Some big names in the mobile industry have shown off their latest and greatest smartphones and tablets at Mobile World Congress this week, but it doesn't matter how feature-rich they are, their success or lack thereof is more likely to be decided by the price and the marketing.

That is one of the conclusions drawn by Xerox-owned WDS, which this week published research revealing that Apple and Samsung have opened up a sizeable gap on the competition when it comes to brand loyalty.

A survey of 4,000 consumers spread equally between the U.S., U.K., Australia and South Africa found that 76% of Apple owners replace their iPhone with another iPhone, while 58% of Samsung customers opt for another Samsung for their next handset. No other major device maker enjoys brand loyalty of more than 40%.

"One has achieved it with a portfolio of two devices; the other has done it with a portfolio of 200," noted Tim Deluca-Smith, vice president of marketing at WDS.

He put Apple's success down to the ecosystem of apps and services that tie all its hardware together, while Samsung has focused on building close relationships with carriers, extensive marketing campaigns, and by launching myriad devices at numerous price points.

He explained to Total Telecom on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress that of the two strategies, Samsung's carriers a slightly greater risk.

"It's hard to keep winning customers with hardware innovation," he said.

"The spec wars are over and we're now whooping about water-proofing," he said, in reference to some of the more enthusiastic attendees at Samsung's Galaxy S5 launch late on Monday who became particularly animated when it was revealed that its new flagship smartphone is water and dust resistant.

 

"The challenge for Samsung now is, is that sustainable?" he asked.

Indeed, innovating on hardware certainly seems to be leading some of Samsung's rivals down a blind alley.

Despite receiving plaudits over the last 12 months about its One series of Android smartphones, Taiwan-based HTC has lost momentum. According to WDS, just 30% of HTC customers replace their handset with another HTC, and just 8% of consumers who switch handset brands opt for

...