One non-Apple company that has done a good job building its own ecosystem is Xiaomi, nicknamed "China's Apple." Building on quality devices and low prices, the 4-year-old company's rapid growth in China is largely attributed to a cult-like following among users.
Although Xiaomi's MIUI interface is Android-based, it lives in the world of Xiaomi apps, while still able to access Google's Play Store. MIUI is also downloadable on other Android phones, furthering Xiaomi's mobile presence.
Good communication between users and the smartphone company is crucial to long-term success.
"I think it's a combination," Spencer said. "You can't really separate the two: software and services."
Like Apple's Genius Bar that offers customer support in towns across America, Samsung brings its products and services to U.S. customers with "Experience Shops"—standalone spaces within Best Buy stores that display Samsung products and offer professional help.
According to its website, Apple has 250 U.S. retail stores while Samsung has more than 1,400 U.S. shops from its Best Buy partnership, launched in April 2013.
"Apple's Genius Bar stands head and shoulders above anything its competitors currently offer in the way of support," Gleeson said.
Samsung would not comment on the effect of its Experience Shops but said the partnership provided "richer product user experience through customized services."
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As an online company targeting young people, Xiaomi offers customer service through its user forums, making it easy to fix problems, while adding to the cult of the products. "While in-store support is the best solution in almost every case, Xiaomi's web forum-based solution works because its user base is young and extremely web savvy," Gleeson said.
The OS challenge
Even if Samsung is able to differentiate itself through better customer service and improved user experience, it may face other challenges as it tries to build out Tizen, its first attempt at its own operating system. Many existing mobile operating systems have struggled to take off, or have failed after earlier successes.
For example: Once the gold standard for secure enterprise mobility, BlackBerry failed to upgrade its OS quickly enough after Android and Apple began to surpass them, analysts said.
More recently, Amazon's Fire phone, released July 25, is attempting to attract consumers who are familiar with Amazon.com by offering a product identification and purchase feature. But the Amazon App-only support may dissuade users who depend on Google's email and map services. The Fire phone also got tepid reviews upon release.