Samsung is losing the mid-range battle

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Samsung is losing the mid-range battle
Samsung, the company that emerged to replace Nokia as the world's biggest phone maker in the years after Nokia's spectacularly quick fall from glory, is in trouble.

Its flagship phones, the ones that bring it the most money, have seen slower sales this year, but now, at the end of 2018, one other thing is becoming clear too: Samsung is losing the mid-range battle.

The data has been piling up over the last few quarters, but it really peaked towards the end of 2018.

The current situation: a downward trend or a downward spiral?


Samsung unit sales have taken a hit in 2018

Samsung unit sales have taken a hit in 2018


You don't need to trust us to know Samsung is slowly losing its grip on the market. Since Samsung does not provide official sales data, we rely on analysis by IDC and other companies which agree that Samsung smartphone shipments are going down steadily after a peak in the third quarter of 2017 (that's when Samsung released the Note 8). And while in the beginning of 2018, Samsung itself confirmed that it is seeing slower sales of the new Galaxy S9 series, toward the middle and the end of the year, it's clear that sales are not great for the mid-range as well. Here is what IDC says about the most recent Samsung quarter:


The problem is two-fold: on one hand, it is the incredible competition that comes from companies like OnePlus, but also Xiaomi, Honor, and quite a few others that are ready to sell a phone with the same flagship processor as the most expensive Galaxies for half the price. Then, on the other hand, Samsung itself is to blame: the mid-range A series of 2018 are phones that are utterly and completely lacking excitement. The few provocative features that Samsung brought to the A series this year, like the four rear cameras on the Galaxy A9 2018, have turned out to be a complete disaster in terms of quality.

The A series vs OnePlus and Pocophone


See, the A series actually did look interesting, even if a bit overpriced, last year, with a sleek glass design and water-proofing that other phones in that class then lacked, but what Samsung has done this year is strip the A series off the waterproofing feature, while at the same time failing to deliver much novelty. At the same time, the aforementioned OnePlus and Xiaomi continue making phones with the flagship Snapdragon 845 chip at prices lower than Samsung mid-rangers, yet with hardware that much surpasses them.

Just take a look at this brief comparison and notice how the Pocophone F1 is cheaper yet offers so much more:

Galaxy A8
Pocophone F1
Galaxy A8 Pocophone F1


Admittedly, the Pocophone F1 is not a smartphone that happens every year and is the result of an aggressive push by Xiaomi to conquer Western markets with an extremely affordably priced phone. But what about the rest, like the OnePlus 6T, Honor 10, and various other phones out there?

Well, again, those phones are way ahead of the Samsung mid-range.

Specs don't tell the whole story, but they are indicative of Samsung failing to catch up:

Galaxy A9
OnePlus 6T
Galaxy A9 OnePlus 6T


Once again, you can see that Samsung does not seem to have an answer for the more powerful OnePlus with its newer software and far superior cameras.
And it's not just about the specs. Here is an example: while even the cheapest, $100 phones of this year come with the trendy new gesture navigation and meaningful improvements in either battery life, camera quality, or both, Samsung has not offered such a feature on its phones. At all! The gesture navigation has not even officially arrived on the flagships, let alone other Samsung phones!

Of course, gesture navigation is not the one thing to bring Samsung down. It's actually a complex of things that Samsung has failed to provide and that users have recognized in other phones. The other well-known issue with Samsung's mid-range phones is the update situation. Samsung has never been great with software updates, even for the flagship phones, but when it comes to updates for mid-rangers, those basically never materialize. With phones that are not exciting and no updates in sight, you are looking at a rather poor investment of money with a mid-ranger.


Adding insult to injury is the growing group of Android One phones in 2018. Those devices include the Nokia 6.1, Nokia 7.1, Xiaomi's Mi A2 and other phones that come with a clean, bloatware-free version of Android, but also, with the promise of updates. Samsung has not had an answer for that, nor has it expressed willingness to participate in the Android One program.


The way forward


Samsung needs to focus on getting the fundamentals right, and sometimes that means one good camera is better than four with poor performance

Samsung needs to focus on getting the fundamentals right, and sometimes that means one good camera is better than four with poor performance


So... is this the end for Samsung?

No, of course not. A company the size and scale of Samsung certainly has the resources to bounce back from a few unsuccessful devices and get back on track. Plus, it's still the number one phone maker globally, despite slowing sales.

What we want to see is a focus back on the fundamentals. Samsung has proven that it can bring great-looking Super AMOLED screens to even its mid-range phones, but it seems to forget that things like speed actually matter a lot to users too. Things like the quality and not the quantity of cameras. Things like guaranteed updates so users know their phone will still run well in a one, two, three-year period.

And yes, at the same time, it has to differentiate its flagships as that is the company's big money-maker, but do it in a much smarter way than it does now. The new generation of smartphones has proven that users can easily spot a great device, even if it comes from a brand that they have not heard of (take OnePlus, Honor and Pocophone as exapmles). And we are certain that Samsung can make a great device to rival all of these. It just needs to want to.

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62 Comments

1. Kuroki

Posts: 183; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

Of coarse they are losing. Who's stupid enough to buy a mid-ranged phone with a flagship price?

8. Tsepz_GP

Posts: 1134; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Absolutely agreed. Question, did Samsung EVER have the Mid range segment with good devices? I personally have never looked lower than a Galaxy S device as none of Samsungs mid rangers ever really looked enticing enough, especially a few years ago, many of them lagged from day 1 and always had many shortcomings. When you went Samsung you always had to go High End or forget them.

16. Kuroki

Posts: 183; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

The samsung a9 looked promising until they slapped a 599 euro price tag on it lol

40. luis.aag90

Posts: 272; Member since: Aug 12, 2014

The first J7 and the A series from last year were decent. Those A series were water resistant ,had USB C, glass and aluminum design and average cameras. My mom's A7 2017 hasn't slowed down yet, but it was a little bit overpriced, she could get a regular S7 for almost the same price back then.

33. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Apple user do it all the time. But which Samsung midaranger cost flagship price? Because Damsung doesn't have a $750 midranger

52. cocoy

Posts: 455; Member since: Oct 30, 2015

Exactly, the very reason why I don't want to get one even though they have flat screens. They should use at least the last year flagship SoC for midrange phones to make it more competitive.

58. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

You think $550 is flagship price? Did you even looked at the prices? This isnt Apple dude. The XR has less specs than the A9 and look what the A9 costs. Uts $200 less than the XR.

2. Peaceboy

Posts: 640; Member since: Oct 11, 2018

No wonder, their phones are totally crap. Its not just mid range, even their high end is losing very hard. Who would pay for $1000 android device? Only geeks and nerds who thought their handset is cheaper than iphones because it has 1gb storage and more ram and battery which lasted just a day just like an iphone. They don’t consider, software and hardware integration, ecosystem, after sales support, premium quality, and optimized apps.

7. Farcaster

Posts: 152; Member since: Apr 16, 2018

And you think it's reasonable to pay $1000 for an iPhone?

12. JCASS889

Posts: 462; Member since: May 18, 2018

no phone, no matter the brand is worth 1000$

14. sissy246

Posts: 7000; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

It is not only Samsung in trouble to all these up come manufacturers. But yes, Samsung needs to step it up on their mid range phones and stop cheaping out on them.

26. cmdacos

Posts: 3871; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Actually seems smarter if you pay 1000 for a phone that is just as premium but has far more functionality and features then an iPhone

3. midan

Posts: 2574; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Samsung biggest problem is that they have same android than everyone else too, that's why they can't keep their prices as high as they now do and also they can't lower their prices so that's why this happens and they can't recover from this, it's only getting worse next year. Samsung is losing high-end and mid-end markets. Huawei is getting bigger, xiaomi is getting bigger, oneplus is getting bigger, all these are stealing Samsung sales because of the price.

27. cmdacos

Posts: 3871; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Samsung's version of Android isn't the same as others though.

30. midan

Posts: 2574; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

It's more or less the same. That's why people are now buying cheaper options.

34. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Iys not more or less the same. No more than us is more or less the same as it was in 2007. But here is a fact. Today's Gakazy S9 does far and away more then it did in 2011. But today's iPhone does not do a whole lot more then it did in 2007.

37. apple-rulz

Posts: 1896; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

Where can I buy a Gakazy S9?

44. midan

Posts: 2574; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

He's really have to see doctor, he is having massive meltdown because of this news, something clearly happened in his brain, seriously look his comments in this article.

54. cocoy

Posts: 455; Member since: Oct 30, 2015

Only some dedicated apps like Knox and secure folder, and gala y watch integration and those apps specific for note line and tablets with stylus. Update wise - too slow compared to well-known companies in android ecosystem. The rest of the apps are the same especially if it's offered from play store. So if you don't use any of those I mentioned better get a device from other brands.

4. sleepypandaeyes

Posts: 356; Member since: Apr 12, 2015

I'm a Samsung fan but they have no one to blame but themselves. They charge a premium for a midrange phone and cripple the phone in specific areas such as average processors, terrible cameras (doesn't have to be flagship level, but at least takes better then below average photo, no ois etc). The latest A phones have seen a regression back to micro USB, removal of fast charging and Ip68 certification and Samsung wonder why their midrange is failing?. Its just another example of Samsung crippling features on their non flagships. Look at offerings from One plus, honors budget lines and Nokia which manage to offer competitive phones cheaper. Anything from Samsung has to be better at what they offer at a competitive rate.

5. Furkan

Posts: 552; Member since: Feb 25, 2017

Same mistake as Apple does

38. AmashAziz

Posts: 2887; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Apple does it deliberately because it's already earning 60+% profits of the whole smartphone industry....

51. sleepypandaeyes

Posts: 356; Member since: Apr 12, 2015

Apple can afford to hike up prices as they have always set themselves as a premium phone company. Combined with the fact that IOS has no other IOS competitors and have built a very solid eco system which for the casual consumer, might find hard to leave for one reason or the other.

57. rouyal

Posts: 1567; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

Actually I think it’s around 90%

59. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

What mistake? Apple is selling a medranged phone for $750 vd the A9 2018 at $550. And the A9 is spec'd better. Where Samsung is losing is in China and India mostly. Asians usually try to use homegrown brands. But China never really had a good option and thus the iPhone was a big deal. Not anymore. Because now China has phones better than the iPhone and Galaxy for less money. Price I dont think is all Samsung issue. People do look at value for price too. Having the latest hardware for less or even equal costs, and most will surely take what is newest and more up to date. If Samsung would just reduce it models to just J, A, S and Note, them they could release phone with the latest Androud software with the latest SD or Exynis and flood the market with them. They would have to spend less money on so much overhead from so many models. All you need is those and the duos versions of other country's. Apple has one phone model. Samsung all you need is Galaxy.

6. OneLove123

Posts: 841; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Sold 72mil. I think that's pretty good. It's not like they sold half from last year.

11. midan

Posts: 2574; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

last two q they lost combined 19 million of sales, quite significant for a company who's sales never been down more than few millions.

41. luis.aag90

Posts: 272; Member since: Aug 12, 2014

That's correct, but as a big company they more expenses than most of it's competitors, especially in overhead and marketing. Sales numbers are only half of the story

9. Elvis358

Posts: 203; Member since: Mar 25, 2018

Yeah they're mid-range smartphons suck!

10. Whitedot

Posts: 720; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Spot on: "Samsung needs to focus on getting the fundamentals right, and sometimes that means one good camera is better than four with poor performance". "Samsung has never been great with software updates" Samsung lives in the magic bubble that somehow skews reality that's why their keep on manufacturing at best average money for value phones. It is not enough these days .Mid range phone arena is a blood battle.

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