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

June 19, 2013
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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.

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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?

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