As J.K. Shin, the head of Samsung’s mobile operations, hit the stage at Radio City to launch the new Galaxy S4, the huge video screen behind him made the whole presentation look like those Steve Jobs used to put on when he launched new Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) products.
In the minds of many people, this commonality may be the most obvious link between the two smartphone titans, only trumped by the similarities of the products themselves. But the most powerful common thread between Apple and Samsung product releases began long before either Jobs or Shin took their stages. The products they introduced were hyped in the press and by potential buyers for months, sometimes a year, before their actual releases.
The power of long-term hype cannot be underestimated. Tens of millions of people, both in the United States and abroad, knew about what they believed would be the most important features of the Galaxy S4 because the press and bloggers told them. Or at least they told them about rumors and secret product plans, or stealthily gathered photos of the smartphones.
Apple and Samsung hardly needed to formally release their products, or promote them or pay for marketing. Tens of thousands of people were bound to line up at Apple stores for iPhones and Verizon Wireless and AT&T (NYSE: T) locations to be the first, second or third people to own the new phones.
One of the uncanny aspects about the hype and rumors are that the closer products get to launch, the more accurate the speculation becomes. Most of the features for the S4 guessed at in the press, or gotten surreptitiously from Samsung employees, where present when the handset was released. The same usually is true of Apple products. There is almost no need for the companies to list the new features in detail. Outsiders already have done that for the two consumer electronics giants.
Samsung has gained significantly from its competition with Apple. Its engineers have run a race to match or better the features of the iPhone, which makes the S4 an impressive product. If Samsung has learned one thing above all from Apple, it is that the press and broader public will introduce its products for it.
Douglas A. McIntyre