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Did Apple just endorse the Samsung Galaxy S4?

By reacting with a seemingly hastily-written e-mail and Web page, Apple shows that, yes, Samsung is on its mind. But are both companies out of really new ideas?

Apple's e-mail to me yesterday. Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Apple sent me an e-mail yesterday.

The subject line was: "How will you love it? Let us count the ways."

Given that the e-mail's subject was the iPhone 5, this was an odd thing to be saying to someone who already owns an iPhone 5.

I like my iPhone 5. Love, though, comes to me quite rarely and often when I least expect it.

So sending me a long list of why I will love something that I already own seemed a forced and hurried response to the launch of Samsung's Galaxy S4.

But a response it obviously was (accompanied by a new Web page), one that some might have found out of character for a company that always claims, like the very finest of football coaches and divas, to focus only on itself.

Of course, when the iPhone 5 came out, Samsung was swift to create a panting laundry-list of alleged comparisons between its phone and Apple's.

Yes, right down to its lack of S-Beam. Whatever that is.

It seems like standard operating procedure when a competitor's phone comes out to explain to people why yours is still better.

Yet to see Apple do it seems somehow odd. Just as referring to Siri as "it" in this e-mail seemed oddly hurtful to that overly harassed assistant.

It's not as if the Samsung Galaxy S4 had people opening their office and restroom windows and ululating to extremes.

The general consensus seems to have been that this was another nice phone -- if you like those sort of phones.

There was a similar reaction after the launch of the iPhone 5.

But for Apple to feel it needs to offer this hasty reminder of its phone's virtues does suggest an acknowledgment that the Galaxy S4 is giving it more than a little fright.

It is, indeed, a mark of respect to the competition when you have to refer (however obliquely) to it in your communication.

Regardless of what Apple's lawyers might want to tell Judge Lucy Koh, these phones are different. They have two different aesthetics, two different attitudes.

However, it may well be that both Apple and Samsung are currently out of ideas that will move customers to paroxysms, so they're now preparing for a slightly grubby fight.

Apple's quick response will likely not be accompanied by any great advertising campaign. That really would be an extremely public acknowledgement that Samsung is beginning to eat Apple's nerves.

But it does suggest that any upcoming iPhone 5S may not exactly be a magical revolution either.

It might also suggest that it will soon be time to redefine what a phone is -- something Samsung has tried to do, quite successfully, with the Galaxy Note.

With the next iPhone that comes out, you can be sure that Samsung will create some sort of ad that will denigrate it as, who knows, small, featureless and just not plasticky enough.

But, in the end, perhaps people just aren't as excited about phones as they used to be.

And that might be the biggest issue of all.