Samsung, Apple and Huawei: What comes after the smartphone boom?

The demand for mobile phones has passed its zenith. The manufacturer is facing big problems – a look at Samsung, Apple and Huawei.

From Christoph Giesen, Beijing, Helmut Martin-Jung and Christoph Neidhart, Tokyo

You will have expected a success at Apple, back then about twelve years ago, when the hype about the upcoming mobile phone was getting bigger. But that their product would create a new category and change the world – who could have foreseen that? But the iPhone acted as an accelerator in connection with a burning match. The services of companies such as Facebook, Twitter or Airbnb – only through the smartphone, they were really successful and the companies to billion companies.

But the time, in which the manufacturers of the devices could make the big business, is coming to an end. For the first time in more than a decade, Apple CEO Tim Cook had recently corrected the sales forecast for the current quarter down. The share price of Apple rushed down.

But not only Apple, but the entire industry is affected: The global sales of smartphones were in the past four quarters, and thus for the first time for a whole year. For this year, industry observers also expect moderate growth or even a further decline. There are many reasons: The US-Chinese trade dispute, slowing consumption in China and – above all – the downward trend in the technical development of smartphones. New models are less and less different from their predecessors. Whether a cell phone now has two or three cameras, fingerprint sensor or face recognition to unlock – it makes for most no big difference.

Consumption and trade Too expensive for the Chinese

Too expensive for the Chinese

Apple share price collapses because the Chinese instead of iPhones prefer to buy cheaper devices from their own manufacturers. But even the arrest of the chief financial officer of Huawei reduces sales.By Christoph Giesen

But what does that mean for the manufacturers? Where do they come from, how do they react to the development, how are they prepared for the future? A look at the three biggest players Samsung, Huawei and Apple.


Unlike Huawei and Apple, Samsung has not emerged as an electronics company. The company is a conglomerate, Samsung Electronics only its largest and most successful subsidiary. It is a leader in memory chips, TVs and smartphones. Lack of real innovations and the growing competition from China makes Samsung but to create. From the third quarter of 2017 to Q 3 2018 Samsung lost 3.4 percent market share, competitor Huawei increased in the same period by 3.9 percent.

Samsung was once, like all major Korean corporations, strictly hierarchical, sometimes organized almost militarily. Who works for Samsung sacrifices itself for Samsung, it was said. But Lee Kun-hee, who took over in 1987, flattened the hierarchies and left subsidiaries with more freedom of choice. His son Lee Jae-yong, like his father, set for speed, managed even more hierarchies and was even flexible working hours – in South Korea, this was almost a sensation.

Samsung's latest smartphones have a harder time on the market than before. Shortly after the performance, prices must be revised downwards, which reduces the margin. Technologically, Samsung's smartphones are still among the absolute leaders, but the competition has caught up, especially from China. Whether the foldable smartphone, which will be shown in February, can provide a greater impetus, must be seen – the enthusiasm is limited so far. In the future, Samsung will have to rely more on its other pillars, such as storage and displays, but the company has not been particularly successful in developing services, even though it has put a lot of money into the development of the digital assistant Bixby, for example. However, it is laughed at in the professional world rather than real competition to Google's Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Apple's Siri perceived.