On Friday Samsung New Zealand will take the wraps off its new Galaxy Note 9 phone. The main event is on Thursday in the US.
By comparison the Auckland affair will be low key.
Almost every time Samsung or Apple holds a major phone launch people say ominous words to the effect that: “there’s a lot riding on this”.
That’s because there often is.
Galaxy S9 disappointment
Samsung’s Galaxy S9 phone, which launched earlier in the year, was beautiful. But it failed to sell in anticipated numbers. So far it has sold 20 per cent less than the S8 managed a year earlier.
This means the company needs the Galaxy Note 9 to succeed. In this case success means it has to sell in numbers close to last year’s Galaxy Note 8.
Two flops in a row would be a disaster.
We’ve been here before.
Last year there was a lot riding on the Galaxy Note 8. That’s because one year earlier the Galaxy Note 7 flopped because of its unfortunate habit of exploding. You couldn’t get an aeroplane without someone reminding you of the danger.
Coming back from a public relations nightmare of that magnitude was a feat. Phone buyers were forgiving. At the time it was clear that Samsung had used up a lot of good will.
Another exploding phone would destroy the company’s hope of being a high-end player.
Which brings us to the Galaxy Note 9. To sell it has to offer a more compelling value proposition than phone’s from Samsung’s rivals.
This means two things. It needs to offer buyers considerably more phone than the Galaxy Note 8. A better camera isn’t going to cut it.
The market rumour is that Samsung will offer more storage than in any other phone. It’s not clear that this will be enough to get people to upgrade.
Maybe that’s what the market wants. More likely, it will be what a market segment wants.
Samsung’s threat is not Apple. There’s little traffic between Android and iOS phone users.
The real problem is rival Android phone makers. In New Zealand this means Huawei, Oppo and Nokia. There are other rival brands overseas
Rivals ready to pounce
Each of the companies mentioned has phones that are arguably either the equal of Samsung’s models or close enough that it makes little difference. But their models sell for hundreds of dollars less than Samsung’s.
Which tells us exactly what could give Samsung the 2018 hit phone it so badly needs: drop prices.
The Samsung brand carries enough weight to justify $100 or more than a Huawei. It’s hard to justify spending hundreds just to get a me-too phone with a posher brand name.
Galaxy Note 9 has to be more than great
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has to be great. More important, it has to have a tempting price tag.
There are reports of revolutionary Samsung phones in the pipeline.
One model is foldable. Next year’s tenth anniversary Galaxy S10 is rumoured to have a fingerprint reader built into the display. Apparently some people are excited about that.
The Galaxy Note 9 has to be more than a place holder en route to those models. If it is another flop, the brand will lose its lustre and Huawei’s foldable phone and innovative finger reader will relieve well-heeled Android phones of their savings.