform you prefer, iOS or Android.

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Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology and greatness. His work has appeared in Techpinions, ReadWrite, Macworld, the Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn, and others. His latest novel is Love in the Time of Caller ID.
  • pawhite524

    One of the world’s oldest paradigms, quality versus quantity. As the author notes there is, and, IMHO, cannot be an overwhelming winner as circumstances typically dictate which is more needed or desirable.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      It’s hard for me to see how Samsung or Apple lose this “war” at least this decade. Smartphones and tablets are the new PCs.

      • pawhite524

        Agreed! Thanks for taking the time to reply.

        • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

          Not a problem. That’s what we’re here for – not just news but to provide analysis (and hopefully provoke discussion).

  • sgns

    Smart. And then there’s the ecosystem. I have a good feeling about this year.

  • Macabella

    Bling is good for some people. But for most people it is tiresome and ultimately unsatisfying.

    In the last analysis, only the iPhone is the real thing – beautifully imagined, crafted, connected.

  • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

    I said I didn’t expect Apple or Samsung to be unseated for some time. The two companies are simply too dominant. Today, we hear the Pentagon likely to buy many Samsung and Apple devices.
    http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424127887324582004578456940454210134-lMyQjAxMTAzMDAwMTEwNDEyWj.html
    Gonna be a long decade for the competition.

  • jfutral

    Apple’s commercial is also about more, but more “life”, more touching humanity in the everyday. I can look at the Apple commercial and relate to the people using the iPhone to take pictures. There is no one to relate to in the Samsung commercial.

    Now, as Android commercials go, Samsung’s is better than most, and any of the Droid. It is focused on what it can do, not some fantasy cyborg world. Although I think the Nexus commercials are better than any of the other Android commercials, even though it is still more focused on “technological gadgetry” than Apple’s.

    Joe