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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Why the Liberal Democrats by-election surge is not all it seems

The Lib Dems chalked up impressive results in Stoke and Copeland. But just how much of a fight back is it?

By the now conventional post-Brexit logic, Stoke and Copeland ought to have been uniquely inhospitable for the Lib Dems. 

The party lost its deposit in both seats in 2015, and has no representation on either council. So too were the referendum odds stacked against it: in Stoke, the so-called Brexit capital of Britain, 70 per cent of voters backed Leave last June, as did 62 per cent in Copeland. And, as Stephen has written before, the Lib Dems’ mini-revival has so far been most pronounced in affluent, Conservative-leaning areas which swung for remain. 

So what explains the modest – but impressive – surges in their vote share in yesterday’s contests? In Stoke, where they finished fifth in 2015, the party won 9.8 per cent of the vote, up 5.7 percentage points. They also more than doubled their vote share in Copeland, where they beat Ukip for third with 7.3 per cent share of the vote.

The Brexit explanation is a tempting and not entirely invalid one. Each seat’s not insignificant pro-EU minority was more or less ignored by most of the national media, for whom the existence of remainers in what we’re now obliged to call “left-behind Britain” is often a nuance too far. With the Prime Minister Theresa May pushing for a hard Brexit and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn waving it through, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made the pro-EU narrative his own. As was the case for Charles Kennedy in the Iraq War years, this confers upon the Lib Dems a status and platform they were denied as the junior partners in coalition. 

While their stance on Europe is slowly but surely helping the Lib Dems rebuild their pre-2015 demographic core - students, graduates and middle-class professionals employed in the public sector – last night’s results, particularly in Stoke, also give them reason for mild disappointment. 

In Stoke, campaign staffers privately predicted they might manage to beat Ukip for second or third place. The party ran a full campaign for the first time in several years, and canvassing returns suggested significant numbers of Labour voters, mainly public sector workers disenchanted with Corbyn’s stance on Europe, were set to vote Lib Dem. Nor were they intimidated by the Brexit factor: recent council by-elections in Sunderland and Rotheram, which both voted decisively to leave, saw the Lib Dems win seats for the first time on massive swings. 

So it could well be argued that their candidate, local cardiologist Zulfiqar Ali, ought to have done better. Staffordshire University’s campus, which Tim Farron visited as part of a voter registration drive, falls within the seat’s boundaries. Ali, unlike his Labour competitor Gareth Snell and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, didn’t have his campaign derailed or disrupted by negative media attention. Unlike the Tory candidate Jack Brereton, he had the benefit of being older than 25. And, like 15 per cent of the electorate, he is of Kashmiri origin.  

In public and in private, Lib Dems say the fact that Stoke was a two-horse race between Labour and Ukip ultimately worked to their disadvantage. The prospect of Nuttall as their MP may well have been enough to convince a good number of the Labour waverers mentioned earlier to back Snell. 

With his party hovering at around 10 per cent in national polls, last night’s results give Farron cause for optimism – especially after their near-wipeout in 2015. But it’s easy to forget the bigger picture in all of this. The party have chalked up a string of impressive parliamentary by-election results – second in Witney, a spectacular win in Richmond Park, third in Sleaford and Copeland, and a strong fourth in Stoke. 

However, most of these results represent a reversion to, or indeed an underperformance compared to, the party’s pre-2015 norm. With the notable exception of Richmond’s Sarah Olney, who only joined the Lib Dems after the last general election, these candidates haven’t - or the Lib Dem vote - come from nowhere. Zulfiqar Ali previously sat on the council in Stoke and had fought the seat before, and Witney’s Liz Leffman and Sleaford’s Ross Pepper are both popular local councillors. And for all the excited commentary about Richmond, it was, of course, held by the Lib Dems for 13 years before Zac Goldsmith won it for the Tories in 2010. 

The EU referendum may have given the Lib Dems a new lease of life, but, as their #LibDemFightback trope suggests, they’re best understood as a revanchist, and not insurgent, force. Much has been said about Brexit realigning our politics, but, for now at least, the party’s new normal is looking quite a lot like the old one.