Galaxy S9 flop - what went wrong and what's next for Samsung?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Galaxy S9 flop - what went wrong and what's next for Samsung?
The world’s largest smartphone vendor is also the only other key mobile industry player apart from Apple that’s been able to consistently make money over the past few years. But Samsung’s recent prosperity is largely connected with a thriving semiconductor business rather than strong Galaxy S9 or S8 sales.
 
Granted, the market as a whole is stagnating, and you could hardly call the iPhone X a runaway hit. Then again, considering the swift growth of companies like Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo, including in the Western high-end segment, simply blaming an OEM’s rut on the industry “climate”, trends, or longer upgrade cycles feels lazy.

How bad are things?


The short answer is not too bad. Not yet, and definitely not compared to other veterans, past leaders, and innovators. HTC’s smartphone division is practically dead and buried, Sony’s not doing too well either, while BlackBerry and Nokia are slowly coming back from the dead… in name only.


As far as the Galaxy S9 is concerned, unofficial estimates put shipment figures at around 10 million units for the year’s first quarter, and an extra 9 mln or so during the April – June 2018 quarter. If analysts are correct, Samsung could still add 12 million or so unit shipments this year on top of the current 19 million tally, ending up with over 30 mln by the time the S10 drops.

Once again, that’s a pretty solid figure. Sony, for instance, sold less than 15 million smartphones worldwide last year. HTC’s numbers are too laughable to even discuss. Huawei, which is clearly emerging as Samsung and Apple’s biggest threat, boasted 6 million P20/P20 Pro shipments last month, previously setting a target of around 10 mln in total.

Basically, the GS9 and S9+ are the most popular Android handsets in the world (by a landslide), although they can’t compare to the iPhone X, 8 and Plus. And that’s just one side of the problem. The other, more vexing concern has to be the negative trend of the Galaxy S family.

A short history lesson


Anyone here remember the Galaxy S3 (or rather the Galaxy S III)? Released in 2012, the Android Ice Cream Sandwich-based 4.8-incher looked nothing like its 4.3-inch predecessor, racking up a massive grand total of 50 million unit shipments. Back then, there was no second model to help either, and the following year’s Galaxy S4 did great business as well, reportedly hitting 40 million unit sales.


Things started (slowly) going downhill in 2014, although 2016’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge scored an estimated combined tally of 55 million units. It may feel weird that the radically redesigned Galaxy S8 and S8+ failed to connect at the same level as their forerunners, but perhaps the timing wasn’t right for the “Infinity Display” revolution.

What now?


Since the S8 didn’t exactly set the world on fire, it must have crossed the minds of some Samsung executives that the largely iterative Galaxy S9 would suffer the same fate. Or an even worse one. But that’s the problem with traditional upgrade schedules and “routine” releases. You have to do them, whether you actually have something to upgrade or not.
Don’t get me wrong, the S9 and especially the S9+ are great phones. But what exactly about them could have made a GS8 or even S7 owner instantly want them? And I mean desire them so badly that they would ignore the sky-high prices, unimpressive battery life, and impressive competition?
 
The point is the Galaxy S9 was probably doomed from the get-go. Ever since Samsung failed (again) to implement in-display fingerprint recognition technology, it should have become obvious for the company that there was nothing truly compelling about its latest flagship product.


The Dual Aperture cameras are phenomenal, but the Huawei P20 Pro has three phenomenal shooters. Everyone’s doing the Infinity Display dance, Bixby is a fiasco (cancel it already!), and clearly, there was plenty of room for a larger battery. If Samsung keeps going down this road, withholding features and key upgrades for no real reason (apart from releasing two flagships a year), this hole the company is entering will get bigger and bigger until it eventually swallows the chaebol whole.

BUT the good news is all those Galaxy S7 holdouts are likely to want something else soon. Something bigger, better, fresher, and “celebratorier.” Unfortunately for Samsung, the company may not have a fanbase as devoted as Apple yet.

In other words, assuming there are 10 or 15 million people in the world still owning a GS7 or S7 Edge, no one can guarantee they’ll instantly switch to the Galaxy S10 when they get the chance. Some of them could go with a five-camera Huawei P30 instead. Or perhaps one of those eccentric bezelless devices from Oppo or Vivo. Or even the iPhone X Plus. It all depends on how bitterly these folks have been disappointed by the Galaxy S9. And of course, how great the S10 will be. You can still turn this around, Samsung, but any additional misstep could badly hurt your prospects of dominating the mobile world going forward.

Related phones

Galaxy S9
  • Display 5.8 inches
    2960 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Single camera)
    8 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 4GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh
  • OS Android 10
    Samsung One UI
Galaxy S9+
  • Display 6.2 inches
    2960 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Dual camera)
    8 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 6GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 3500 mAh
  • OS Android 10
    Samsung One UI

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102 Comments

105. GoTstan

Posts: 386; Member since: Jul 25, 2015

Stop making the phone all glass. 16:9 aspect ratio is superior to 18:9

103. tokuzumi

Posts: 2026; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

I really like my S9. Works really well. Great screen, great camera. Fingerprint scanner ergonomics are a little weird compared to my Pixel, though. The main issue is two fold; One, we are at the point of diminishing returns. Phone performance isn't gaining as much speed as it used to. SD 845 isn't a night and day upgrade to the SD 835, or even the 821, except in game load times. Two, Chinese OEMs are stepping up their game with phone design. They have some amazing looking phones that are dirt cheap. Sure they may never get updates, and probably send all of your personal information to some remote server. But to get 80% of the phone for 40% of the price really makes you think twice about dropping $700+ on something that will be forgotten in 12 months.

102. taz_chaz

Posts: 135; Member since: Aug 29, 2014

wasnt a flop cuz it didnt sell as much as other galaxies...but maybe didnt appeal to sway people from s8 to s9 due to incremental upgrades..they r really good solid phones..maybe they holdin out for the s10..as for the design is the same but the again apple got the same design too..if aint broken dont fix it..and its a beautiful and ergonomic one..good tho samsung fixed their fps position on s9..

91. wesley.

Posts: 218; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

S9 and s9+ are too damn expensive.

88. galaxius

Posts: 82; Member since: Sep 06, 2014

Nothing wrong with sales This articles attacks Samsung directly with bs statistics and no proof While Apple is struggling to sell their iphones and ipads Its easy Just go to Gumtree and have a look See how many are trying to get rid of their X and ipads There is an overflow of Ipads in the market and probably iphones

100. midan

Posts: 3272; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

The proof just came officially from Samsung, but hey good try What you mean by Apple strugling their iPhones? Their iPhone sales are very good.

83. geordie8t1

Posts: 344; Member since: Nov 16, 2015

its like this, samsung has far to much competition from 100s of other brands who are pushing the limits to catch up in terms of sales, the iphone x was not a great phone but its an apple, it can be made of cheese and sell more then any android, samsung has the note series and the S series which are far to similar and only 6 months apart in release dates, selling prices are far to high, and with devices from many companies now shifting to a incremental updates, its not work the cost to update just for a slightly faster processor, or a tweaked camera and more storage, i would have bought the note 9, but at £900, its not worth upgrading from my note 8, so i will wait for s10 at the very least before upgrading

82. Loubielou

Posts: 603; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

When a phone supposed to new you expect a different design from the previous model,like the S8 look totally different from the S7 phones,but S9 phones just look identical to the S8 just with thinner bezels,but the Price difference was way to expensive for a lot of S8 users,so kept loyal to there phones instead of upgrading to the S9 phones,Samsung & Apple are now spoiling the Mobile Market with there phones getting more expensive every year,some regulations should have been brought in to stop Apple and Samsung over pricing Smartphones,2018 as been a year when consumers are staying loyal to there current phones instead of Breaking there Budgets,Why?have Samsung just Overpriced the Note 9,is this there plan to get there S9 phones sales up a little?

79. darkkjedii

Posts: 31805; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

iPhones and Galaxys are pretty much bullet proof, even when they sell bad, it’s good.

76. D34ever

Posts: 251; Member since: Jul 14, 2018

Nothing wrong with the S9, in my opinion. But if Samsung drops the price by a few hundred bucks, watch these puppies fly off the shelves.

77. midan

Posts: 3272; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

But they can't drop the price and that's the problem, they would have to stand out somehow from the other Android companies but it's impossible.

80. fyah_king unregistered

They do drop the price. Even, the iclown drop their prices.lol

74. bassembm

Posts: 143; Member since: Dec 27, 2015

So the writer want Samsung company to change its design every year .. however iphone stuck with its design from 2014 till now from iphone 6 to 8 ,, dumb logic. there is no company change its flagship design every year ,, 2 year cycle is cool enough .

78. midan

Posts: 3272; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

We are not talking about iPhone, people have to buy what Apple offers, it's not same thing at all, If you want to be competitive in Android world you have to do lot more because people can just buy something else, just like they are doing now.

73. PostmanLV

Posts: 44; Member since: Sep 11, 2012

Why the sales arguments, we all know no company will outsell Apple no matter what they put out. Those Apple people are cult like.

71. luis.aag90

Posts: 279; Member since: Aug 12, 2014

Times have changed. Competition is fiercer in Android with more OEMs being established each year. S9 family is no slouch in sales when considering they have gone up in price compared to previous flagships, the competition from Chinese OEMs selling for a couple hundreds less and Apple fans that would not switch to Android on a regular basis. Having said so, I'm all in for innovative products and look forward to what arrives next year. I'm not upgrading this year, I have a smooth and still capable phone.

67. midan

Posts: 3272; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

What went wrong? Well others are just selling too good devices a lot cheaper, Samsung can't change this situation. S10 won't change anything even Samsung fans thinks so. When S10 comes others already have impressive devices in the market with lot cheaper price tag. Samsung can't win because they can't lower their prices around $300. So they are pretty much screwed with their phones.

65. rkoforever90

Posts: 502; Member since: Dec 03, 2011

S7 edge is still a solid phone no need to upgrade those guys will who own will probably buy s10.meanwhile sales of Huawei p20 is impressive it's not much cheaper than s9 series and don't have the brand image but still doing great

62. srgonu

Posts: 574; Member since: Feb 13, 2012

S9 series are pretty good phones and tried to fix all the issues users complained on S8 series. Its just that loyal fans are waiting for anniversary S10. Samsung just don't do phone business, they can survive even if phones and laptops are irrelevant unlike other companies.

72. luis.aag90

Posts: 279; Member since: Aug 12, 2014

Yup, same as LG.

49. smoked_2na unregistered

I Samsung announced a NOTE with ( replaceable battery, sd card slot, headphone jack ) and ( no curved screen ) again, I'd be on it in a heartbeat.

66. rkoforever90

Posts: 502; Member since: Dec 03, 2011

Never going to happen just buy a note 4 refurbished flash a new custom Rom and add a new battery you are good to go

69. cmdacos

Posts: 4421; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Check 2014. Plenty of options there.

44. Medoogalaxy

Posts: 232; Member since: May 25, 2017

The wrong is your paid siteweb

41. redmd

Posts: 1965; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Is the smartphone market reached its saturation? I mean there are less sales probably because people are holding on to their phones much longer because still functional and gets the job done. Also new phones don't bring much to the table to warrant purchase on a new device with small incremental upgrades.

39. redmd

Posts: 1965; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Samsung should make the S10 exciting. Increase the battery capacity and screen size. Note everyone needs the bezels to dissappear.

35. poopypants78

Posts: 32; Member since: Jul 13, 2017

As long as Samsung keeps TouchWiz around i'll always enjoy the thought of its imminent demise. All of Samsung's phones feel bipolar in nature with fecal matter copies of everything Android does natively.

68. cmdacos

Posts: 4421; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Well touchwiz has been gone for over two years and There is more google bloat than samsung bloat.

30. Elvis358

Posts: 302; Member since: Mar 25, 2018

Well it wasn't the best update frome the previous galaxy s8.

28. checkmymike

Posts: 224; Member since: Dec 28, 2011

So selling 30 million s9 phones is a flop?! Writer needs to be prayed over!

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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