Samsung had unveiled their latest and greatest smartphone last month in MWC as their annual S-series annual release plan. However, it didn’t stir too much excitements this year as they usually were able to do in the past 5 ~ 7 years. Didn’t they put extraordinary efforts on S9 as they did on previous releases? Yes, they did. Didn’t they put improvements on S9 as they did improve on all previous flagship offerings? Yes, they did. Didn’t they market their device strength over their competitors’ lineups? Yes, they did. Didn’t they deploy their marketing armies (marketers, Youtubers, Bloggers… etc) way before their announcement? Yes, they did.
So… what went wrong? Why the pre-order is 30% lower than its predecessors (S8/S8+)? Why the overall sales might be a big disappointment even if they did everything according to the plan without any hiccups (e.g., Note 7 debacle)?
1) Too Short Upgrade Cycle
As smartphone reached the mature stage, consumers are sort of … kind of… tired of all those flashy offerings… it’s just too much to take every couple of months. The reason why iPhone keeps winning consumers’ pockets is the reason why Samsung won’t. Too much choices sometimes … really … is a bad choice. Why would you upgrade your device twice a year if the new device doesn’t offer you a compelling reason to do so?
The reason why iPhone keeps winning consumers’ pockets is the reason why Samsung won’t.
2) Consumers Lost Appetite
That’s right… there are just too many other things to focus on than investing $ and time on smartphones anymore. The main reason goes back to the fundamentals which is that there aren’t any REAL new stuff going on on this terrain. Interesting and new things are on other turfs such as smart home offerings… yes… light bulbs are old tech and boring but … when you can make it smart, it gets interesting 🙂
3) Smartphones Are Great Enough
It’s not only good enough… they are great enough to do almost anything that you ask them to do. Let’s say that you have an S8 from last year… Do you think that it’s worth to spend another $700+ USD to upgrade it to S9? What’s the difference between S8 and S9 in mainstream consumers’ minds? Sure… cameras are better but … it’s that a big difference? In 95% cases, the answer is definitely a big “NO”. So … how about other improvements? Again… in mainstream consumers’ minds (eyes), there aren’t differences here between S9 and S8. Samsung wants consumers to shave another 700+ bucks for the new offerings for no apparent improvements? That’s a really tall order.
4) Competitions Are Fierce
It’s fierce before but even worse in Samsung’s case since … their value proposition is a par with Apple. Samsung S-series and Note-series are high-end lineups. It’s pricy and it’s supposed to be pricy… and it’s going to be pricy. However, when you price your products this high without a significant winning feature over your competitors, it’s doomed to fail.
Let’s say that you have a choice to get an One Plus 5T or an Samsung Galaxy S9, which one would you choose? Well… if you compare all the features along with their pricing points, rational consumers would choose One Plus 5T instead of S9 since … they would save 200 bucks more instantly and essentially getting almost the same thing. Sure… S9 has edge display but … if you used it before, you would know that it’s not that a big differentiator. Also, consumers can get almost any customizations done via Google Play Store apps. Do you know that lots of S8/S8+ and Note 8 users made their phones look like an iPhone X via apps? Yup… sad to see that but … it’s happening…
5) Every Android Phone is The Same
Even though Google focuses on marketing out that Android makes its owners unique because it’s highly customizable. However, it’s quite opposite that it makes every single android user sort of having the same phone even if they are holding different phones. The thing is … phone makers don’t have control over the OS (Operating System) so … even though they all made from different phone makers but since the physical design is heading to the same direction (thin bezel all screen design), they all look the same. Because physically they all look the same and underneath the hood they are all android, there is really no difference if you are holding a $300 (or even $100 or $200) phone or a $1,000 phone.
there is really no difference if you are holding a $300 (or even $100 or $200) phone or a $1,000 phone.
It seems that smartphone and computer are going through the same road except that computer history is taking longer to reach to that phase. Apple owns its faith since they have full control of software and hardware. Take a look at the general trend on their Mac (desktop & laptop) adoption in recent years, you should be able to notice that history is on their side. The same applies to the smartphone as well. As long as Samsung cannot put their own soul (Operating system) in its lineups, they won’t win.
As long as Samsung cannot put their own soul (Operating system) in its lineups, they won’t win.