While it’s too early to tell, the pre-orders and initial numbers for the Galaxy Note 9 look promising, or at least better than the Galaxy S9. That doesn’t say much considering Galaxy S9/S9+ sales were described at disappointing at best. Samsung is undoubtedly feeling the pressure as it sees its kingdom slowly ebb away. That is why according to Samsung mobile division chief DJ Koh, the company is shifting strategies and focus on bringing new features to mid-range phones first with premium ones to follow.
In the usual flow of things, high-end smartphones get new features first and become a sort of market litmus test. Those features that end up being popular eventually trickle down to mid-range phone. Speaking to CNBC, Koh says he is turning the strategy around and will focus on differentiating the mid-range first, with the goal of appealing primarily to millennials and younger and often more passionate users.
It’s a nice thought but one that is meaningless without seeing anything concrete. Mid-range smartphones have definitely become more capable of late, in no small part thanks to advancement in mobile processors and the availability of more affordable components. Not all cutting-edge features, however, can be supported by those. But more importantly, not all cutting-edge features can be added without cost.
It really boils down to price. Samsung may be trying to bolster its mid-range products against the onslaught of smartphones from Chinese OEMs, particularly Huawei, Xiaomi, and OPPO. But while Samsung’s mid-range phones share the same price as those, the gap in their specs can’t simply be bridged by cramming in new features. Xiaomi and Huawei are winning because they are selling almost premium phones at the same price as a Samsung mid-range phone.
We’ll have to wait to see what Samsung really means and if it really means business. The first new breed of mid-range smartphone might be out before 2018 is over. But unless it will have the right price tag mixed with the right specs, it’s still going to be an uphill battle for the now embattled smartphone giant.