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S10 series not enough to light up Samsung’s diminishing star, experts say

Market share of the South Korean giant has been on a backslide for the past year

Samsung unveiled its S10 series in San Francisco, offering better cameras, vast memory and a 5G-enabled device. AFP
Samsung unveiled its S10 series in San Francisco, offering better cameras, vast memory and a 5G-enabled device. AFP

The latest Galaxy S10 series is unlikely to reverse the course for the world's largest smartphone maker Samsung, whose global market share has suffered a continuous decline over the past four quarters, according to market analysts.

Changes to the S10 smartphones are more "sophisticated" design tweaks, rather than "game-changing" technology, said Matthew Kendall, chief telecoms analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Changes “are likely to be well-received by consumers, in the form of an improved processor, fingerprint scanning technology and an improved camera … [but] they are unlikely to have a significant effect on shortening the smartphone replacement cycle”, Mr Kendall told The National.

Global market share of the South Korean company was 18.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2018, a drop from 23.4 per cent in the first quarter.

Samsung has faced stiff competition from the likes of Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo in recent years, steadily losing market share to the Chinese manufacturers, particularly in big markets such as India and China, Mr Kendall said.

Whether Samsung’s foldable and 5G-enabled smartphones, expected to launch in the second quarter, will be a turning-point remains to be seen, especially as other brands such as Huawei enter the 5G and foldable segment.

“Development of foldable and 5G-ready smartphone devices are likely to have the biggest potential impact on market saturation, although Samsung is not alone in its efforts to develop these technologies,” Mr Kendall said.

Samsung unveiled its S10 series in San Francisco last week, with better camera, larger memory, 5G-enabled and a foldable screen.

“S10 is important in the sense that it will feature some new technologies such as in-screen fingerprint sensor, but most likely it will not be a game-changer in terms of inducing a massive upgrade cycle,” said Annette Zimmerman, research director at American researcher Gartner.

Industry experts say the smartphone market has reached a point where vendors can only expect marginal, if any, growth in terms of shipments.

“That’s why Apple decided to stop reporting unit shipments. Either way, we are only expecting 1.5 to 3 per cent growth in the next five years in the smartphone market. We have reached a ceiling, especially in the super-premium segment,” she said.

Samsung’s high-end smartphones, the Galaxy S9, S9+ and Note 9, launched last year, struggled to drive growth in the fourth quarter of 2018. In the mid-tier consumer segment, Xiaomi and Huawei continued to gain more market share and, as a result, Samsung’s smartphone sales declined by 4.4 per cent in the fourth quarter, according to Gartner.

Samsung lost market share in Greater China, Western Europe and Latin America, which contributed to an overall 8.2 per cent fall in its global smartphone sales in 2018.

Samsung started focusing on its mid-range portfolio – A and J series – in 2018, but "they continue to get pressure from Chinese brands not only in emerging markets but also in mature markets like Western Europe,” Ms Zimmerman said. “Because of these competitive pressures, we are yet to see a turn around with this [current] strategy,” she said.

Updated: February 25, 2019 02:34 PM



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