Friday, 4 October 2013

Why is Samsung so dominant?

Image: Android Authority
We have gotten to a point where to many people, Samsung is synonymous with Android. Samsung are so dominant in the Android realm, that many people probably associate Android with Samsung more than they associate it with Google, who actually own Android. A report from earlier in the year listed Samsung as having 42% market share among all Android smartphone shipments. What about everyone else? Well, they all have single-digit market share. So if any of the other OEMs were to suddenly disappear from the face of the Earth, Android's market share wouldn't be significantly affected. That's how dominant Samsung is. Personally, I don't really like Samsung devices, but it's obvious that many people do. Why is that? What is it about Samsung's devices that people like so much? The hardware? TouchWiz? The choices? Is it really a preference? Or are Samsung devices the only ones people see in the market? If you spend any amount of time following mobile tech news, you of course know of other choices in the market from the likes of HTC, Sony and LG to name a few. Choices that are just as good (in some cases, maybe even better) as Samsung devices. But what about someone who wants to buy a new phone but doesn't really follow the market? Chances are, the first only brand they think of is Samsung. Here are a few factors that I think contribute to Samsung's dominance, some more so than others.

A large portfolio of products
Samsung release a lot of products. No joke. This definitely helps them control a huge portion of the Android ecosystem, but other OEMs release many products as well. HTC and Sony for instance. They each have a flagship device, and several mid-range devices as well. So why does Samsung's range of devices sell better than those of other manufacturers? If you ask me, I would say it's simply through brand association. The Galaxy brand is one of the most well known brands in tech, alongside Apple. Samsung has done a great job building the Galaxy brand. The flagships all carry the Galaxy name, thus people might associate the brand with great products. "Oh, this phone is a Galaxy phone, it must be good!". Practically all Samsung products have the name Galaxy in it. Other OEMs don't really have this. The closest would probably be the Xperia brand by Sony, and the DROID brand by Motorola. But none of these are as strong as the Galaxy brand. 

microSD card and removable battery
How vital is a removable battery and
microSD card support? Image: Phone Arena
Many Samsung users use this point to justify their purchase. And it's a valid point. Samsung as far as I know, is the only manufacturer to offer smartphones with both SD card support and a removable battery. Most other phones come with only an SD card slot but a non-removable battery, or neither. As far as my personal usage goes, I don't need either. My current HTC One X and my iPhone 4 which I used prior both came without a removable battery or SD card support, so I never developed the need for them. But for people whose smartphone usage revolves around both of these features, Samsung phones really are the only option for them. Either that or they adapt to using a phone without one or both of those features, and we all know how difficult change is for some people.

High-end specs
Samsung's flagship devices come with some of the best specifications in the market at the time of their launch. High-resolution screens, the newest processors, arguably the best cameras, the whole package. The Note 3 is the first phone in the market to come with 3GB of RAM and a microUSB 3.0 port. That of course is in addition to the S-Pen which in my mind, makes Samsung's Note series the best in its category. No other phablet comes close if you ask me. This is probably a stronger factor than the previous two that contributes to Samsung's dominance. But yet again, other manufacturers also have flagships with the greatest specs available. The HTC One, Sony Xperia Z1, and LG G2 are all powerful, high-end devices. So again, why does Samsung sell more phones? Could it be, TouchWiz?

Added features in TouchWiz
TouchWiz is probably the most hated manufacturer skin among the Android enthusiasts. It looks and functions so differently from stock Android, that some Samsung users don't even recognise what software is on the Nexus 4! There was this one user who posted on Google+ something along the lines of "What software is on the Nexus 4? It looks so different from Android on my S4." That's how much Samsung have changed Android, and that irks many fandroids, myself to a certain extent as well. I say "to a certain extent" because quite frankly, what Samsung did with TouchWiz actually helps Android. The added features to Android that Samsung implement help sell devices. Whether they are gimmicks or not is another matter. The fact is, people buy a phone for what it can do. And when people see you can wave your hand over the screen to answer a call, or that you can pause a video just by looking away, they will probably want that phone. Other OEMs have tried their hand at adding "gimmicks" to their devices as well, like HTC's Zoe or LG's Knock On, but they all lack one very important thing that Samsung have an abundance of.
Features or gimmicks, they help sell a lot of phones. Image: Tech Radar
Marketing
I've been saying this for quite some time now, marketing is Samsung's greatest strength. You can talk all you want about how you buy the Galaxy S4 because it has a removable battery and SD card support, or because it has a great camera, but in order to sell millions and millions and millions of phones all around the world, you absolutely need huge marketing muscle, and Samsung have exactly that. For the tech enthusiasts who compare phones just for fun even when they don't plan on buying one, they will know the ins and outs of every phone and will make a well informed decision when they do end up buying a phone. But for average consumers, who make up a healthy portion of that 42%, they will buy what they see on TV, in the cinemas, in newspapers and on billboards. Here in Malaysia, Samsung owns the advertising space. They are literally marketing their competitors out of the market. I would say it's safe to assume that the advertising of Samsung's competitors combined still won't match up to how much advertising Samsung does. 
Samsung's greatest strength. Image: Business Insider

In the end, it all comes down to the basics. If you don't let people know about your product, you can't expect to sell many. HTC are learning this the hard way. Despite having a truly great flagship, they are still operating at a huge loss. As long as Samsung keeps marketing its products in the sheer volume that it does, it won't have anything to worry about in the near future. It may be a little too late for HTC, but for others like Sony, LG, even Motorola, if they want to make a dent in Samsung's sales numbers, they need to beat Samsung at marketing. They have the products to do so, they just need to let people know about them.