First Samsung came for Apple's interface design, then it came for Apple's philosophy

Galaxy S4, the phone we didn't know we wanted until they showed it to us.

Samsung rolled out its all-new GalaxyS4 on Thursday night and its decision to launch its latest smart phone in New York is a clear sign that the South Korean technology giant isn't afraid of the Big Apple. 

The Galaxy S4 comes with enhanced software and hardware features, just ten months after the launch of its highly successful predecessor. According to excited reviews and tweets, the new S4 has miraculous qualities: it responds to body movements, switching songs or pictures at the wave of a hand. And thanks to a special camera, it can also pause a video whenever the user stops looking at the screen. It is slimmer than its predecessor, but has a 5-inch touch screen and a 20 per cent longer-lasting battery.

So, the Galaxy S4 - daughter of the S3 and already-expecting mother of S5, has done what Apple has singularly failed to do since the invention of the iPad - it created something the we never knew we wanted. Or, in Steve Jobs’ words: “People don't know what they want until you show it to them.”

In other words, the S4 is an innovative product, but it’s mainly an excuse to launch a good marketing campaign

After filing a complaint in April 2011, Apple has famously won a lawsuit against Samsung over design user interface and style characteristics patented by Apple for the iPhone and iPad.

However, what Samsung is managing to steal now is the entire philosophy behind Apple’s extraordinary success. And this is not exactly the sort of issue you can appeal against in a tribunal.

Former Apple creative director Ken Segalls, says that, through its advertising, Samsung has succeeded in reinforcing a point (whether it’s true or not): that it has successfully positioned itself as the company delivering innovation, “striking a nerve, and stoking the anti-Apple flames.”

Segalls quotes several figures to back up his opinion. Samsung outspent Apple on marketing last year, and telecoms industry insiders say the S4 launch is setting a new high water mark for smartphone ad spend.  Marketing budgets in some countries will run into tens of millions of dollars, with Samsung’s total spend on the S4 expected to exceed $150m globally. That compares with $108m spent by Apple on marketing the iPhone 5 last year, according to Kantar media monitoring.

Despite the Broadway-style launch, investors gave the launch a chilly welcome, sending Samsung shares down, up to 2 per cent. On the other hand, financial markets follow the same rule: it’s not about what you sell, but what you think you are buying.

The Galaxy S4. Photograph: Getty Images

Sara Perria is the Assistant Editor for Banking and Payments, VRL Financial News

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Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.