Last September, I began a year abroad in Israel. While the goal of that year was to learn, I was also interested in comparing the technology culture in Israel to America. Throughout my year, I witnessed some new products launch, as well as public reaction to those products. Here’s what I experienced.
Samsung has a deep hold on most countries outside North America and Europe. In Israel, and most other smaller countries from what I can gather, Samsung sells their devices at a significantly cheaper price point than in countries like the United States. Because of this, appreciation and fanboyism of Samsung have begun to run deep in the culture.
Israel is known for being one of the best start-up hubs outside the United States, and many people there have a liking for Apple’s brand and devices, particularly MacBooks. Anyone who does real work and can get a hold of one has one. This creates a unique situation where Samsung is openly inviting Israelis to purchase their devices, while there isn’t even an Apple Store in Israel (though, there are ‘iDigital’ stores, which are officially licensed, and look very close to the real thing). The citizens want iPhones, yet they often have to go through unofficial means to buy them.
Looking on a bus, most people have Samsung phones, or older iPhones, in the 4-5s range. It is incredibly rare to see an iPhone with a screen larger than 4-inches unless it is a tourist.
A visited an Israeli family member of mine one weekend. She was incredibly obsessed with Samsung devices and had a 2011-era anti-Apple shtick she’d like to present. As I had my 6s with me, and have a good amount of knowledge on the subject, I debunked most of her points. At this point, she explained to me that she was very excited to be purchasing the Galaxy Note 7 in a few weeks. The device had already been released in America however not in Israel. I told her to not get her hopes up on getting ahold of that phone, as I knew they were already beginning to explode.
A few weeks later, I visited another weekend, in which Samsung had delayed the release due to the incidents in America, however, had begun sending out replacement devices and was about to release the device in Israel. At the time, I knew of three incidents of the replacement devices exploding, and new this was going to happen again. She again expressed her excitement, and I told her that those replacement devices were going to explode as well.
When I returned a month or so later, she expressed great shock that I was right and said that she instead bought a Galaxy S8. She didn’t even consider a different Android phone, just bought another Samsung device.
Buying an iPhone
A teacher of mine was using an iPhone 5, and kept complaining to me how bad it was becoming, but also said he wanted to stay with Apple. I told him that Apple sold a device called the iPhone SE, which featured the same design as his device, but specs similar to the iPhone 6s, and was significantly cheaper. He was unaware of it (as were many of the Americans in the room), though very interested.
He, like many other people living in Israel, chose to purchase it online at an American website to save money, and have a friend bring it to them in Israel. This process takes a month or so usually, but is much cheaper than buying the device in Israel. Additionally, the Israeli mail system is so bad, that it takes an incredibly long time for packages to arrive and they often go missing.
About a month later, he received his SE and was incredibly happy with it.
Last week I wrote about Apple’s attempts to create a presence in India and their problems. However, China and India are not the only markets where Apple has problems selling devices. Particularly in countries without Apple Stores, Apple devices are expensive and hard to obtain. Samsung also has no retail presence, however, succeeds in gaining market share by selling devices at a lower profit margin.
Apple’s already sold a billion iPhones, and they could be happy with that. But the way to expand the iPhone’s market is by focusing on other nations, and maybe retooling pricing in those areas.