Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will be unveiled to the world at an Unpacked event in New York on August 9. Samsung’s large-screen flagship has for years been the Korean tech leviathan’s second annual flagship, trying to shore up high-end sales before the holiday season and just about when the interest around the S series flagship of the year wanes. However, this year it will have more burden on its shoulders.
In fact, Samsung is pushing its Note flagship a bit early because its S9 has not really been flying off the shelves. It is rare for a company to say this, especially Samsung, but its second-quarter earnings note had these lines: “The mobile market condition will likely remain challenging in the second half amid pricing competition and new product launches. The company will respond through the early introduction of the Galaxy Note and competitive mid- and low-end models with new features.” So the Note 9 has a challenging opening ahead of it.
But there are other challenges too. For one, Samsung has to figure out how to sell expensive phones at a mass scale. Apple has been able to push up the average selling price of its phones to $700. So even if it sells less, it makes more or at least an equal amount of revenue than before. And the $1000 Apple iPhone X has really helped its cause.
Secondly, even if it does not push the price or margins, it needs to be able to offer a compelling reason for people to pick up the Note 9. In India, for instance, both Apple and Samsung have been struggling from the OnePlus challenge. This startup has been able to offer a good premium experience at almost half the price of an iPhone and now leads the top-end segment.
So, the question will be what can it offer that a OnePlus phone can’t in terms of experience and performance. Also, the other Chinese manufacturers, who have till now been playing in the budget game, have started pushing the price points of their offerings northwards. Oppo, Vivo, and Huawei all have phones now in the premium segment, some of them with clear USPs.
To Samsung’s credit is the fact that the Note series is still very unique. Though a lot of other brands now try to play on the Note keyword, none have the biggest factor that makes the Samsung Note series unique: its stylus. Cashing in on this, it is expected that even if the phone does not have a lot of improvements, an S Pen stylus will sure come with new features.
Samsung has for years been catering to a specific user base with its Note series and a big chunk of those are also repeat customers. Even with the Note 9, this is the guarantee the Samsung has. Even its S series does not have this loyal user base. However, with the Note 9, it will have to offer enough to keep these users base interested. As for wooing a new user base, that is a tough challenge for any smartphone manufacturer in 2018.
Disclaimer: The author is in New York on the invite of Samsung India.