The Smartphone Wars on Television. The best smartphone commercials.

Apple sold an astounding 47 million iPhones in Q4 2012. This was only good enough for second place in the “smartphone wars”. Samsung, the clear leader, sold nearly 65 million smartphones. The success of Samsung, which is dominating the Android market, is no doubt partly due to their constant, aggressive marketing. Expect more of this as the market continues to grow and continues to attract more and more competition.

Since the 2007 launch of the iPhone, then the App Store, then the Google Nexus in 2010, smartphones have come to dominate the personal computing landscape. More than a billion Apple iOS and Android devices have sold in only a few years. Within a few more years – at most – it’s possible that both iOS and Android will each have a user base larger than the global Windows install base.

Smartphones represent one of the largest markets in the world, touching consumers and the enterprise, government and education, and impacting work and healthcare, the movie business, retail, gaming and so much more.  No surprise then that we are bombarded with commercials to buy the latest device, to switch to the newest platform. Does this advertising work? We know that Samsung sells the most devices and outspends everyone else in the industry on marketing. Certainly, advertising helps. At least, when done right.

Here are what I consider to be the ten best smartphone commercials since the launch of the iPhone. Warning: I am no pushover. Advertisements filled with pretty women or lasers or ninjas, for example, have almost zero impact on my buying decisions. The ads below were appealing enough, clever enough and informative enough to make me consider the product. Or at least, to remember their product long after its demise.

10. Really?

While very few people on the planet purchased a “new Windows Phone” this series of ads were funny and memorable. More than that, the entire premise of this campaign was based on an entirely new reality: suddenly we all had smartphones and we were using them all the time, no matter the circumstance.


9. Tacos!

This ad from AT&T was not about a single device or even a specific smartphone platform. Rather, with its humorous take on office politics, it showed us all the benefits of the ‘new’ 4G service. In a way, this made it an Android ad, given the number of 4G-ready Android devices,  but that was not the larger point. Rather, this commercial told us that to keep up, even over the most mundane of matters, we needed the most advanced data service available – and a smartphone to match.


8. You

There was a time, albeit brief, when the HTC “You” campaign helped propel the company to the upper reaches of the smartphone sales stratosphere. A series of missteps combined with going head-to-head against giant Samsung quickly altered HTC’s fortunes, but these ads were nonetheless effective.


7. You Two

Blackberry no doubt spent a great deal of money to get U2 to promote their brand. It probably was money well spent even though it couldn’t stop the rise of the touchscreen app phone and a market controlled by Android and iOS.


6. Asha

Is the Nokia Asha even a smartphone? I say yes. Here, Nokia reminds the world – at least the developing world – that the Asha is a fun choice for the young and hip and attractive. Android will not own the low-end market without at least a fight from Nokia Asha.


5. Meet Jessica

Despite what many think, the smartphone wars are not over. Apple and Android may dominate but there are other platforms out there. Microsoft recently enlisted the lovely Jessica Alba to promote Windows Phone. Star power aside, this commercial succeeds because it does a great job revealing how Windows Phone is different from iPhone and Android, and how it can help users – and busy moms – juggle  many tasks at once.


4. Hot Mom

When the stay-at-home moms are using their smartphones to make – and send – sexy videos of themselves, then you know that smartphones are now a semi-mandatory part of our lives, as much as television and automobiles.


3. Know Hope

You may not believe this now, but at the time, people actually thought the Palm Pre would sell, and would matter. It did neither. There were many reasons for this, not the least of which was that it took the worst parts of Blackberry and the worst parts of iPhone and crafted that into a singularly bad device. The commercials were also to blame. They were simply odd. The idea, at least, seemed to be a good one: up till then, smartphones were ‘gadgets’ – and thus the domain of men, mostly. Palm Pre went directly after a female audience. Trouble is, they scared them all away.


2. Boom!

Samsung went big with ‘the next big thing’. Millions of dollars in advertising, multiple Super Bowl ads, and best of all, a blistering, mocking attack on Apple. Rather, an attack on a parodied version of Apple fans. This was the ad that told the world that Samsung smartphones were at least the equal of iPhone. True, very little screen time was devoted to the actual device, and Android is not mentioned. Yet the ad is memorable and powerful because it went straight for the heartstrings of every Apple hater on the planet.

This ad was important for another reason. Overlooked because of the humor, this ad changed perceptions of smartphones. Like other gadgets, smartphones kept getting smaller and lighter. The Samsung Galaxy S3 proudly stated that bigger is better and less is not more. Apple is still playing catch-up on the large display front.


1. iPhone Apps

There’s an app for that! The phone that started it all did not change the world, not really, until it opened itself up to developers and third-party apps. Apple’s “there’s an app for that’ series of commercials taught us all just how much we could do with this amazing device. Years later, and all around the world, we remember these advertisements. They taught us that it was okay to have a smartphone because now they were not just amazingly powerful, but amazingly simple to use. Also notice that unlike every other commercial from every other device maker, Apple’s “marketing” is almost singularly focused on the device itself, how it works, and what you can do with it. The product stands on its own.


The iPhone and App Store created an entire new industry and ushered in an entirely new web for the masses, one built on apps and highly distinct services.


A single phone and the humble app really did change the world.


What are your favorites? I was surprised that nothing by Sony made the top 10, nor any Google Nexus commercials, nor Motorola, nor anything from Apple the past two years. It’s also clear that advertising alone cannot save a product.


Author: Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology, immortality and food for ReadWrite, Techpinions, Unwired View and other publications. His thoughts on the 'smartphone wars' and how these are rapidly de-constructing markets, industries, business models and relationships around the world can be found on his personal site at

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  • Zubair

    for your website always iphone rocks… yea get a life and dont be so narrow minded