The demand hurdles and expectations that Samsung's Galaxy 10 launch will have to clear may border on absurd to with heavy dose of impossible. The mission: Save the smartphone sector and give us something interesting.
When Apple and Samsung both issue revenue warnings for their upcoming results citing China and a broader demand slowdown it's obvious that the Galaxy S10 launch is going to have some pressure applied.
Simply put, this foldable demo-phone-what-is-it thing better be good. We'll find out soon enough given that Samsung tweeted that its Unpacked event would happen February 20. Mirae Asset Daewoo analyst Wonjae Park noted that Samsung's fourth quarter was torpedoed by the chip unit, but "we think sales of the Galaxy S9, Galaxy Note 9, and low/mid-end models were all weaker than anticipated."
Consider the current state of the smartphone industry:
- Apple cuts its revenue guidance over weaker-than-expected iPhone upgrades.
- Samsung warns its quarter stinks too then teases a 5G phone and prototype.
- Everyone talks 5G at CES 2019, but AT&T goes out on a limb with 5GE (umm 4G basically) and gets mocked by T-Mobile. 5G hype is bad enough without having to worry about faux 5G.
- If Apple and Samsung are hurting the rest of the Android field can't be doing well. Enter the race to the bottom.
- On the bright side, you can at least get a deal or two on iPhones. Sales on everything else on deck.
- But there's an entire Osborne effect vibe to the smartphone industry. We all know better tech is coming so preannouncing anything will just make us wait.
When you add it up Samsung's challenge is giving us a reason not to hit the snooze bar on the smartphone industry until Apple's iPhone launch or when this 5G goes from vaporware to reality.
Naturally, Samsung has a few more challenges with the Galaxy S10 launch. Here are a few:
- Balancing the Galaxy S10 launch, teasing a foldable phone, 5G devices and the Note 10. Samsung hinted at a foldable screen device, but can it tease such a development and expect anyone to want a Galaxy S10. What about waiting for the Note 10? What about waiting for 5G capability not faux 5GE or whatever the wireless carrier marketing people are pitching? There are more reasons for a tech buyer to stall than ever.
- Pricing. Guess what? I'm willing to bet that Samsung's Note 9 and Apple's iPhone XS, XR lineup hit the ceiling on smartphone prices. Samsung will have to keep pricing competitive or at least in line with what demand dictates today while innovating. A $1,800 foldable phone may just elicit the sounds of crickets chirping.
- Innovation that matters. We're in the age of incremental in smartphones and when there are no carrier subsidies you can expect tech buyers to extend those upgrade cycles. Add it up and it is harder than ever to show us something that sparks gadget lust.
- The broader economy and the urge to tune out overall. The stock market is volatile, the economy is strong, but may hit a pothole and consumers may become cautious. Pricey phones are going to be a tough sell. Meanwhile, there's a fatigue factor setting in with the screens in our lives.
- Software. Samsung needs to simplify its UI, grow services and offer something unique when many Android competitors are going pure Google Android. Samsung's kitchen sink approach to software may hamper the Galaxy S10 reception.