In Korea, this year’s product battle between smartphone giants Samsung and Apple is particularly eagerly awaited. Apple launched its new iPhone 15 this week. Samsung had already introduced two form factors in July with the new models of its foldable smartphones Galaxy Z Flip and Fold that Apple is still shying away from. The big question now is whether Samsung can use its innovations to reverse a dangerous trend: the loss of advantage in its home market.
In recent years, the South Korean electronics company has lost South Korea’s youth to its rival from California and is developing into a provider of cell phones for seniors. In a July survey by the polling institute Gallup Korea, 69 percent of respondents carried Samsung smartphones and only 23 carried iPhones. However, for those under 30, the ratio was roughly the opposite.
Among younger Koreans (18 to 29 years old), Apple was able to expand its market share to 65 percent. Samsung was at 32 percent. Apple has already secured a 41 percent share of 30 to 39 year olds, while Samsung has to make do with 56 percent. But Samsung dominates even more among the older generations.
Brand loyalty and the two smartphone worlds
This shows that Samsung’s problem lies less in the present than in the future. The company is threatened with losing customers in South Korea. South Koreans have so far been particularly loyal to brands. Sure: The global market outside of China is basically divided into two smartphone worlds: Samsung uses Alphabet’s Android operating system, Apple uses its own iOS.
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The goal of the two giants is to lure customers into their respective worlds and thus prevent them from switching to another cell phone brand. In the USA, however, this is only partially successful. According to a survey by Statista, 34 percent of iPhone and Galaxy customers are willing to change brands the next time they buy. In South Korea, on the other hand, according to a Gallup survey, 90 percent of customers want to remain loyal. This means that winning customers from the other camp is extremely difficult.
Samsung cell phone on parents’ advice
One reason for the trend reversal towards Apple is homemade: In March 2022 it became known that Samsung had apparently slowed down the performance of more than 10,000 apps and games. This probably angered young people in particular and didn’t necessarily help increase the popularity of Samsung phones.
A survey by Counterpoint Research also shows that 85 percent of people under 30 had a Samsung cell phone as their first smartphone, often on the advice of their parents. But more than half of them soon switched to an iPhone, and 76 percent no longer want to go back to the Android world. The top reasons for the brand jump, according to this survey, were performance, brand image and Apple’s cameras.
For Apple, this is more than a respectable success. With a smartphone penetration of 97 percent, South Korea is one of the most important laboratories for the mobile Internet of the future. The larger market share among young people will therefore also help Apple globally in the future. The Samsung Group, whose large chip division is currently suffering, has another major construction site at home: the Koreans have to try to win their own youth back over.
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