Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Samsung gets a taste of Apple's bitter pill

July 5, 2013: 7:34 AM ET

Comparisons to Cupertino are inevitable as Samsung shares drop 3.8% in one day.

The Galaxy S4

The Galaxy S4

FORTUNE -- You might have thought that all the starch had been taken out of Samsung in June when a wave of analysts' downgrades trimmed its market value by 13%. But the stock got hammered again on Friday, losing 3.8% in one trading day following a disappointing earnings forecast.

Analysts wasted no time making comparisons to Apple (AAPL).

"Apple is suffering from iPhone fatigue, while Samsung is suffering from Galaxy fatigue," said Strategy Analytics' Neil Mawston in an e-mail sent even before Samsung's press release.

If the market for high-end smartphones is approaching saturation, as reports in Bloomberg, Reuters, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal all suggested Friday, that would indeed put Apple in the same boat as Samsung.

But there are reasons to think that Samsung is in a mess of its own making.

  • Astonishingly, for a manufacturing giant as diversified as Samsung, it may have become even more dependent on smartphone sales than Apple. Mobile phones accounted for 74% of Samsung's operating profit last quarter. In the same quarter, the iPhone represented 52% of Apple's revenue and 65% of its gross profit.
  • Samsung spent a fortune driving those smartphone sales. It topped Ad Age's list of the fastest growing U.S. ad spenders last month, and its worldwide ad budget last year was $4.3 billion -- four times Apple's.
  • The Galaxy S4, which the company released in March to such fanfare, was pitched as a showcase of Samsung innovation and its best shot at overtaking the iPhone 5. But sales of the Galaxy S4 couldn't match the iPhone 5's and have tailed off far more rapidly.

We may find out just how saturated the high-end smartphone market is when Apple releases its next generation of iPhones, perhaps as early as September.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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