Can Samsung Compete with Apple?

Ian O'Rourke Posted by Ian O'Rourke

The ongoing smartphone and tablet war between Samsung and Apple continues, drawing the two rivals into a battle on all fronts, especially paid search.

Phones and tablets long ago became more than just means of communication. These devices are now deeply intertwined with how we do business, travel, shop, relate to each other, and consume information. And Samsung and Apple – the two largest competitors in the phone and tablet market – want to steal our hearts for good.

Samsung’s Market Position

Samsung has been losing ground for some time now, while Apple rolls on, churning out bestsellers and growing the power of its brand name. Yet, that doesn’t portend a Nokia-esque fall into the abyss for Samsung, as the leader in the paid search realm remains unclear.

But the third quarter wasn’t kind to the Korean giant, as its operating profit dropped 60% from a year ago. As Reuters reports, the disclosed $4 billion profit was Samsung’s lowest since Q2 2011.

Do these numbers portend the beginning of the end for Samsung’s mobile business? Will Apple claim the lion’s share of the premium market while the Chinese companies Lenovo and Ziaomi conquer the lower-end? The simple answer: probably not.

The company told the press that its operating profit came in lower than usual due mainly to increased marketing outlays and a notable reduction in average selling prices.

Apple’s Market Positions

Meanwhile, Apple continues to thrive. With its September launch of the much-awaited iPhone 6, the company occupies a premier market position. Apple enjoyed a highly successful quarter since the product’s launch, with the total number of iPhones sold topping 39 million.

In overall sales and revenue, Apple has clearly outperformed its major competitor, with its net profit for this year’s Q3 reaching $8.5 billion.

Major Trends in Paid Search

Samsung drastically changed its entire advertising strategy at the start of 2014. Its steady climb to the top of the paid search market coincided with Apple’s worst trough – spanning all of Q1 and cresting in early April. Compared to 2013, Samsung spent 20 to 30 percent more on paid search, easily surpassing Apple’s budget.

Samsung’s investment in PPC has clearly paid off, as it claimed the top market share of voice (SOV; share of estimated clicks to their website) – well ahead of Apple and other major competitors like Sony Mobile, HTC, and Nokia.

The competition heated up towards the close of the fiscal year – officially ending on 30 September – when both companies heavily committed resources and funds to gain higher SOVs. However, the budgets only paint part of the picture. Let’s take a look at their keyword portfolios to get a stronger idea.

Keywords: Missed Opportunities

Compared to Samsung, Apple’s keyword portfolio looks negligible. Even worse, more than half of Apple’s portfolio overlaps with the keywords Samsung targets, meaning that it has failed to tap the huge PPC potential of its unique brands.

In order to improve upon its dismal paid search performance, Apple should mobilise its greatest asset: the products. The iPad alone could potentially bring 2,200 clicks to the Apple website per month.

Thanks to its unparalleled brand-name recognition, Apple maintains sole possession of an enormous field of unexploited keywords and terms. It’s about time the company takes advantage of them.

Samsung could stand to benefit from a little name-dropping, too. The bestselling Samsung Galaxy S III mini, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and their inheritors could all contribute to a broader array of clickable terms. Experts estimate that the company misses more than 3,500 potential monthly clicks because these key terms are left out of an otherwise impressive keyword portfolio.

This point is further emphasised by Amazon’s impressive performance over the August bank holiday, where using the keywords Samsung Galaxy S5 mini branding gave it a massive spike on launch day, eclipsing Debenhams’ market share.

Adthena’s keyword intelligence solution can help your company discover gaps in its keyword portfolio by preparing a granular report on potential monthly traffic, thereby unlocking hidden advertising potential and enabling you to increase customer aquisition!

Samsung_Apple_keyword breadth

Brand Infringement

Judging from reports on the two companies’ emphasised keywords, Samsung obviously digs deeper into search queries while Apple takes a more conservative approach, bidding mainly for the latest models and the most generic searches.

Companies can easily track these devious tactics with Adthena’s brand monitoring option, which identifies incidents of brand infringement by affiliates and competitors.


The mobile market is becoming increasingly competitive despite the relatively conservative positions taken by these major competitors. Thanks to the entry of low-end players into the market, the paid search landscape may soon become unrecognisable to industry veterans.

With products like the Android and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, a phablet with a quad-core processor, Samsung is by no means in dire straits. But will their PPC efforts prove effective enough to conquer the mobile market?

That’s doubtful, as Apple’s PR efforts, customer loyalty, and brand-name recognition all but ensure that the company will remain an industry leader for the foreseeable future.

(Image credit: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr)

About the author

Ian O'Rourke
Ian O'Rourke
Ian is the CEO and Founder of Adthena. He has been involved in technology businesses and start-ups for over 22 years and has built businesses across the globe including in Silicon Valley, London, Australia and Taiwan. Ian has grown Adthena since 2012 to its current position as the premier global provider of competitive intelligence. Ian likes to foster a culture of great products, getting things done, responsibility, freedom and continuous improvement.