Apple is now the people’s company, Samsung is for elitists

It isn't just the prices on Samsung's new phones. It's a muddled product strategy that makes Apple's wares seem relatively simple -- and a little more accessible.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Sarah Tew/CNET

Can snobs ever understand those beneath them?

Can someone who's spent their whole life expressing their divine, artistic superiority find a way to commune with those they used to ignore?

Yes, of course, we're talking about Apple.

Here we are, you see, at an especially moving crossroads in the socio-technological sphere.

Apple was always known as the company with supremely exalted design skills and supremely exalted prices.

It rather enjoyed it. Its poorly dressed executives would declaim from on high that Apple represented the peak of aspiration.

I can't help thinking that Samsung may be desperate to take its place.

Last week, the Korean handset maker revealed a raft of new phones. Some were so big you really could build a little raft with them.

The cheapest started at $999. The most expensive sailed beyond $1400.

The Galaxy 512 GB S20 Ultra touches $1600. The Z Flip starts at $1380. And let's not forget the Galaxy Fold which commands two whole thousand dollars and the hope there won't be a hole in the middle of your phone.

Samsung Galaxy S20 first look: All the models and colors up close

Could it be that Samsung is craving more of that elitist glow? Could it be it's gasping to have the world's hoity-toity brandishing its more alluring wares? Could it be this might leave many Samsung customers a touch confused?

When Apple launched its iPhone 11 series at the end of last year, the cheapest was $699. It seemed like a mild genuflection toward those who shivered at the thought of paying more than a thousand for their phone.

Moreover, rumors high on the Richter Scale suggest Cupertino is about to launch an iPhone SE2 (possibly called iPhone 9), a smaller phone that will again embrace tighter budgets rather than expansive billfold bulges.

And what's this I see? New AirPods Pro would also be aimed at those unwilling to spend $200 and lose one of their new audio earrings within days.

You'll tell me Samsung sells all kinds of phones for every market sector.

How many, though, could most people name? How many have any kind of profile? And how many seem to come and go with the wind?

It's true that, as Apple has increased the number of phones it's releasing its individual brand name recognition slips. Is that an X, an XR or an XS? I've had staff in phone stores assume that my XR is, in fact, an X. Or, on one painful occasion, even an iPhone 8.

Yet they're all still recognizably iPhones, while Samsung's lower level phones seem more just phones. Anonymous phones.

Apple's wider embrace may seem dangerous. Does it, in fact, dilute the exclusivity and excitement of the latest iPhones?

Perhaps, though, it merely shows an acceptance that people are making far more rational, far more considered decisions about phone buying than they previously did.

Moreover, as services become more and more important, Apple's product strategy is to keep people within the ecosystem at all costs. This involves giving customers clear choices, but definitely not too many of them. Tossing in a little newness -- however small -- never hurts.

People are keeping their phones for longer. They're therefore a little more focused on making a good choice when the time comes for something new. They'd still prefer to feel it's new.

For its part, Samsung claims the Galaxy S10 is now the perfect entry-level phone for buyers. But it's still an old phone – or seems like it -- rather than something new.

No, Apple won't exactly sacrifice its attempts to perch on the highest peak. One can only imagine how much its folding phone -- surely called the iPhold -- might cost.

At the very least, though, Samsung seems overly keen to be one step ahead in the sprint toward elitism.

Perhaps that's one way of deflecting from some of the company's internal problems. Making enough money, for example -- not a problem Apple is often associated with.

You might think I'm merely being mischievous by suggesting Samsung may soon be known as more elitist. I would, of course, welcome you to this column for the first time.

Beyond that, however, I'd mutter that Samsung makes too many phones with indistinct purposes and entirely opaque names. If Samsung persists in publicly focusing on its new -- and some are truly exciting -- expensive phones, might that not become the entirety of its brand image?

Right now, a money-conscious consumer might justifiably be enthralled by the Z Flip. But would they know the difference between the Galaxy S10 Lite and the S10e?

Or is it more likely their eyes will glaze over and they'll choose some other Android device that seems more distinct?

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