After 2011, when Samsung overtook Nokia (and then immediately Apple) in sales, its leadership position has never been threatened. Now Samsung is the only major phone manufacturer that has survived the last decade. All other Android smartphone companies have grown in the last few years. They are all from China. All these companies are extremely aggressive, ambitious and growing, gnawing off each other’s market shares in all price segments, except for the most profitable and expensive. Samsung is in a different situation – it’s enough for the company to keep its position in order to maintain leadership in the smartphone market.
According to the classic of military strategy, Karl von Clausewitz, the defensive form of war is itself stronger than the offensive one. Jack Trout, the author of the famous textbook “Marketing Warfare”, agrees with him, saying bluntly that the market leader in a marketing war always has more chances (resources, room for maneuver, and so on) to win. The 2019 smartphone leadership war is certain to be part of future business textbooks, owing to the previously unseen severity and pace of events. The new phase of the trade war between the United States and China gives it additional piquancy, becoming another factor influencing the course of events, tilting the scales on one side or the other. And intuition suggests that it is too early to put the last point in this story. What does Samsung do in turn to hold the lead? Let’s figure it out together.
Of course, I do not currently have internal company documents regulating the course of the war and strategic directions of strikes. But a lot of things can be clarified from the obvious actions already taking place in the market. Samsung is changing its product line under the influence of the market situation, pressure from competitors, changing user preferences (who do not know what they want until someone gives them these things) and technological progress. What do we see in Samsung’s product strategy?
The flagship S-series has risen to a more expensive segment that is inaccessible to competitors producing Android smartphones (strictly speaking, Apple is located there with its own separate universe and the rules of the game in it). The Galaxy Note series went there even earlier. And this year we saw the continuation of the story with the new Galaxy Note 10 – it is obvious that it is also available in the form of expensive versions for technology pioneers who are not used to denying themselves anything. Apparently, this strategy proved to be successful: the company reported that worldwide flagships of the Samsung Galaxy S10 outperformed last year’s Galaxy S9 in sales.
The new M-series has become a real response to the expansion of numerous cheap Chinese smartphones and is intended for sales in developing countries. Online stores’ representatives will not let me lie – the Samsung Galaxy M20 was in short supply right at the start of sales. Here you have a 5 Ah battery and NFC support, which is in demand in many countries, and which Chinese models do not have. And a separate slot for a memory card (not counting 2 SIM-cards), and even a progressive USB-C, which can not be found in low-cost phones.
For those who want to know more. An instructive insight into market leadership is the history of the Tylenol leadership war in the United States, described in one chapter of Jack Trout’s book “Marketing Warfare”. In June 1975, Bristol-Myers decided to launch its analogue “the same, only cheaper”. Everything ended sadly for the company (but for the leader – Johnson & Johnson – it was successful).
Finally, Samsung’s main “weapon of victory” is the A-series, which will simultaneously hold both market share and an acceptable margin (rather than one thing, as in the S-series and M-series cases). This year, the Galaxy A smartphones line includes 8 models at once – from A10 to A80, which can provide a choice for any wallet and taste.
At the same time, Samsung curtailed the budget J-series production (although it is still on sale), transferring its functions to the A-series, that never had budget models. And the key advantage in the market (which Samsung will definitely use for promotion) will be... Super AMOLED screens. Add to this the customers’ trust in the brand that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and confidence in the future.
Samsung is the only non-Chinese company in the list of the largest smartphones manufacturers, so it can not be affected by the consequences of the U.S.-China trade war that has not yet ended. And Samsung does not need to issue official statements that partnerships with Google are unshakable.
What are Super AMOLED displays
For the first time we heard about such screens back in 2010, when Samsung released the Samsung S8500 Wave smartphone. The main feature of this technology, which is the development of active matrix OLED displays (AMOLED), is the absence of an air gap between the light-emitting layer and the protective glass, which makes the display thinner and brighter than its competitors.
All this had a positive impact on improved energy efficiency. All these years, Samsung has kept Super AMOLED technology “just for yourself”, using it at first only in expensive flagship models. But this year, thanks to the same technological progress (production volumes are growing, which means that the smartphone screen’s cost is gradually decreasing) and increased competition, Super AMOLED displays are becoming more accessible and appear in middle-class models starting with the Galaxy A20.
Of course, modern Super AMOLED displays are not only bright screens that allow you to see a picture in bright sunshine, but also viewing angles of 180 degrees and a high response speed of the touch screen, which you will never see with no-name manufacturers. It is worth recalling another feature that is available only on AMOLED screens: the Always On function, which allows you to see the clock, battery level and notifications on the screen off.
This is really extremely convenient, and no user who has encountered this opportunity will ever want to abandon it, especially considering that it consumes a little power of the battery. And this feature is in most models in the lineup, with the exception of the A20 and A40.
What is interesting about the Galaxy A line
Take a look at how balanced the entire 2019 A-series line looks. It is good that the tendency to reduce the model range is winning in the market, allowing to simplify the consumer choice. A variety of phone models is achieved by choosing the phone body color and increased memory:
- Samsung Galaxy A20: the most affordable Super AMOLED screen model on the market ($220 – recommended retail price). 6.4" bezel-less screen and a drop-shaped cutout. Dual camera, 4000 mAh battery, NFC support, 4G, USB-C and fast charging, face recognition unlock.
- Samsung Galaxy A30 (from $260 for the 3/32 GB option): the optimal price-performance ratio – the vast majority of buyers will like this mass smartphone model (its cost is very close to the average smartphone price on the market): 6.4" Super AMOLED screen with a 2340×1080 resolution, dual camera with elements of artificial intelligence, recognizing up to 19 scenes.
- Samsung Galaxy A40 ($300): an interesting model for those who do not like a bulky phone and are looking for something that in 2019 can be called a compact phone body. This model has a Super AMOLED screen with a 5.9" diagonal, increased RAM up to 4 GB, and another 25-megapixel front camera. This is a great youth model for fans of games and selfies.
- Samsung Galaxy A50 (from $340 for the 4/64 GB option): a model for those who are looking for something more interesting and more technologically advanced. In addition to the Super AMOLED screen, this smartphone has a fingerprint scanner mounted in the display (this year’s technological trend) and a triple camera that allows you to both zoom in and out while shooting, switching between lenses with different focal lengths.
- Samsung Galaxy A70 ($520): a real gift for active people who use mobile applications – a large 6.7" Super AMOLED screen with a 2400×1080 resolution, the battery with the highest capacity in the line – 4500 mAh, a triple camera, a 32-megapixel front camera for selfie and fast 25 watt charge.
- Samsung Galaxy A80 ($800): this smartphone is interesting for its unusual engineering solution and is suitable for fans of all non-standard and experimental ones: this is a unique model on the market with a rotary camera module that unfolds when the user needs to switch to the front camera. This model with flagship characteristics (and at the same price): a 6.7" Super AMOLED screen with a 2400×1080 resolution, a dual camera module with 48 and 8 megapixel sensors, 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB drive suitable for storing video in 4K. A real gem for geeks.
I would like to end my modern smartphone technologies review with another quote from Jack Trout: “Companies do not create leaders – they are created by customers. The true leader in the category is the one they consider to be such”. Who will finish 2019 as a leader in the smartphone market depends only on us, buyers. Samsung made its move.