Have you noticed that those who are absent at a party are always the most talked about? It’s not always because they’re necessarily missed, but people will most likely remember those who didn’t attend more than those who did.
Samsung is definitely not absent from MWC 2013, but their strategy has changed dramatically. Two years ago MWC was Samsung’s show floor for unveiling their most compelling smartphones of the year. Some would even argue that they owned the trade show each time, with enough popularity to serve them well in order to build enough buzz around their now-praised Galaxy brand. Times have changed though. Surely we saw how they’ve just unveiled their new Galaxy Note 8 in a rather silent matter, but it’s really that silence that makes their showmanship even more intriguing.
Before 2011, the smartphone industry was mostly “first come, first serve”. Companies would all use MWC to announce their products to the world, and then they would race to offer their product to the market first in order to beat the other competitor. In a way, that made a lot of sense back then since they were all mostly offering the same thing with a different name. It didn’t matter if you were buying an HTC smartphone or a Samsung smartphone, both devices were running Android and both were running very similar specs.
The funny thing is that if you thought hard on today’s hardware offerings, not much has changed. The processors may have a different name, the Android skins may also look and perform differently, but we’re mainly getting a similar device out of the box. So why is it that if that Samsung was able to sell more Galaxy S III smartphones last year than all their Android competitors combined, and they launched the device later than everybody else and didn’t even attend MWC 2012? I’ll give you a couple of the reasons why I believe things have evolved.
What’s changed is powerful branding
Years ago, everybody wanted to wait for the new iPhone. Yes, those days still exist today, but now the iPhone is not the only brand that’s so well known that people will be willing to wait for it.
Samsung isn’t selling you an i9500 anymore, like they’d name their products four years ago. They’re now selling you the “New Galaxy”. They’ve done such a fabulous job in making the Galaxy brand something you’ll find on every bathroom or ad space available at the Oscars, that now everybody knows what a Galaxy S is. People know it so well today, that they’re willing to wait for it.
Why does this matter? Well think about it. Samsung has once again decided to not attend MWC 2013, and already everyone is talking about the Galaxy S IV, even without Samsung offering the device today at an official press event. The reason why is because they’ve decided to be smart on timing and announce their unpacked event at the same time as press day of MWC 2013. As of a couple of hours ago, it doesn’t matter if LG has just made their new Optimus G Pro something to drool about, people’s minds and wallets will prefer to wait for what happens on March 14th.
Being first isn’t everything any more
Last year it was the race of the quad-core smartphones, remember? Well, as it turns out, HTC won that race by selling us all the HTC One X packing the Tegra 3 processor. The device even began selling almost a full month before Samsung started selling the Galaxy S III. Why did the Galaxy S III win?
Surely the Galaxy marketing had a lot to do with their success, but sadly the fact that the One X failed on its own also had a lot to do with it. HTC boasted so much about how powerful the Tegra 3 was, how amazing the camera was, and how authentic the sound was, and as it turns out, none of these three marketing phrases delivered on their promise. The device was surely good, but it wasn’t as great once we finally had a chance to review it.
Samsung instead followed the Apple way of doing marketing, and it served them well. They didn’t waste their time boasting on the specs of the Galaxy S III. Instead, they focused on building the Galaxy brand by showing you all that the device’s software could do when married to all the hardware.
Samsung doesn’t sell you a compromise
I like to call HTC the new BlackBerry. Remember back in the day when if you bought a BlackBerry Pearl you had to chose between one with Wi-Fi and one with GPS, and couldn’t buy both?
Let’s face it, Samsung has embarrassed the designers of every single smartphone in the industry. While everybody else is telling you that they had to give you a non-replaceable battery or non-expandable storage in order to make the smartphone look thin, the Galaxy S III was not only thinner, but also had everything with no compromise. 2013 is no different. The HTC One is not expandable yet again, and HTC spent too much time trying to sell us why pixels aren’t everything with the new camera on the One. Samsung will most likely not only debate that, but also not try to sell you the unsellable.
The Bottom Line
Samsung’s winning streak has given them an enviable position in the mobile industry. Two years ago all of us would still be fumbling over which device we’d buy this spring, since we hadn’t made up our minds. This year, all of us want an HTC One, but at the same time, we’re all waiting for the Galaxy S IV to be announced before we push that buy button on the HTC website.
Samsung has proven that it’s neither about the guts nor the timing. They’ve proven that if you bring a non-compromise product and market it well, people will wait for it. What about you? Are you waiting for the Galaxy S IV before you decide on what’s being shown at MWC? Please share your thoughts in the comments.