Samsung’s new Note 9 looks set to challenge new iPhones
Published : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018Samsung Electronics Co’s profits almost halved last quarter and it is hopes that its latest device will lead the pack during the critical holiday season to revitalize its mobile division.
The company released the new Galaxy Note 9 in New York, hoping the larger screen of the device will revive sales of its struggling flagship line and do better over the holidays than Apple’s upcoming iPhones.
The Note 9 has a 6.4-inch screen and will sell between US$999.99 and US$1,249.99. This will be one of the most expensive consumer phones in the world and is priced at approximately US$100 more than the iPhone X’s upper limit. Although it looks very similar to the Note 8 with its 6.3-inch screen that was released last year, it includes an upgraded Bluetooth stylus and a revamped camera that produces sharper images than the S9 which was released earlier in the year.
Samsung’s newest device is released at a time where the Galaxy S9’s performance is disappointing and smartphone demand globally is slowing dramatically. The S9 did not manage to grab customers’ imagination, nor did it prevent Xiaomi and Huawei from taking market share away from the Korean giant. The S9 will also have to compete with new iPhones, which are traditionally released in September. Samsung’s stock dropped by more than 3% when Eugene Investment & Securities referred to the Note 9 as a “transitional product” that was not a game-changer.
Vice-president of devices research at IDC, Bryan Ma, feels that the S9 is too similar to the S8 and not distinctive enough for consumers to justify upgrading. Ma also believes that the Note 9 may suffer a similar fate.
Samsung is hoping that its latest device will lead the charge during the critical holiday season and revive its mobile division where profits were just about halved last quarter. After robust growth of more than a decade, demand is reducing because consumers take longer before replacing devices. Cheaper Chinese brands are also flooding the market and chipping away at Apple and Samsung’s long-standing dominance.
Samsung partly blames itself for the poor performance, stating that it has played too safe with phones for too long. Since the Note 7 was recalled when it became known that it was prone to fire, a move that cost the company billions, Samsung has improved its quality inspections. This did however mean that it had to withhold innovations from consumers.
That position is letting up and executives are promising to introduce cutting edge features more aggressively. One of the many features Samsung plans on bringing to consumers is faster 5G internet connectivity.
Wayne Lim, an analyst with IHS Markit, is of the opinion that Samsung plans to release a more aggressive design update next year. The Note 9 is therefore primarily meant to keep the existing customer base happy while the expected design changes are developed, together with new technologies like foldable displays.
This year’s highlighted upgrade is a new stylus called the S Pen. It allows users to control the Note 9’s camera remotely and switches between presentation slides. It will also enable more accurate drawing and writing on the screen. The camera upgrade of the Note 9 similar with the one released with the S9, adding enhanced exposure and colors. Although it also sports a relocated fingerprint scanner on the back, there is not one built into the screen, as this is something the company is still developing.
The Note 9 is available in multiple hues, including purple and blue in the USA, and copper and black for international markets. It also has an upgraded version of Samsung’s DeX system. DeX allows users to connect the device to a computer screen with a separate accessory, thereby turning the smartphone into a full-featured desktop complete with application. The Note 9 was designed to encourage users to adopt the feature by allowing them to connect the phone to a monitor with an HDMI cable. This eliminates the need to purchase a docking station.
Samsung has other solid sources of income it can rely on for investment, even in tough times. The world’s biggest chipmaker controls the memory chip industry with Micron and SK Hynix. Samsung also manufactures the organic light-emitting diode screens that are used in premium devices, including the iPhone X.
Samsung also set up the biggest smartphone factory globally in India this year by using some of its solid cash reserves. This event drew the leaders of both South Korea and India, along with Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, the de facto head of Samsung.
At the event held in New York on Thursday, Samsung introduced a new Galaxy Watch. This product competes directly with the Apple watch. The smartwatch has been redesigned and can connect to LTE cellular networks, is water-resistant and sports a circular screen. Its battery life is also better than previous Samsung watch models, and it is compatible with a new charger that can charge smartphones and the watch at the same time.
The watch features revamped health software that uses the heart-rate sensor. It also has new tracking features for workouts and auto-detection for when a person starts a run. Sleep tracking is also included, providing details of both quality and hours of sleep.
Samsung also announced a new product category, the Galaxy Home speaker. It will compete in a crowded market that includes Apple’s HomePod, Alphabet’s Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. The new speaker features 8 microphones and excels in audio quality. The device has a tripod-like stand and a mesh black design. Samsung labelled the announcement as a preview and promised to share more details shortly.