TECHNOLOGY SPECTATOR: Samsung’s unremarkable copy shop

Samsung's flagship outlet in Australia is surprisingly modest, and the mobile phone giant's move to replicate Apple's retail mojo fails to hit the mark.

Technology Spectator

The new Samsung Experience Store in Sydney is remarkably modest, given that it's supposedly the nation's flagship retail outlet for the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturer. And that's the problem.

Samsung and Apple are battling for leadership in the technology marketplace.

This binary winner-or-loser melodrama mentality is a tired clich – and I know I'm doing it now – but leadership matters. And this is the biggest tech media melodrama on stage today.

Samsung, as world's largest electronics company – because it also sells TVs, Blu-Ray players, cameras, and the chips and flat screens that power so many other company's products – versus Apple, now the most valuable company in the history of Planet Earth.

Samsung's Galaxy S III smartphone, with its slightly too-forced "inspired by nature" and "designed for humans" branding, versus Apple's iPhone and its... well, its continued "it just is" existence as world's coolest smartphone.

Samsung continues to versus Apple in a series of intellectual propertycourtroom battles across the globe.

And now it's Samsung Experience Stores versus Apple Stores, with the first Australian Samsung store launched at 450 George Street, Sydney, Wednesday night.

"One thing we learned with the Galaxy S III experience, it taught us that when Australians touch, feel and use our devices they fall in love," said Tyler McGee, Samsung Electronics Australia's vice president of telecommunications.

"[The new store] allows Australian consumers to explore, to experience, to discover what our devices can do," he said. "The key word here is 'experience'."

The emphasis is on how data can be shared between devices, such as uploading images to Facebook directly from smart camera with Wi-Fi, or using a smartphone as the camera's remote viewfinder.

"The convergence story is very important to us," McGee said.

The store currently displays the Galaxy range of smartphones, Galaxy Note and Galaxy Tab tablets, digital cameras, notebook and slate PCs, smart TVs and Blue-Ray players – but sadly not Samsung's machine-gun-toting border guard robot.

Telecommunications devices can be bought outright, or on contracts to Telstra, Optus or Vodafone.

"The new Samsung store has bright white displays and staff in blue shirts. I wonder where I've seen that before," one Apple fan messaged me last night. There's Applesque blond wood benches too, with matching Scandinavian-look lighting fixtures.

That's all obvious international fashion-tech styling, of course. But a comparison with the nearby Apple Store, just down the block at 367 George Street, is inevitable – especially given that a solid chunk of the Apple versus Samsung legal battle is about the Korean firm allegedly copying the American. And when you make that comparison, well...

The Apple Store is a three-level glass-fronted cathedral to the Church of Jobs. The Samsung Experience Store is a single-level street-front number occupying the old French Connection UK jeans and t-shirt shop still to be seen on Google Street View.

When the Apple Store opened a little over four years ago, a queue started forming 30 hours beforehand and eventually stretched for nearly 300 metres. Last night a handful of punters paused outside the Samsung Experience Store, looked with moderate curiosity at the journalists downing wine and oysters inside, and moved on.

I moved on too; and began mulling over my Samsung experience.

"So what have you been doing this evening?" asked the barman making my dirty martini.

I told him about the new Samsung Experience Store.

"What's it like?" he asked.

I told him.

"So like a suburban Optus store," he said.

Despite a solid marketing budget and solid execution, it's becoming clear that Samsung simply can't generate the hype that Apple can. Some will certainly say that's a good thing. But that's not how you become leader.

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