Burden attributed the Alpha's slow sales to bad timing — when people were moving to larger phones — but also to its high price tag. "It was a high-end phone with high-end body materials, but without the complete technical high-end, and still with a high price tag," Burden said. "It was also quickly replaced in the Samsung lineup with the A5, which went back to more plastics and less metal."
Where Apple may succeed, and where Samsung has not, is that Apple customers can have their choice in sizes of high-end phones, ranging from 4 inches to 5.5 inches, "without sacrificing functionality," Burden said.
Samsung could well come back in coming months, perhaps as early as the fall, with a Galaxy S7 phone with a 4-in. to 4.5-in. screen that is also water resistant. Those offerings would create a fuller line of phones when put in a lineup with the new Galaxy S7 (5.1 inches) and the S7 Edge (5.5 inches) phones.
Samsung didn't comment on the new iPhone SE, but analysts said they wouldn't be surprised if Samsung builds a high-quality Galaxy S-type smartphone in a 4-in. or somewhat larger size.
"Sure, I can see Samsung doing that," said Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at Technalysis Research. "I think there is a segment of people who prefer that size. The trick today is to fill all the different niches."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.