Apple sells more products than ever and is one of the most valuable companies in the world. Yet, there is an increasing dispute in the traditional and digital media on the question whether Apple has started to losing its coolness factor or not.

In social media, the discussion has actually already been going on for some time, for example at Replise’s presentation on the social media conference Superweek 2013 in Hungary that impressively describes the divergence between perception of users in social media and media reporting, highlighting the phenomenon of change in sentiment in social networks with a view on the brand popularity of Apple compared to Samsung in Hungarian social media.

More critical questions asked usually on the Social Web

Samsung has been accused and sued by Apple in an U.S. court for having violated Apple's patents and was sentenced to a total liability of over one billion U.S. dollars. According to the law suit, Samsung could gain an advantage in the smartphone and tablet market through illegal copying of Apple's ideas. Although, in the course of the trial, the mainstream media discussed the significance of some of the relevant patents, the basic tenor was that Samsung has definitely copied Apple.

The verdict said: “Samsung had willfully infringed on Apple’s design and utility patents and had also diluted Apple’s trade dresses related to iPhone. The jury awarded Apple $1.049 billion in damages and Samsung zero damages in its counter suit.”

Monitoring solutions compare online opinions

Replise started to investigate whether the opinion of the mainstream media and the opinions of users on social networking sites during the court proceedings remained identical or whether - and how - opinions shifted. By using social media monitoring tools, historical and current content relevant data from a variety of sources was analyzed and evaluated. This included reporting on news portals as well as opinions, comments and posts on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, forums and blogs. The goal was to find out the amount and type of mentions related to Apple and Samsung in the different media channels - before and after the lawsuit.

Manual tonality analysis

By means of a manual analysis of the tonality of the statements - positive or negative opinions - the mentions of the brands were rated on a five-point scale and prepared that way for further analysis. This made it possible not only to assess the number of mentions, but to include their content in the evaluation, too. In addition, the contributions were typologically categorized to enable a thematic analysis.

Interestingly, the result of the study shows a significant shift of positive opinions in the social network from Apple to Samsung. While within the time frame Apple almost doubled the number of positive mentions from 17% to 32% in the mainstream media, the positive mentions of Samsung almost halved from 23% to 13%.

In social media, however, the number of positive mentions of Apple declined slightly from 19% to 16%, and Samsung had again a similar trend as in the mainstream media and decreased from 24% to 15%.

Even the number of negative reports for Apple in the mainstream media changed significantly during the study, showing a decline of 26% to only 9% of the mentions detected. Actually, in social media even a slight increase in negative mentions from 40% to 43% could be discovered.

The social web is a good early warning system

The opinions of social media users developed differently from opinions of mainstream media, although social media only anticipate here the developments in the mainstream media. Subsequently, a lot of mainstream media published critical reports on Apple's product strategy for the development of the brand or the company as a whole, too. This is also reflected in the YouGov Brand Index where the Apple brand is falling out of the top 10 this year, while Samsung remains among the Top 5.

As a conclusion of the study can be stated that the opinions of social media users aren’t necessarily congruent to views of the mainstream media. In this case social media proved to be an early warning system for the negative development of the Apple brand. The monitoring, therefore, represents an effective way to detect such trends at an early stage.

Replise concludes its study, saying: “Although Apple has won the trial in legal terms and got more than one billion dollars compensation, consumer opinion reflected a slightly more negative attitude towards the brand after the verdict.“

The fact that Samsung became America's No. 1 mobile phone manufacturer has been for sure a thorn in Apple's flesh just like the 90-second commercial that mocked the “Apple Fanboy”.

Nevertheless, the video clip became the most popular tech ad of 2012, garnering more than 70 million views online and most probably just fuelled the war, especially when weeks after the launch of Apple's iPhone 5, Samsung sold a record-breaking number of its own signature smartphone, the Galaxy S III. Apple had to face the fact that the South Korean company has taken the mobile world by storm, even Apple‘s home market. The question is also how social users will react to the iPhone 5C, as once more it is no low cost hand set. 

By Daniela La Marca