Stop us if you’ve heard this one. Apple makes some change to its iPhones, Samsung’s PR company mocks the very idea —and finally Samsung copies it. Sometimes the company keeps a low profile, sometimes it shouts about Apple’s missteps, but always, always Samsung then goes the same way.
We’re not going to critcize Samsung phones here. Let’s not even get into the argument that Android copied iOS —partly because yes, of course it did, but mostly because we want to specifically examine Samsung.
The company usually makes a case that its technology is ahead of Apple’s and while you can regularly dispute that, it is often quite true. Samsung’s phones were waterproof before the iPhone was, for instance, and later in 2019 it’s highly likely that they will release 5G-capable phones and Apple won’t.
What we can’t get over is how Samsung’s PR department keeps hammering on this same nail. As part of all this, it regularly lampoons people who buy iPhones as being deaf to Samsung’s alleged technology superiority —but it treats its own users as being blind. Where Apple users sometimes get called sheep, Samsung is always hoping that its own users have goldfish memories.
The latest case is of course to do with the notch in the iPhone X range which naturally features far more prominently in Samsung’s advertising than it does in Apple’s own.
Yet this all goes back a long way. If it’s usually in such a specific sequence that you could predict when Samsung will mock and how many months later it will copy, there are occasions when its PR company is just wilfully ignoring the facts in order to take a shot at Apple.
Such as with Apple Stores. This one took a long time as Apple Stores opened in 2001 and it was late 2018 when Samsung ran a series of ads spoofing them.
That was part of Samsung’s series of ads called Ingenius which are all set in a mockup of Apple Stores and use, well, mockups of Apple Genius staff.
To be fair, Samsung could’ve done much the same thing with Microsoft Stores and would there have saved some money by not having to hire so many extras as customers.
Yet they could also have used their own stores. There are Samsung Experience Stores and there have been since they were introduced in 2013. It’s easier to find the website for them than it is an actual store, though. And that’s in part because of the last line on the page. “Finding a Samsung Store inside Best Buy near you is easy. Just enter your zip code.”
We added the emphasis but we didn’t enter our zip code—because there’s nowhere to type it. We do hope that this is a fluke, some temporary hiccup, because each time we try, we see only this the page.
It’s a gorgeously-designed page in the sense of how it looks but it doesn’t actually work.
So Samsung is mocking the Apple Store experience when you didn’t even know that there was a Samsung Experience Store. Shortly before it opened these shelves inside Best Buy, Samsung also ripped Apple apart for how the company changed from a 30-pin dock to a Lightning cable.
This was 2012 and when we’re reminded that Apple made this change at all, it is startling to realise it was so long ago now. Samsung was right that it was happening and Samsung had a point about how big a change it was. To this day, you will find 30-pin connectors on devices in hotels, for instance.
However, there was also this: when Samsung released that ad, several websites pointed out this third-party product which you can still buy today.
That’s apparently the fistful of different cables that you needed to charge all the variations of Samsung phones. In 2012, it was being sold as a 17-in-1 set and today it’s an 18-in-1 set so either the makers missed one or Samsung’s done it again —without Apple mocking them.
Call us idealistic, but we do credit customers with noticing things like this. We’re idealistic but also practical, though, so we wouldn’t assume that absolutely everybody would recognize a copy six years after the original. We do expect industry people too, however.
This one is Apple’s version in 2007. Call it Before.
And in 2013, Samsung’s After.
In that case, Samsung used Apple’s advertising skill. In the cause of speed and efficiency, it skipped the bit where it first mocked Apple, it just went straight to using the ideas. This isn’t the only time it’s done that —see if you can spot any Apple-esque elements in this ad —but from around 2013, it kept quiet. For a while.
It’s as if it believes both industry experts and its own customers are so siloed that they won’t recognize a copy. They might well have a point there as usually Android advertising passes us by but we did pick up on Samsung’s great online payment innovation.
Apple Pay launched in 2014 and Samsung Pay was announced about a year later in 2015.
And Samsung couldn’t stop itself. While its advertising claimed that Samsung Pay was more widely accepted than any other system at all, it only showed an Apple Pay transaction failing. That claim about wide acceptance is qualified, by the way, with a little footnote saying “Refers to service coverage”.
We’re sure they’re right and the fact that it initially only worked with then then new Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Note 5 is just a detail. And actually, Samsung Pay does have an advantage over its rivals in that can work with old-style payment machines where you had to swipe your card.
Maybe that gag about failed Apple Pay transaction emboldened Samsung’s PR department, because it’s since then that they’ve gone all out to ridicule their Cupertino rival.
You don’t know jack
Civilization ended in 2016. That was when Apple dropped the headphone jack with the introduction of the iPhone 7. It was such a cataclysmic event that it may have taken you until 2018 to get over it —only to have another of Samsung’s Ingenius ads revive the trauma.
Take a guess what’s happening now. It appears that Samsung’s Galaxy A8S hasn’t got a headphone jack either. We’ll see what happens with the S10.
Someone at Samsung’s PR department is clearly spotting genuine issues with Apple’s iPhones, or at least things that could be genuine issues to some people. That dropping of the headphone jack was mildly inconvenient and it did mean we all have headphones lying around that we can’t use any more. It was definitely a valid point.
We’re just amused that nobody in Samsung’s PR department talked to Samsung itself. Fortunately, though, they would never make that mistake twice.
Or at least not twice in the same ad campaign.
In 2018, both Apple and Samsung were fined for allegedly throttling the speed of their older phones, intentionally slowing them down in order to make you buy new ones.
Italy’s anti-trust body fined Apple the equivalent of $11.4 million and Samsung only $5.7 million so maybe Samsung could claim a little higher moral ground. Except it didn’t, it carried right on mocking how Apple iPhones slow down.
That’s enough now
Then riddled throughout the whole series of Ingenious ads, there are also decreasingly subtle digs at Apple and at Apple fans for that notch introduced in the iPhone X.
There’s no disputing that it detracts from the otherwise edge to edge display on the iPhone X, XS, XS Max and XR. You might not mind it, but you know that it would be nicer if it weren’t there. That said, you also know that it’s necessary. The notch is where Apple puts its TrueDepth technology which powers the Face ID system.
Samsung can’t let Apple be the only one with working Face ID so its new phones are set to have the same idea, at least to an extent. And in the case of the Samsung A8S, that same idea is going to feature what looks like a hole punch in the display.
It’s up to you, it’s up to each of us, whether we find that more distracting than a notch but the same thing applies. The display would be better without it.
And there’s one other thing that you know applies. Apple is not going to mock Samsung’s hole punch in its advertising.
We’re going to say that, yes, Apple is too classy to hammer on Samsung in its major advertising campaigns. However, it’s also smarter. Possibly it’s also more arrogant, but it’s definitely smarter.
All phone manufacturers copy from —are inspired by —each other and, again, Samsung has legitimately beaten Apple to certain features.
Yet, the way that Samsung keeps on going through same loop of derision and copying leaves us feeling that it’s an also-ran. That’s wrong, Samsung makes some great phones yet this pummelling away at Apple is dangerous.
And having your ad agency insult the buyers of your rival’s products doesn’t feel like a winner, either. Maybe it is, maybe this is why Samsung is doing so well compared to all other Android makers.
Except of course that it’s now copying Apple’s China woes.