Mobile marketers were already pumped about the Samsung Galaxy S4, even before the phone was unveiled at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday night in New York. Images of the new phone were leaked by a Chinese blog earlier this week, and now the tech world is expecting a bigger screen, a native digital wallet app like iPhone's Passbook, a better camera and an eye-tracking interface that will supplement finger scrolling for screen-navigation purposes. (Yes, in the desktop sense, your eyes could be the new cursor.)
While mobile advertising players were eagerly awaiting the full details Thursday, overall they seemed pretty stoked about what the new handheld device could mean to their industry. And why wouldn't they? The world keeps on becoming more mobile—once a mere niche that some marketing practitioners have been building an expertise around for more than a decade.
John Haro, CTO at Vibes, suggested that Samsung's expected wallet app will get clients like Build-A-Bear talking about expanding efforts they began with iPhone Passbook in recent months. Like Passbook, Samsung's wallet is expected to have a GPS-based feature or two that will help marketers geo-target consumers as they physically become close to retail locations.
"Because of the power of having a consumer with a smartphone in their pocket, marketers should be jazzed about any major phone release that...draws the shrinking number of feature-phone owners [millions still use flip phones] into the smartphone world," Haro said in an email. "Marketers are clamoring for an easy way to get their brand on a smartphone—and mobile wallets such as Passbook and, hopefully, Samsung Wallet address that desire."
Rachel Pasqua, VP of mobile at iCrossing, is intrigued by the potentially innovative bells and whistles that seem promised by Samsung's latest iteration. "Odds are that the Galaxy 4 will mix mobile user behaviors up in unexpected ways that will give marketers opportunities to get even more creative with mobile techniques," Pasqua said. "The mere possibility of new features like eye-tracking and sophisticated mobile payments are enough to get the typical marketer excited about the possibilities. Just how excited and creative remains to be seen."
The iPhone's advantaged position in the eyes of marketers will likely be eclipsed by the Galaxy S4, per Victor Milligan, CMO at Nexage. "In general, iOS has outperformed Android phones when it comes to CPM and fill rate," he said. "Simply put, advertisers tend to believe—perhaps with good reason—that iOS serves a higher-end consumer. Galaxy S4 will likely alter that thinking and help close the performance gap between the platforms."
The Samsung vs. Apple battle for smartphone market dominance will only escalate after the the former's phone debuts with retailers in the coming weeks. When consumers get their paws on the new product, said Kurt Hawks, gm at Greystripe, they will be even more engaged with brands on mobile.
"The iPhone 5 caused a pop in usage/users," he explained, "and we expect the Galaxy to do the same."
Craig Palli, VP of business development at Fiksu, concurred, while adding, "[Our] data clearly shows a greater than 33 percent increase in overall mobile app engagements during [a major] device introduction period."
More generally, according to Mike Ricci, VP of digital/solutions marketing at 20-year-old digital agency Webtrends, the phone will represent another big step forward for mobile marketers.
"I expect this to continue the shift that is underway where [brands] are reallocating key portions of their digital spend towards mobile," Ricci said. "Mobile is becoming a preferred and powerful way to create a direct relationship with a brand’s consumers and do so on a far more personalized and localized basis."