I went to buy a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and AT&T shrugged

Was there excitement? Was the staff motivated to sell the phone? Not even the ones who had a Note 8.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Every time a new -- and supposedly important -- phone emerges, I get excited.

I want to go to a store, touch it, and play with it.

Most of all, I want to hear how the salespeople are selling it.

I like being sold to by a human being. And when it comes to phones, I've heard so many fascinating methods, tales, and even admissions over the years.

At the launch of the iPhone X, for example, a T-Mobile store told me it wasn't worth it.

So, what would happen when the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 came out on Friday?

Also: Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Everything you need to know

I swiftly went straight to an AT&T store -- I'm a customer -- to witness the excitement and, I imagined, listen to fine patter.

The First Surprise

The store was oddly empty.

However, I was greeted by a charming saleswoman, full of enthusiasm.

Natural enthusiasm, that is. Not enthusiasm for the Note 9.

Also: How and where to buy the Galaxy Note 9 CNET

"So, what's the difference between this and the Note 8?" I asked.

"Not much. Just the camera," she replied, with a shrug. "That's it. It's all about the depth in the picture, and this phone has the best camera of all."

"That's what people really care about?"

"You'd be surprised. They really care. The one problem is that when you have a Samsung phone, and you send your picture to an iPhone, it doesn't look so good."

Wait, people care about how their pixels are going to look when they send photos to friends?

It seems so.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Note 9: A cheat sheet TechRepublic

"I have an iPhone," the saleswoman continued. "All of my friends have iPhones, and none of us would switch because of what it would do to our pictures."

She was disarmingly frank, and this was a far better experience than my last in an AT&T store, at the launch of the Galaxy S9.

Still, I expected more enthusiasm about the Note 9. After all, when iPhone X came out, an AT&T salesman told me to buy a Note 8.

The Second Surprise

"The only other thing about the Note 9 is the S Pen," continued the saleswoman, with another shrug. "We have one in the back. People keep stealing them."

She brought out the S Pen, we tried to take a selfie together, as I used the S Pen to activate the camera.

She also showed me how you can hover the S Pen over words on the phone's screen to get instant translations -- to Polish, of course.

Still, though, she couldn't pretend that this was some sort of magical device.

She suggested that I wait for the new iPhones. These, apparently, will come out in September.

Also: New 2018 iPhone, iPhone X Plus, iPhone 9: Rumors and leaks

"We don't know which day, but the company's already stopped us from taking any vacation. If you have something booked, you can go. But if you don't, you have to be ready to work any day," she said.

The Third Surprise

Another salesman wandered over.

He'd clearly overheard our conversation and wanted to talk.

Why? He owned a Note 8 and loved it. Now I'd really get the hard sell.

"So, what do you think about this Note 9?" I asked.

"It's alright," he said.

What? That's the best you can do?

"Are you going to get one?" I asked.

"Not for that sort of money."

The Note 9 can cost $1,250, but this avowed Samsung lover wasn't sold. He accepted, somewhat grudgingly, that this was the best Note yet. He couldn't, though, muster anything close to excitement.

Also: The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a bargain at $1250. Here's why

Frankly, neither could Samsung when it first presented it.

What ensued next, though, was a debate between the saleswoman and the salesman about the merits of the rival ecosystems.

Both agreed that the other's phone was "too complicated."

For the iPhone-loving saleswoman: "With Samsung, there's all these extra apps and things. It's just too much. And too much of stuff I don't want."

For the Samsung-loving salesman: "iPhones are too complicated because they're too simple."

We both looked at him to wonder what he was talking about.

He explained: "It's like, I look at it, and I don't even know how to go back when I'm done with something."

Er, OK.

Both agreed, however, that Samsung was struggling a little.

"Samsung sent us T-shirts for the S9 launch," said the saleswoman. "We stood around in them and no one came."

The salesman tried to save brand face: "With the iPhones, it's just the marketing. Apple's better at marketing."

Also: Samsung makes Apple's Geniuses look like halfwits

Is that really true? Samsung has, in its time, had some excellent campaigns. Apple's, on the other hand, have largely been quite prosaic.

Somehow, though, there's more excitement about iPhones because Apple still manages to make the products themselves seem different. Or, at least, different enough -- especially of late.

There's a certain humor in how many Android phones are copying the iPhone X's notch. There's equal humor in how Samsung feels it has little to market, save for suggesting that Apple store employees are idiots.

I could have stood chatting to these two salespeople for a while. They were completely charming. I had other things to do, however.

"Maybe I'll see you in September," I said.

"We'll be here," said the saleswoman. "We didn't book vacation early enough."

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