More than an hour after the launch of the Galaxy Note 9, DJ Koh, Samsung's President and CEO of IT and Mobile Communications, ended his speech with an unguarded, clear-cut commentary. "They inspire us to break barriers and improve the score every year," he said, pausing slightly. "It's not easy every year, frankly." After the rigid, heavily scribbled presentation, Koh's honesty was revealing, and the assembled audience of employees, analysts, and technology journalists responded and issued something that could be described as genuinely sympathetic laughter.
The reason why this site stood out? For Samsung, Apple, Google, LG – and all the other companies that make huge amounts of money to satisfy our frantic appetite for new hardware – the effort to succeed is considerable. And despite these endless efforts, their efforts are usually not enough to satisfy the demand for actual leaps in functionality and software.
Take the new grade 9 if you had not just read the speculative coverage before the announcement I was hoping and looking forward to a handset with a huge memory surge, but also extras like a fingerprint sensor under the screen. Instead, Samsung has just changed its position. Cue disappointment (despite the repositioning, which eliminates a critical error on Grade 8). Even Apple suffered, as many hoped that the iPhone X would have such a function.
We should have all seen that this would not happen. The new Synaptics Clear ID optical sensor, which enables this sub-screen functionality, would never be available in the quantities required by such large manufacturers. Synoptics just announced that Clear ID was mass-produced in December 2017, but a top-end Samsung phone would need around ten million units, an iPhone even more. Even if you get a clean aesthetic on your phone with no visible buttons and acres of pristine screen real estate, the technology is now slower than ultra-fast capacitive scanners – and annoying delay does not fit with a flagship device. Fickle consumers, those who demand the new technology, would inevitably grow surly.
On the other hand, since it's the grade, you can not blame people for hoping to use more experimental technology. After all, earlier notes Samsung have seen test functions that will later become part of the entire S series. The Note Edge for example was the first with Galaxy with a display that is bent on the side, now this is on all high-end Samsung phones. The Iris scanner first appeared in the Unfortunate Note 7 in 2016, and dual-camera lenses debuted in last year's Note 8.
When we reach hardware parity, customers are no longer willing to automatically update cell phones – and it takes something of a serious wow factor to get them to. Even Apple had the problem when it did not significantly change its iPhones for three consecutive years. However, last year's iPhone X put an end to it, and Apple became the first public company worth $ 1 trillion this month.
When talking about the iPhone X, another important factor that Samsung needs a safe fire is huge success. The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus had sluggish sales. Despite better cameras and better audio quality, Samsung lost more market share than any other major handset manufacturer in the second quarter of this year (after launching the S9 in March) and posted the worst performance since the second quarter of 2013. Shipments declined 11 percent year-on-year , 8 million units. Increasing competition from Google, Huawei, Xiaomi and OnePlus, the dominance in the Android area.
The Note Line was used to move more than 40 million units. Now the big-screen USP has been eroded, note-device sales now average 25 million units. That's all without mentioning grade 7, where exploding, expanding or overheated batteries recalled 4.3 million cell phones, costing Samsung between $ 3.1 billion and $ 6 billion.
Aside from more storage space, DJ Koh continues on the note's remaining USP: the S Pen Pen to make him the winner. The Galaxy Note is not the only stylus phone, but it's way ahead of any competitor. The problem is that most Note users never use the S-Pen. But now the new version has Bluetooth, like Apple's pen, it will be much more useful: Click on the pen on the pen to take pictures, or slide slides in a presentation that you run from the phone itself, and so on.
Whether more memory and a new S-Pen is enough to switch to the new hint remains to be seen. It does not feel like it. It is hardly as exciting as the Samsung Galaxy X flip phone, which will be presented next year. So, should the Korean company have withdrawn from the annual treadmill and been waiting to release something killer – especially since Samsung described the high-end smartphone market as "stagnant" in July?
Daniel Gleeson, senior analyst, Consumer Technology at Ovum, says the risk of reducing the frequency of product launches is very real. "With less difference and less of a performance gap between premium brands and challenger brands, getting the latest and best specs becomes increasingly important – much as the PC market has evolved," he says. "Without new releases, mobile phone manufacturers will find it difficult to keep their seats on the shelves of operators or to keep up with consumers' enthusiasm for newer devices, even if the difference between the handsets is minimal."
Gleeson argues that Apple is already using this strategy in some ways. Its releases receive important design updates every other year, with handsets focusing more on internal changes and software optimizations. "You can see Apple's sales increase as physical design changes dramatically, but Apple is unique in that its users are waiting for new releases and accept specifications that may lag behind the competition, and Android manufacturers generally have not the same luxury. "
The big problem with this approach is that the expertise needed to create this occasional superstar remains dormant or at least underutilized for a period after each launch. "There will also be ramp-up / scaling issues in all areas of the business – marketing, manufacturing, key component sourcing, and so forth," says Gleeson. "The structure of Apple, in which it is organized by function rather than product, means that it does not have the same downtime problem, but HTC, for example, just does not have the product portfolio to try."
To ensure his dominance, he seems to produce new hardware every year, whether it has something to scream or not. Therefore, DJ Koh's commendable honesty and the polite, knowing laughter of the audience shimmer.