Most of us likely know something about the history of Apple, given that former CEO Steve Job’s life has been marveled at and scrutinized over in books, documentaries and movies. His grand ideas pertaining to computer devices that were above and beyond anything ever made could be said to have been manifested for the most part in the iPhone. June 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone to hit the stores, and throughout that decade Apple sold a whopping 1.2 billion phones. The iPhone is perhaps the most iconic phone ever created, even though its newest iteration has been criticized for being too expensive and having some flaws. In the phone business, Apple has one major foe, right now with a stronger market share in the smartphone business. It is these 2 companies we will discuss today, in this episode of the Infographics Show, Apple vs Samsung.
Let’s first take a brief look at how these two companies got going. Apple was started by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976. They began by making personal computers, with Wozniak the engineering brain in the team, and Jobs being more than able to market his unique ideas. It wasn’t all plain sailing, and Jobs was forced out of the company before being brought back in 1996. He later became CEO, and in doing so, pushed his ideas for a more streamline, accessible, and beautiful version of the PC. That took the form of the first iMac in 1998 and a year later we got the Apple logo that remains today. They gave us the iPod in 2001, the iTunes Music Store in 2003, the iPhone in 2007, the iPad in 2010, and Apple has since become a world leader in consumer electronics offering high-end devices that have made the deceased Jobs a demigod of gadgetry consumerism.
Samsung’s history is much more diverse. Founded in 1938 by the now departed South Korean businessman Lee Byung-chul, Samsung started off as a trading company dealing in things such as noodles and other dried foods. Lee had his hands in many jars, and Samsung became involved in textiles, insurance, and sugar, among other things. In the 60s, the company turned to electronics, and then in the 80s it got into telecommunications hardware. Samsung the conglomerate has been involved in too many kinds of business to mention, but on Samsung Electronics website, the company now states its 3 major areas of business as being “mobile solutions, home and media solutions, and ASIC and foundry services.” The last part relates to processors and technology infrastructure. Samsung’s first ever smartphone was the Samsung Galaxy S released in 2010, which runs on the Android operating system. The first ever tablet released by Samsung, and the first ever Android tablet, was also released in 2010 and that was called the Galaxy Tab.
Now let’s have a look at these businesses in terms of size, value, and profits. On the Forbes list of the world’s biggest companies, Apple takes the 9th spot. It is also the highest placed company whose business is computers and electronics. Forbes has its sales for 2016 at $217.5 billion, profits at $42.5 billion, assets at $331.1 billion, and a total value of $752 billion. Many reports surfaced in 2017 featuring companies in a race to have the first one trillion dollar valuation, and right now Wall Street is betting that the company will be Apple. Trailing behind are Amazon, Google’s parent company Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook and Tesla. When Fortune put this list together, they didn’t mention Samsung Electronics.
Forbes puts Samsung Electronics as the 15th biggest company in the world. The South Korean behemoth was said to have had $174 billion in sales, $19.3 billion in profits, $217.1 billion in assets, and a market value of $254.3 billion. Samsung was the second highest placed tech company on the list, in front of those other American tech companies we just mentioned. We should point out again that Samsung is a conglomerate, and so you also have Samsung Heavy Industries (the second largest shipbuilder in the world), Samsung Engineering, Samsung C&T, and Samsung Insurance. If you added up all of Samsung’s businesses, then it would be bigger than Apple by a long shot. Samsung Electronics alone has a larger workforce, with its estimated number of employees to be 308,745 compared to Apple’s 116,000. We might also mention that many of these employees are actually making electronic components for Apple.
So, while Apple seems to be destined to be the first one trillion dollar company and arguably the most fashionable consumer electronics company out there, we must also shine some light on some of Samsung’s accolades. The giant is not only responsible for around 20 percent of South Korea’s economy, but it’s beating the rest of the world in many areas. For 10 years now, it has been the world’s largest manufacturer of TVs with a 21.6 percent market share compared to LG’s 11.9 percent market share in 2016. Samsung has also been the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer since 2011, and in Q2 2017 had a 22 percent market share compared to Apple’s 11.2 percent market share globally. For a while in 2017, The Verge reported that China’s leading smartphone maker, Huawei, had knocked Apple off the second spot. So, while Samsung leads the way in the smartphone business and doesn’t look like it can be caught, Apple is struggling to keep up with the innovative Chinese smartphone makers. We should also mention that in July 2017, Samsung Electronics took over Intel as the biggest semiconductor chip maker in the world. In terms of tablets, in 2017 Fortune reported that shipments were down overall, but that Apple is still beating second place Samsung.
Now, let’s take a look at some historical data. While Samsung has had the smartphone lead for a few years, it wasn’t always this way. If we look at the biggest selling phones of all time, then the top is the indestructible and indefatigable Nokia 1100. It wasn’t very smart, though. In terms of smarter phones, Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus lead the way, having sold over 220 million units. Samsung’s best-selling touchscreen phone was its Galaxy S4 that sold over 80 million units in the first 12 months. That’s only 10 million more than Apple’s iPhone 5 sold in its first 12 months.
If we look at recent times, you can see some interesting differences in how these companies make money. In 2016, Apple introduced three new phones, but Samsung introduced 30 new phones. That year, Business Insider pointed out that Apple still made “roughly twice as much revenue from mobile devices.” We might also mention here Samsung’s amazing exploding phone, the Galaxy Note 7, which reports state cost Samsung in the region of $5.3 billion. If you look at both company’s flagship phones right now, you’ll see mixed opinions regarding which is the best, but on just about every list in the tech media, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 will make an appearance, as will Apple’s iPhone 8 and the iPhone X. A bit of a stir has also been caused by Samsung’s soon to come out flexible Galaxy X, which you might say is not a very original name. But we’ll let you decide which devices you prefer, as we are not reviewing phones here.
We could look at other things such as ethics, but it is difficult to judge who has better ethics, with Apple coming under fire for its sweatshop labor and “suicide nets” in China, to dubious tax tactics that are a cause celebre right now. Consumers have also been peeved from time to time regarding Apple’s closed ecosystem. Samsung has been involved in a massive corruption scandal, and also has had labor issues in China; not to mention a phone that could have really hurt people.
Which company, or which companies products, do you prefer? Let us know why in the comments!