Can iPhone Rivals Mimic Apple Success Just By Cutting Models?



If you need another reason why iPhone rivals just don’t get it, there’s word four of the largest smartphone makers plan to introduce fewer models in a bid to replicate Apple’s success. Ah, if it were only so simple.

According to the Taiwan-based industry publication DigiTimes, HTC, Research in Motion, Sony and Motorola Mobility will reduce the number of handsets they unveil to focus on “designated models.” The goal is to put more development resources into just a few phones, similar to how Apple introduces one iPhone per year. Apple’s courtroom pal Samsung has had some success using this tactic to sell its Galaxy S II handset.

“The strategy shifts come after Apple and Samsung Electronics have apparently managed to widen their market share against rival vendors by focusing on a single or some flagship models each year,” DigiTimes writes, citing industry sources. Apple nearly doubled its share of the U.S. smartphone market during the third quarter of 2011, jumping to 43 percent from 26 percent, a recent report concluded. By the same token, Samsung sold 10 million Galaxy S II handsets during the first half-year it was available.

While this new tactic appears to suggest iPhone rivals want to offer consumers a better product by promoting fewer handsets, the reality is Apple’s rivals are looking for ways to save money. Not only would the strategy reduce marketing and development expenses, but also cut costs for parts and shipping.

No, to emulate Apple or even Samsung, rivals will need to do something more — like produce a product people want to buy. Samsung’s Galaxy S II sales are taking off not simply because the company is focused on fewer products, but because the device is one of only a few Android products that will use version 4.0 of Google’s mobile operating system. Up until recently, Android handsets have been hindered by a bifurcated OS, an issue that has meant problems for consumers looking for a device they can reliably expect to operate.

The second reason for Apple’s success is its tightly-integrated manufacturing process that extends from the initial design to how apps are purchased. So far, rival handsets are built using parts from a number of suppliers, designed by several companies, powered by software customized in myriad ways and sold through varied channels.

Focusing on the number of handsets produced per year as the sole key to Apple’s success, makes as much sense as saying consumers will buy a product if it has a touch screen, is super-thin, or has any number of features the iPhone has branded as its own.

  • FriarNurgle

    What do you define as success? Seems the other companies are doing just fine in selling a gazillion Android phones (WP7 not so much though). Trimming down their product offerings was inevitable. Not only does it solidify the product line and brand name, it also decreases product cost. Question is, will these companies pass the savings on to the consumers? 

  • Jordan Clay

    Damn good article Ed. Very balanced.

  • Esteban Morales

    Yes, the other companies are selling a gazillion phones, but none of them are making even a quarter of the profit Apple is. Why do you think that is? Many resources go into the development, assembly, distribution and sales of a product. Apple is the only one managing all channels including retail. Adroid is a great product, I won’t argue with that, but customers are already experiencing Windows-PC like problems. Hardware not capable of OS Upgrades, market fragmentation, spyware, cheap quality products. I’m a huge Mac Fanboy, but I have to admit that the Galaxy SII is a nice piece of equipment. But on the other hand I bought a Generic Android Tablet that gives the Android Platform a very bad rep. 

  • gunnerrob

    @FriarNurgle Most people gauge success in business by net profits, Apple is in a league of it’s own leaving Android devices in its wake. 52% of all the mobile phone profits (not just smartphones) belongs to Apple. No other manufacturer or operating system comes close.

  • Jdsonice

    Excellent article. People buy iPhone because of the OS and its integration with the entire ecosystem of Mac and iPad. I have several devices and they all work in sync with each other which is one big selling point for me. 

  • gettysburg11s

    Yes, great article.  Thats why most people buy the iPhone and iPad, plus a Mac: seemless integration.  Even if other manufacturers cut their models per year, it won’t do much good.  They are still betting on Android, which is confusing with inferior apps.  Now Windows Phone 7, on the other hand, is a great OS, and is very much like iOS in its simplicity, integration, and elegance.  I am having a hard time not buying the Nokia Lumia 900 when it comes out in March.

  • tazh89

    actually samsung makes 17% which is more than a quater lol but yeah for the time being when it comes to profit no one can match apple,only one that has a chance to get close to apples profit margin is probably samsung…agree with what you say about android,some will have great experience if you get a top tier phone like a nexus or s2 where at the same time some will have a very crap experience but i guess with android you get what you pay samsung have shown with the s2,if the oem actually puts effort to optimize the software for there hardware then the android experience can be awesome and just as good as ios.that is why i moved from the iphone 4 to the gs2 and to be honest the s2 is the only phone i would have left the iphone 4 for.if it was not for the s2 i would still be on the iphone. i will also say since using android on the s2 i could never go back to ios,the main reasons are that i love removable storage,love the fact that i can just drag and drop files and dont need to rely on proprietary software like itunes,file manager,can transfer files to any other phones via bt (minus iphones ) and the almost infinite amount of customization.

  • NaturesWrath

    This article was written by someone with no idea.  The whole point of Google is cross platform, they don’t want hardware, look at anything with components in it – it ages so fast its not worth the investment.  I know I have been sat thinking I need a new laptop (dont even start on what possible to do on a tablet at a more expensive price point!) and thought sod it I will wait and 3 months later its nearer what I want to spend.

    Apple is all about paying Porshe prices to people with little idea but what they SEE, not what the product DOES.  Tell me what the iphone 4 does that any android phone cannot?  Not much, at least not much worth the price difference.  I can press a button to find out the weather, I dont need to spend another £300 for my device to tell me!

  • kenci59

    This is a really intelligent article. I just hope by bringing out fewer products the other manufacturers manage to reflect on the consumer a bit more. That’s how Apple have managed to succeed. I find the reassuring thing with Apple and why I’m ready to pay a premium is because everything works, and everything works together.

  • Honey Badger

    Apple controls the end to end user experience by doing both the hardware and the software, as well as seamless integration with other Apple devices. It all just works. That is a big plus.

    Rival handset makers could likely save money, but I don’t see them duplicating Apple’s success anytime soon. Of course that might depend on your definition of success.

    Instead of waiting for someone else to blaze a trail and then follow, they could go their own way and differentiate themselves from the competition.

  • theotherphil

    25% is a quarter ;)

  • ZeeKazim

    I wish they do!
    My brother is trying to get a samsung galaxy s2, but the many variation of the device is what’s holding him back!
    I do believe that the key of apple’s success is simplicity & seamless integration between their products. I started out testing the iPad, & ended up with the hole set – just love how they all work flawlessly for me!