Samsung lacks, but doesn't necessarily need, fanboys

Samsung lacks, but doesn't necessarily need, fanboys

Summary: The South Korean smartphone maker lacks its own legion of fans who will buy any new product it comes up with--something which Apple enjoys. But, does Samsung really need fanboys?


It may have one of the industry's largest marketing budgets, but Samsung still lacks something Apple has--a legion of fans who will buy every new product the company launches, unfailingly. 

Former Apple CEO John Sculley believes this is what sets the two smartphone rivals apart. The sprightly 74-year-old, who owns a myriad of devices including Galaxy Note, BlackBerry Q10, and of course iPhone, was in Singapore this week to speak at the ITMA CIO Executive Summit and offered some personal insights on the intense competition in the smartphone market. 

In a discussion with local reporters, Sculley noted Samsung's massive marketing budget in the U.S. compared to Apple's. 

According to Ad Age stats released last month, Samsung last year increased its advertising spend by 58 percent to US$881 million in the U.S. alone, which accounted for one-fifth of its global ad budget. In 2011, the iPhone maker had spent three times more than the Korean smartphone maker. 

Despite the efforts to dislodge Apple's stronghold, Cupertino's market share in the U.S. climbed 3.5 percent to 41.9 percent for the first half of this year. Samsung's presence is more strongly felt elsewhere in Asia and Europe.

Sculley said price is a major factor for consumers in Asia where iPhone's price point is considered premium, but added that Apple does well in its own turf. He noted that Samsung doesn't have the loyal fan base that Apple has, where its loyalists would lap up every new product Cupertino launches. 

"What's interesting about Apple is that it sells best to people who love it," he said. 

He's not wrong. Apple's fans are, infamous, for their fierce loyalty. I liken their fervor to a religion where the producer can do no wrong, and all its creations embraced indiscriminately. Samsung recognizes that too when it launched a series of ads mocking Apple fanboys

But, Apple has had its fanboy base for years and it is largely concentrated in the U.S. market--its own turf, as Sculley noted. 

Despite its lack of loyalists, Samsung has still managed to emerge over the past two years to now lead the global smartphone market, including China, and it also leads the global market in terms of mobile Internet use

Its immense success indicates clearly you don't need a strong fan base to put you in number one position. Samsung, however, will need to continue coming up with new innovative products to sustain its foothold and market share, because--unlike Apple--it doesn't have a religious fan base that will lap up every new product it releases, good or bad.

But, isn't that how a fair marketplace should behave anyway? 

Topics: Smartphones, Apple, IT Priorities, Samsung, Tech Industry


Eileen Yu began covering the IT industry when Asynchronous Transfer Mode was still hip and e-commerce was the new buzzword. Currently a freelance blogger and content specialist based in Singapore, she has over 16 years of industry experience with various publications including ZDNet, IDG, and Singapore Press Holdings.

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  • A Company Has To Earn Its Fanbois

    Apple didn't have fanbois in the beginning--it was only after it developed a reputation for high-quality, yet elegant and simple engineering (like the Apple II and early Macintoshes) that it attracted a coterie of "fanbois" (including myself). Right through the 1980s, there were sound technical reasons for choosing their products over the competition.

    Of course, Microsoft-compatible PCs finally caught up by about the mid-1990s. It was only with the return of Steve Jobs that the company began to concentrate more on style, albeit still with a smattering of substance. The first Imacs, Iphones and Ipads were groundbreaking, at least for a while.

    But the company seems to be coasting now. And being so aggressive in wielding patents as a weapon against its competitors is not winning it many friends.

    True, Samsung hasn't even made it to the early Apple stage in terms of brand loyalty. But maybe that's a Good Thing, as you say: it has to keep working to bring out good products, it cannot simply rely on an army of fanbois to swallow whatever it dishes out. And as an added spur, the ready compatibility of Android (unlike Apple's platforms) makes it easy to switch to competitors' products, which limits vendor lock-in.
    • Really?

      "Apple didn't have fanbois in the beginning"

      Really? What do you mean by "in the beginning?" Are you old enough to remember yuppies in the late 70's and early 80's with the original multi-colored Apple sticker on the windshield of their BWMs? Apple has had devoted followers since the days of the Apple II+.

      I'm not knocking them. I think Apple's a great company and there are much worse companies to become a fanboy of. But to claim that Apple fanboyism is something new just doesn't accord with the facts or history.
      • Yep - Early days it was all like that

        Early days of computing was for the enhusiasts - and therefore a lot of fanbois of some description of course.

        This went for all computer related stuff really.

        A generalisation though - some of us just wanted to improve the world and chose the tools to do it.

        I was the odd person out cause I used computers which were the scary sci-fi things for nerds.

        BTW I learned BASIC from a TRS-80 manual partly and on a TRS-80 then an Apple Manual as well and eventually got an Apple II and a VIC 20. I looked at 13 brands of computers before that to evaluate which was best for a school to buy and worked out cost effectiveness.

        So far from being single minded - I looked at everything.

        Can tell you now though that the economics of Apple products worked out really well even though they cost a bit more. 15 Computers - 600 students 1 keyboard fixed. Compared to other cheaper brand that all died.

        Totally unspent maintenance budget allocation paid for Mac Lab. Sold of Apple IIs all working to parents later etc.

        Economically wise choice - fanboi or not.
      • Re: Are you old enough

        Yes, I am old enough. The "beginning" was the 1970s. What you are referring to happened in the 1980s.
    • Apple has never had high quality and never earned their way to a reputation

      for such. They just marketed their way to one.
      Johnny Vegas
      • Nope

        No - I have a long experience with IT products.

        Apple has always outlived anything else by about 4x

        Like I can remember the few flaws in many models over 30ish years still.

        Number of failed Apple products is actually quite low. Never buy AppleCare purely cause the fail rate means it's a waste of money to extend warranty.

        When people I know buy PCs against my advice and 12 months later are asking which new PC to buy to replace the 12 month old one etc.

        Average life of Apple computers for me and my family etc is 8 years. Average life of PCs with people I know is 2 years before they want a new one cause it's slow.

        Yeah - reformat the PC - reinstall all your software etc. and it speeds up for 6 months - but why live like that? and most people chuck them out.

        So Nah - say what you like but I have the experience and you are clearly just spinning for your team - fanboi & hate monger!
        • It's all opinion...

          Your "average life" numbers are skewed... I'd just like to point out that if you compare like products, you find that the numbers are much more in-line with the non-Apple market. You're probably comparing your $1,500 Apple to a $500 PC in your example.

          However, one could argue that this is not a 'bad' thing. If you buy a $500 computer every two years, that's the same as buying a $1,500 computer every 6 years - correct? (Just based on the math.) This doesn't include the time to re-setup your new machine, but this is getting MUCH faster these days thanks to the sync capabilities... Taking the setup process down to a couple of hours as opposed to a half or even full day it used to take.

          So, they get new hardware every two years - "latest and greatest" and all that. Not such a bad plan. It's what most of us do on our cell phones. ( :

          Really, I'm giving just a different viewpoint.

          BTW - Your example of use in a school environment is a good one where the replacing every two years could be a great hindrance. But then, it may not be so bad either. Look at Amazon and their decision to just use whatever hard drives they can find. Fail rates are high, but if you set the system up to tolerate it, you can make for an amazing, robust platform.
      • disagree

        While I don't care for Apple products myself, they've always had decent quality and durability. Its a well enough earned reputation, all the way back to Apple II's and original Macs. They do work on aggressively marketing this quality though, so its perception may at times exceed the reality.

        I may be biased because I do only text work and my first experienced upgrade was going from using the lab's original Mac to a DOS3 286 with a hard disk in text only mode. Maybe a tad unfair.
  • Samsung has millions of fanbois. Why would anyone take Scullys word on that

    A huge portion of the android fanbois are Samsung buyers. Android is the most insecure malware ridden piece of junk to hit the market in a long long time. You have to be a fanboi to want to use it.
    Johnny Vegas
    • samsung buyer != sumsung fan

      If Sony or Motorola came out with a better droid for me than my Note II, I'd not have even the slightest hesitation in switching manufacturers. The new large Xperia is definitely tempting, I'd love my phone/tunes/chart plotter wannabe to not have to hide in a pelican drybox when I'm out on the water.

      I think most high end droid users are like this, they're in the droid ecosystem, but may swap carriers and/or manufacturers on a whim or for cause.
    • A Samsung admirer - but not a fanboi

      I've never been a fanboi (= worshipper of a company, regardless of what they do). An enthusiast for good products, yes - I was an Acorn enthusiast when Acorn Computers existed (a UK computer company), so much so that I got a job working for them; now Acorn's spirit lives on in the ARM company it spun off. So you could definitely say I'm now an ARM enthusiast.
      Re Samsung, it was a Samsung monitor that first first grabbed my attention many years ago for a very simple reason - it was the first LCD monitor I had ever seen that could display a proper yellow. All others I had seen had an ochre tinge to the yellow. So where displays are concerned, I consider Samsung to be one of the top few, if not the very top producer of quality displays. Lets face it, even Apple thinks so or it wouldn't have used Samsung to supply its displays! I currently have a Galaxy S 3 with which I am well pleased. I did try a Samsung camera but I found its response times too slow, so I returned it. As far as cameras go, I'm a fan of Canon and Panasonic. On the car front, Toyota is my number 1. I've been driving Toyotas since 1980. Two of them lasted me well past 200,000 miles and the oldest is still running well at 23 years old.
      If a product's good, I'll buy it and similar products from the same company, but no way will I buy something just because it's made by Brand X. I've done that in the past and been disappointed more than once. Experience is the best teacher.
  • Mostly positive

    I generally like Samsung products, but have been quite disappointed by some of the design directions its taken of late. I don't like the hardware home button on the tablets and phones; by the same token, I don't like the way the back button was moved to the right side, from its previous position on the left. I don't like the way they haven't updated the Galaxy Tab to keep up with the competition (I have a 1st generation, and see nothing compelling about the current one to justify buying one).
    • I like some Samsung - and do use their products

      Yeah Samsung does make some nice hardware - but their UI is rubbish. Old world tech thinking unfortunately.

      Yeah there is a lot worse out there too - so I shouldn't be too hard on them for it.

      For TVs Samsung is my first recommendation for value for money. Sony if you want top quality with less features at a higher price.

      The fridge I want to buy is Samsung.
  • Samsung has fanbois

    I know Samsung fanboys - they are usually samsun/android/google hybrid fanbois and lack understanding and sling mud wildly.

    Seriosuly - not making this up.

    Anooying try hards - and they have a designated hate of Apple.

    Claim stupid things like everyone's switching from iPhone - which is funny as iphone sales continue to rise. It's just nonsense.

    They also fall for the old style spec sheet and bigger numbers = better nonsense that MS used for years. Now Samsung does it and it's evil. They like it cause they think it's ammo.
  • Fanbois

    Samsung sells products in other markets besides computers. So consumers are often familiar with Samsung. If they believe that Samsung is a good value they are willing to consider another Samsung device.

    Blackberry and Nokia in particular suffer from a very limited product line - Blackberry or Nokia TV. They need very loyal fanbois to keep the brand buzz alive.
  • Apples and Oranges...

    Apple is proprietary (still) and you can therefore ONLY get Apple hardware with Apple software.

    Samsung has the ability to cater hardware to whatever software they choose for the device (Android, Windows, spin-offs, specialized, one-offs, etc.). They can simply sell more devices due to their ability to be flexible. Their product line-up is vast in comparison.

    This is neither a good thing or a bad thing, but I just wanted to point out that they are two completely different business ecosystems. One can still argue that Apple is making more than Samsung, due to its lower overhead to create the devices and ability to sell those devices at higher costs. But I don't really know those numbers...

    All said and done, however, I think the original point is valid: Samsung doesn't need Fanboys to compete. But one of the reasons they don't have them is due to their varying devices / OS-selection.
  • Fanboys are not the best thing to have

    They won't tell you when you are wrong, they'll just go with whatever you do.

    Having great products is the best thing to have. Samsung has had quite a few great products. I have a Samsung color laser printer that works great, a Samsung plasma TV, several Samsung monitors, Samsung Series 7 Slate (running Windows 8.1 beautifully) and wish the ATIV S phone would come to the US on Verizon.

    I like the products I have, though I don't like all their products. I prefer Windows phones/tablets over Android and Chrome OS is pretty much useless for me.
    • Re: They won't tell you when you are wrong, they'll just go with whatever y

      There's a line from Shakespeare: "[I am] the worse for my friends, and the better for my enemies."
  • Apple Does Not Equal Reliability

    Back in the days of the G based computers their units, especially their laptops were not that reliable. When my son's iBook self-destructed I did some research and found a site with stats as to reliability issues of Apple computers. It turned out the iBook G4 had a 65% failure rate Nd the G5 version not much better.

    They finally replaced the unit only after explaining to them I was a lawyer and it looked like a great class action suit as the service was worse than horrible, it went in for a simple problem but before they were done the service department frired the hard drive, video interface and then the entire board roasted at which time they said it was customer abused. Thankfully I had saved the communications at each stage of repair where itt showed each failure occurred while in their possession. Somehow,all of the service history got wiped and a single entry was made that it had been delivered in the final destroyed condition by the owner and showed signs of abuse. The replacement lasted 1 month past the warranty before it too ended up with the problem the 1st had and Apple wanted to replace the entire computer board. Between the 2 units we had a laptop 8 months but the time the original was with them was counted as time for warranty time so we lost 4 months of actual warranty time of possession.

    Consensus by iBook owners at the time seemed to be there was no QC testing of these laptops. Every classmate of my son who bought a iBook and he knew likewise had issues within a few months of buying. He gave up and ordered a HP that cost a few dollars more than the iBook and has used it for 7 years of school and 3 years since with and now uses it with Win7.

    As for the fanboy issue, Apple from the time of the IBM PC sought to develop a relationship with users that IBM could not because they did not create a closed ecosystem. Just a matter of the creature. They did sort of try when it and MS split with OS/2 bit, of course that went nowhere. While not a techie, Palm, RIM, Commodore, Radio Shack and others each had its dedicated supporters but that was not a basis of ultimate success over the long term; only being innovative and having reliable products with a range of applications to meet customers wants mattered.
    • BrianLevyEsq tall tales

      As a computer repair tech for a large school district, I can tell you first hand that every school in our district (over 50) got at least 1 "I-book Mac-lab" consisting of 30 I-books on a mobile cart that got pushed around all day getting used by class after class, day after day. Wanna talk abuse, misuse, over use or just plain use, I can't tell you enough good things about the I-book, compared to ANY PC laptop.
      Mr. Science