As sales slow and competition heightens, Samsung overhauls tech in mid-range smartphones

As sales slow and competition heightens, Samsung overhauls tech in mid-range smartphones

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Samsung is seen on a building during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Samsung is seen on a building during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 25, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

SINGAPORE: To counter sluggish smartphone sales and stiffening competition, South Korean electronics giant Samsung is looking to boost its cheaper phone models with new technology that used to be reserved for the premium range, such as the Galaxy S series.

This will help it to attract more millennials who seek tech features yet remain budget-constrained, Samsung’s mobile chief Koh Dong Jin told Channel NewsAsia on Monday (Sep 24).

“We focus very much on (the) flagship model, but we will transfer technology to the more affordable ranges.” 

Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone maker, has been looking to rejuvenate growth in its mobile business amid a stagnating global smartphone market. Sales for the second quarter fell 20 per cent year-on-year, as response for its Galaxy S9 device came in below expectations. 

It is also facing stiff competition from Chinese brands that have been muscling into the space with cheaper and just as innovative devices. 

Last month, a report from research firm IDC put Huawei as the world’s second biggest smartphone vendor, displacing Apple, as the Chinese manufacturer gained ground in Europe and expanded its lead back home.

“Why we change strategy is because we know that the market situation is quite saturated,” said Mr Koh. “On the other hand, the young millennials can’t afford to buy the flagship (phones) but are still pursuing innovative products.” 

As part of its new strategy, the Samsung Galaxy A series will be the first to get a technology boost.

The A7, set to be launched on Oct 11, will sport leading features, including a triple rear camera and virtual assistant Bixby, for the first time. 

To be sure, Samsung continues to bet on new premium smartphones to maintain its lead in the market. 

Its first foldable phone and 5G-compatible handset are already in the works, with details of the former set to be unveiled at the Samsung Developer Conference this November. 

Mr Koh also stressed the importance of developing “meaningful” innovation, such as how the tenth Galaxy S device, set to be launched next year, will have “significant” design changes that can “benefit end consumers”.

Still, Samsung’s mobile chief was quick to stress that while market competition is something that he pays attention to, it does little to sway the company from technological innovation roadmap. 

“In Korea, we have an old saying that goes 'When there are lots of people, you can learn from them'. If there’s anything I need to learn, I learn but I have my own roadmap,” said Mr Koh. 

“Changing my roadmap because of competition is not what I do.” 

For the South Korean tech giant, its long-term roadmap will consist of an emphasis on artificial intelligence and 5G wireless technology. The company had announced last month that it would invest 25 trillion won (US$22 billion) in those two areas, alongside electronic components for autos. 

Mr Koh, who joined Samsung in 1983 before working his way up to helm the company’s mobile business, said he is “very excited” about 5G – the next generation wireless technology that promises to go beyond phones and link up everything from vehicles to household devices at faster speeds. 

“In terms of telecommunications technology, it was (a transformation of) 3G to 4G for the last 10 years. From now on for the next 10 years, it will be a transformational period from 4G to 5G.” 

For that, Samsung will have its first 5G-compatible smartphone ready by early next year, according to Mr Koh, with specific focus on markets like the United States and its home market of South Korea.

Source: CNA/sk