Samsung still struggles with tablet market growth in the U.S. market, but why?

by: Andrew GrushJune 19, 2013

Samsung Logo aa 600px 2

When it comes to the smartphone and tablet world, Samsung is easily one of the most recognizable brands. In many markets Samsung leads the pack, especially when it comes to smartphones. Things are a little different in the United States, however.

According to ComScore, Samsung is currently the second most powerful smartphone presence in the United States with 22% of the market under its belt. The Korean giant clearly enjoys an impressive amount of sales, and is second only to Apple in terms of smartphone market penetration.

Where Samsung doesn’t shine so bright in the U.S. is in the tablet space.

Strategy Analytics reports that globally Samsung reached 18.9 percent control of the tablet market in the period ending in March, which is a massive jump over the 7.6 percent they held during the same timeframe back in 2012.

Most of this growth is thanks to Samsung’s extreme popularity in markets such as South America and Eastern Europe. The later of these sees Samsung with 33 percent of the tablet.

Meanwhile, Samsung tablet growth is much slower in the United States.

In a Korea Times report, an unnamed Samsung source states that Samsung’s tablet marketshare in the United States is “hovering around 13 percent, well below Apple’s 50 percent. Our technicians and management are now trying to come up with a different approach”.

With Samsung growing rapidly in just about every other global market, what gives?

What’s holding Samsung back in the U.S. Market?

Probably one of the most obvious reasons for Samsung’s tablet struggles in the United States is that this is Apple’s home turf, and Apple enjoys a fiercely loyal following in the North American market.

Being honest though, let’s look at Samsung’s tablet offerings. What you’ll see is devices with reasonable features and functionality, but you will also see retail prices that are equal to Apple’s iPad and iPad Mini. The only major exception to this is the Nexus 10, which is just $399 for the 16GB model.

Samsung’s devices might be slightly more powerful than Apple’s in some ways, but pricing is a real problem. This is because there are primarily two type of U.S. Tablet buyers: Those that want an iPad. And those that want a solid tablet experience, at a discount price.

Sure, there are those of us Android users that specifically go after Android tablets regardless of the price, but we are arguably a minority here.

The non-Apple tablets that have made the biggest market impact are devices like the Google Nexus line and the Kindle Fire. These are products that are both capable and highly affordable.

Amazon and Google’s tablets reach rock-bottom prices by creating great products but only giving the features that are really needed – without all the extra fluff. They also are able to compete because they make most of their money back on services, not hardware.

Samsung is right to be interested in changing its tablet approach if it wants to dramatically expand its marketshare in the North American market. As industry sources speaking to Korea Times note, Samsung tends to focus its marketing on hardware prowess, which is something many Americans just don’t care about.

samsung galaxy tab 3 7.0 gold brown

What Samsung needs to do differently

I might personally be drooling over devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 with its Intel processor, but most folks really have no idea what the difference is between an x86 processor and a ARM device.

The average consumer wants to check their Facebook, Twitter and G+. They want to play Angry Birds and Temple Run. As long as the tablet handles that and is affordable, that’s all these users are really looking for.

To succeed, Samsung needs to find a way to cut out unnecessary (read: expensive) features that mean nothing to John Q. Public. They also need to focus on lowering the pricing, instead of charging premium prices on their devices.

Samsung also needs to consider if its own special “features” like TouchWiz and its custom alternatives to Google apps are helping their image, or hurting it. Samsung seems to fight against Google’s ecosystem, instead of promoting it, and this could be something that could potentially detract interest from some tablet buyers.

Ultimately Samsung has been one of the most valuable players in the Android space, and one of the keys to Android’s global success so far. That said, if the Korean firm really wants to take things to the next level in the North American market, they need to refocus their direction in the tablet space.

What do you think, what could Samsung do differently with its tablets to better promote them in the North American market? Conversely, do you feel that Samsung’s existing tablet line-up is perfect the way it is?

  • Jusephe

    Well I think an iPad mini with a retina display could totally kill samsung and others, but the irony is that samsung will probably make that “mini retina” for Apple.

  • satsmine2k4

    Samsung has NOT produced a HIGH END TABLET except the NEXUS 10… So am not surprised with the lack of sales…

    • kascollet

      Totally right.
      This article is strangely biased.
      “Samsung’s devices might be more powerful than Apple’s but pricing is a real problem.”
      “Samsung needs to find a way to cut out unnecessary (read: expensive) features that make nerd mouth’s water.”

      What exactly is mouthwatering in all the Tab/Note line ? The old SoCs ? The low-res screens ? The so-so battery life ? The plastic design ? The overall thinness/weight ?

      Come on. Samsung has a notable hardware retard to fill if they want to be competitive in the high-end/high-margin department.

      • Cal Rankin

        Hell, I bought my Galaxy Tab because it was so cheap. I got mine for $180, which is almost half the price of an iPad Mini! It does everything great for having such low-end specs. The screen is bright and does its job very well, and I was actually very surprised to look at the specs and see that the resolution was so low. The only real hitches I have with mine are the processor (pretty zippy, but a dual-core TI-OMAP is certainly not blazing). However, Samsung, at least on the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, packed in value. I also got the full Polaris Office, and a very minimal Touchwiz experience (very close to looking like stock Jelly Bean!!)

  • michael sanchez

    Who really like touch wiz really. Its bloated and slows everything down. Until Samsung gets rid of it I know I won’t buy tablets or phones.

  • chanman

    What average consumer likes to check their G+?

    • mumusen

      that’s what i was wondering

  • EvenInTheDarkestHour

    I love my N10. Other than that, it seems as though Samsung just dosen’t match with what a premium tablet should be. Flimsy, creaky, builds with poor resolution displays, at a higher than expected price point, and painfully few accessories. Hard to compete with the marketing juggernaut that is Apple.

    • Piyath Alawatte

      ipads are too heavy and bulky. and that is not the primium feel. it is called the heaviness..

      • kascollet

        There is a 49g difference between an iPad 4 and a Nexus 10. 652 vs 603. Less than 10%.
        And the iPad has a metallic casing + a much bigger battery, and it’s a quite old design that will be deeply refreshed soon.

  • ThatDudeKee

    Because they are targeting Apple’s fan base. All there phones and tablets have that one central button, like the iphone family. Don’t mimic because the people who don’t want an ipad look alike will avoid your devices. My next tablet will probably be the Acer A1 810. (No physical buttons) nice clean look.

    • kascollet

      Are you really deciding on witch device to spend hundreds of bucks depending on the absence of physical button ???

      • Jesslyn Hendrix

        Sadly, that button was the last straw. I have two tablets that I use everyday and a Note 2.

        I think the Note 8 looks like a big phone and is HIDEOUS in white. I don’t want a tablet with a button on the face, put it back on the top/side since a 8″ tablet begs to be used in landscape.

        Also, what is up with their horrible resolution? I paid the money for a Kindle Fire 8.9–once used, you can’t go back to watching video on lesser resolutions. No matter how horrible their UI is.

        I also have a Galaxy Tab 8.9. Even without a SD card slot, Samsung isn’t giving me any reason to update and I got the Tab in 11/2011. Its a bit faster? Big whoop. I got my 4.x update and that will hold me for awhile. I may end up being like the diehard Gingerbread users still showing up in Android statistics.

        My Tab still works as good as the day that I got it, plus I bought a wicked awesome keyboard dock while the new stuff has crap for accessories.

        Last, decide how you want your stuff branded. Use Tab for non-pen and Note for pen devices, but you need to find a way to combine the S phones with the Tab line.

        • carlisimo

          I thought the low resolution was because of the digitizer.

          • Joshua Hill

            Nope. Pretty much all of Samsung’s tablet range come with low res screens even those without a stylus/pen.

  • olbp

    The ONLY real barrier for Samsung is high price. They have not been able to produce a truly high quality, high-end tablet that is reasonably priced. Even their Nexus 10, their “best effort” so far, is lacking.

    The same goes for their accessories. RIDICULOUS prices, low quality.

  • AndresQuintana

    Their problem is they don’t have a tablet flagship like they do with phones the Galaxy S4 bam you know what it is you know the specs while when it comes to tablets you have Galaxy Tab, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 & 8.9 that is a horrible either leave the screen size out of it or use it as the title Galaxy 8 Tablet or Galaxy 10. Their next problem is the specs on these tablets 3x the battery life of their flagship phone with the same processor if not stronger once they do that which I feel they will in the next year or so they’ll start dominating the tablet market as well.

  • RaptorOO7

    Let’s see, low end displays (although a 7-8″ tablet is higher res than an iPad mini) 16GB only WiFi models, microSD is nice but you can’t put apps on it and flash is cheap.

    They need to step up and support a solid product cycle and get the WiFi and Carrier models out at the same time like another company does.

  • Dustin Pelc

    I agree with the specs and pricing problems 100%, but another problem, as far as cellular models go, are the carriers. Let’s take the Note 8 for instance. Sure, the specs could be higher, but the biggest advantage of buying an international model over a US Carrier model is that the hardware is UNALTERED! I realize that some people don’t appreciate the use of a tablet as a fully-fledged phone, but when the LTE model arrives on AT&T this weekend, it will not have an earpiece, which (obviously) the US carriers went out of their way to tell Samsung to remove the phone feature, because they would still rather charge a user for two separate devices, rather than a single all-in-one device… socialism at its best!

  • Joshua Hill

    I hope the author is reading the comments because like most of the other commenter’s I think the author got this one a wee bit wrong.

    If tablets were subsidised more readily in the same manner as smartphones Samsung would have a lot more sales. I’ve never paid a cent upfront for a smartphone but with tablets the vast majority of options require upfront payment in full. As well as price, mid-range hardware, e.t.c I think the upfront cost is the biggest hindrance to sales.

  • z0phi3l

    Very simply in my view too many people THINK the iPad is the benchmark for tablets and go from there, and when weighed like that then your choice is obvious. When looked at objectively, the ONLY thing the iPad has going for it is the Apple name and possibly looks, otherwise Android tablets are just better, too bad the masses go based on anything but subjectivity

    • kascollet

      Man, you need to get some facts about tablets :-D
      Ever heard about battery life, GPU power, screen resolution, quality of apps, cloud services ?
      Seriously. Was this a joke ?

  • Jimmy Le

    Although Samsung may incorporate a lot goodies into their software, their screen displays are still crappy as ever.

  • Anirudh

    The magnetic active cover for ipad steals the show. :P