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In courts, jury members have said some of Samsung’s research appears to comes closer to copying. Apple sued Samsung in U.S. District Court last year for patent infringement and won a $1 billion judgment. One of the most explosive pieces of evidence was a detailed report breaking down each hardware and software feature of the iPhone and how each compared to Samsung phone features.
Samsung says studying the market helps it build confidence for the wireless carriers that its mobile devices will sell well. That, in turn, persuades the carriers to aggressively sell Samsung phones and tablets. “That’s kind of the secret sauce,” said Kevin Packingham, chief product officer of Samsung.
Daniel Hesse, Sprint’s chief executive, called Samsung a “terrific partner” because of its willingness to work with the carriers on the creation of phones. For carriers, that could be a refreshing alternative to working with Apple, which completely controls the design of its iPhone’s hardware and software. “They work with the carriers, they want to hear from you what you want, they don’t tell you what it’s going to be. It’s very two-way,” Hesse said.
Samsung differs in one other important way. It remains a manufacturer, while Apple contracts out the assembly of its devices. Horace Dediu, a mobile industry analyst at Asymco, said that historically, it built its business around producing and selling components to other manufacturers, including Apple, Sony and Hewlett-Packard. While Samsung had been making and selling consumer electronics in Korea and developing markets for decades, these relationships taught it a lot about competing with — and beating — the biggest names in the industry.