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Apple Inc. (AAPL), Google Inc (GOOG), and Is Samsung About to Get Samsunged?

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Pop quiz. Name this company:

A vertically integrated South Korean conglomerate with an extensive supplier relationship with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has ambitious hopes in the smartphone market. The company will aggressively imitate the products of rivals in the pursuit of success, and also further integrate additional key components, such as investing more heavily in its own mobile processors.

Time’s up
Pencil’s down. The correct answer? LG Electronics.

That’s right; LG is in the process of doing to Samsung what Samsung did to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). LG has just unveiled a new “Value Pack” of software upgrades for its Optimus G Pro, and some of the features that the company is adding are straight out of Samsung’s playbook.

Apple Inc. (AAPL)

LG’s Smart Video pauses videos when the user looks away, an obvious carbon copy of Samsung’s Smart Pause. There’s also the Dual Camera feature, which simultaneously takes pictures using both sensors, and is exactly like Samsung’s Dual Shot. This is all for a device that already looks identical to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 (except without the stylus).

Galaxy Note 2 (left) vs. Optimus G Pro (right). Sources: Samsung and LG.

The Optimus G Pro was unveiled at Mobile World Congress in February, so it technically predates the Galaxy S4 that it also resembles. The 5.5-inch phablet isn’t expected to launch in the U.S. until May, though, which comes after the Galaxy S4.

The bad news for Samsung is that there’s little stopping LG from successfully using its own strategy against it. One of the benefits of enormous marketing budgets, however, is that Samsung has been able to build its Galaxy brand.

Another big marketing spender
While smaller rivals like HTC simply can’t keep up with Samsung’s marketing budget (even if HTC offers higher-quality products), larger competitors such as LG have more of a chance. Last year, LG spent $1.1 billion on advertising. When you add in other below-the-line marketing expenses like promotions ($652 million) and commissions ($1.6 billion), we’re talking about more than $3.3 billion in marketing.

That’s more than the $1 billion that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) spent in fiscal 2012 (but less than Samsung) on advertising ,and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) doesn’t really use below-the-line marketing as much. The Mac maker doesn’t typically offer very many promotions, and most of its sales are conducted through its online store or retail stores, where sales reps aren’t compensated with commissions.

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