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Apple is pricey. Apple is cool. But it can no longer rest on its laurels, as the badly timed launch of the latest iPhone 5 clearly showed.

The Samsung GALAXY S III had arrived only four months prior to the iPhone 5. And Apple, unable to match the hype it generated around its October launch, ended up making Samsung’s offering look even better.

This major blow to its image is something Apple will have to contend with for a long time to come and at the cost of losing some of its former loyalists to competitors like Samsung.

Suresh Jadhav, a chemical engineer and former VP of an Indian transnational company and currently owner of an SME dealing in environmental protection, is an iPhone 3S user. But he appears to be on the brink of changing loyalties.

Suresh hopes an ‘iPhone 5S’ comes along and betters the GALAXY S III. Because currently, he contends, going by the reviews, the S III seems to have an upper hand, both in terms of features and usability. Some of his friends, also Apple users, have already made the switch to the S III.

So what’s making Suresh wait and watch? A former hardcore Nokia user, Suresh once used value-for-money, functionality and sturdiness as three major parameters to judge a phone by. That was until the iPhone 3S was announced in June 2009. Lured by the touch screen experience, features and the overall glossiness of the iPhone, Suresh took the plunge. Dumping his N96, he entered the world of smart phones with the best it had to offer.

Three years later, as the novelty of owning an iPhone has worn off, Jadhav is back to assessing phones based on user opinions – both online and offline – and not brand power. At the same time, his Nokia days are clearly behind him. Like Suresh, a lot of tech watchers who have seen the meteoric rise of the iPhone and are now witnessing the beginning of its decline, expect to be awed by the smart phones that come in its wake. And it’s already started with the GALAXY S III.

Suresh knows well that the smart phone war, no matter how close and fierce, is tilted in his favour. He is the fence-sitting consumer who is aware of the power he wields, and does not pledge his loyalty to brands easily. Once a slave to their wiles, Suresh is now the master that the Apples and Samsungs of the world have to please.

How the tables have turned.