When Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage on Tuesday, many expected an iPhone 5 to be announced. What they got instead was a spec upgrade on the current iPhone, with improvements to the camera and the processor but no new form factor. In keeping with Apple’s nomenclature, the new iPhone is the “4S”. Not everyone was unhappy with the announcement, however, particularly South Korean companies Samsung and LG, who are hotly competing with Apple not just for the smartphone market, but for the country’s pride.
According to the WSJ Korea Realtime blog, the Apple versus Samsung battle isn’t just about technology, but it’s also driven by nationalistic pride, at least that’s what local South Korean media reporting would lead you to believe.
That story goes something like this: Samsung and LG were almost at the top of the smartphone heap when all of a sudden Apple came along and beat them; now it’s up to them to come back and win this thing, for honour and glory, for the country’s economy and pride. And since Apple “only” announced the iPhone 4S and not a radically redesigned iPhone 5, South Korea’s feels its chances of competing against Apple have improved. Markets reacted to the news with an increase in both companies’ stock prices in the 1% to 2% range, while the rest of the South Korean market declined 2%.
Many were underwhelmed by the announcement, like Ted Chung, CEO of Hyundai Card/Hyundai Capital, who tweeted: “For just ‘that’ announcement, it would be enough that they just send out a press release.” And Lee Chan-jin, one of South Korea’s leading software industry executives, wrote: “It seems [Apple CEO] Tim Cook chose safety and substance over innovative changes.”
Even with all the negative press, some Korean newspapers got caught up in the excitement surrounding the iPhone announcement, even going as far as printing “Apple announces iPhone 5” stories in the hopes of getting the jump on other papers.
For now, Samsung has a little breathing room, but the battle is far from over.