With the recent observation that, despite sales upwards of 20 million, Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S4 is not quite living up to the investors’ high sales expectations, the company has taken steps to diversify its smartphone portfolio outside the clear boundaries of entry-level, mid-range and high-end.
Recently launching three additional models of the Galaxy S4, including the camera-centric Zoom, the waterproof Active and the diminutive Mini, Samsung has decided it’s better to diversify with a portfolio of similar products under one umbrella than focus its attention, like Apple does, on a single hero product every year.
Rumours point to Samsung making a similar decision with its Galaxy Note 3 product. While it’s not yet known whether these four variants, which are based on model number listings found on Samsung’s own website, will be dramatically different from one another, it speaks to the company’s internal struggle to throw everything at the market to see what sticks.
What’s interesting is that the Galaxy series began in a similar fashion, with individual and unique designs destined for each U.S. (and their aligning Canadian) carrier. By the time the Galaxy S3 was released in 2012, though, Samsung decided to be more like Apple and release a single identical-looking model across all markets, differentiating only by processor type and chassis colour.
Though the situation is largely the same in 2013, with a single design permeating all countries and carriers, the company’s divergence from a single marketing strategy — and its assumption that the Galaxy brand itself is strong enough to bear the weight of multiple products, designs and variants — could be interpreted as an act of desperation.
There is a growing concern among telecom analysts and journalists that the high-end smartphone market, which the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note series represent for Samsung, is becoming saturated, leaving less space for users to differentiate one device from another. Though the Galaxy S4 was a significant upgrade from its predecessor, both in terms of internal hardware specs and external design, the Galaxy S3 is still a high-performing, modern-looking device. Users are becoming less incentivized to update their smartphones every year because a high-end phone from 2012 is still more than capable in 2013.
If Samsung does decide to launch the Galaxy Note 3 in a number of variants and prices, it will be hard to differentiate them in North America, in which consumers rely on signing long-term contracts in exchange for a highly-subsidized phone. As a result, there is very little room in the U.S. and Canadian markets for a mid-range tier, as high-end devices are quickly discounted to under $100, and in Canada often $0, to push extant inventory. Why would someone purchase a Galaxy S4 mini on contract, for example, when the more powerful Galaxy S3 can be purchased for the same or less?
The Galaxy Note series has given Samsung a platform to launch not only physically larger smartphones but ones that are significantly more expensive. It’s difficult to know how Samsung intends to market multiple Note 3 variants (if they exist at all) without risking the premium nature of its brand.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is expected to launch in September with a 5.7-inch 1080p display, a 2.3Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 3GB RAM, 16GB internal storage and a 3500mAh battery.