Smartphone wars: Samsung & Apple launch media campaigns

March 17, 2013, 12:37 PM UTC

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FORTUNE — In case you missed it, the smartphone wars entered a new phase last week with the introduction of the latest Samsung phone to challenge Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone line.

Samsung’s Galaxy S4 may not be available for sale for another five or six weeks, but that hasn’t stopped Samsung from pouring millions into a promotional campaign or Apple from launching a few pre-emptive strikes.

Following the Galaxy S4’s big-budget debut at Radio City Music Hall — a show that got a bang in terms of media attention but backfired when the press got around to reviewing it — Samsung put up a website and long (4:23) YouTube video to show off the phone’s manifold new features. The website is so-so, but the video is well thought out and judging from the view count (1.8 million as of Sunday morning) and the excited comments (assuming they’re real and not astroturf) it’s doing its job.

Apple’s approach has been more low-budget. Before the Radio City event, it used its leverage with the press to maximum benefit, sending its marketing VP out to do a pair of interview (Wall St. Journal and Reuters) that were picked up by a couple dozen media outlets. After the event, Apple put up a new webpage extolling the virtues of the iPhone and began sending links to some of the hundreds of millions of people on its e-mail list. The webpage is classic Apple design work and puts Samsung’s to shame. But the closest thing Apple has to Samsung’s viral YouTube video are a pair of five-day old iPhone TV ads, neither of which has cracked half a million views.

Round one goes to Samsung, I suppose, which isn’t a surprise considering how much money the South Korean manufacturing giant put into it. But you have to wonder whether spending a fortune in March to promote a product that won’t be available until April is the best use of anybody’s resources.