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The Galaxy S23 needs to better compete with the Pixel 7
Samsung is still the top premium brand in the Android smartphone space, with the company dominating the $400 and higher Android phone segment according to Counterpoint Research. This is at least partially due to the flagship Galaxy S series, and we can see why they’re so popular.
Samsung’s premium phones are available in almost every market, offer a respectable spec sheet, and come with the best update pledge in the entire Android phone landscape. The Galaxy S lineup is effectively the face of Android in many countries.
Now, the company is readying the Galaxy S23 series for launch, and it’s clear that the base Galaxy S23 model will need to take the fight to the Pixel 7. Sure, Google isn’t remotely a threat to Samsung globally or in any one market, but the Pixel 7 suggests a sleeping giant may have woken.
Why get an $800 Galaxy S23 when there’s a $600 Pixel 7?
Upon its release in 2021, the Galaxy S21 was considered a good deal for $800, especially considering the previous-generation Galaxy S20 launched for an eye-watering $1,000 in 2020. The S21 didn’t have the fastest charging speeds, biggest battery, or sharpest screen compared to rivals like the Xiaomi Mi 11 and OnePlus 9, but it still offered premium features like wireless charging and water-resistance — a rarity for affordable Chinese rivals.
Later in 2021, the Pixel 6 shook things up in a major way, undercutting the Galaxy S21 by $200. For just $600, you got a long commitment to updates, a top-notch main camera, a respectable level of power, a bigger battery, and premium extras like wireless charging and water resistance. The Pixel 6 was far from perfect though, owing to well-documented connectivity woes, loads of bugs at launch, and a very small list of supported markets. But it established the base from which the Pixel 7 would emerge.
The Pixel 6 challenged the Galaxy S21, but it's the Pixel 7 that cemented Google's more interesting proposition.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” seemed to be Google’s approach for the Pixel 7. The search company maintained the same $600 price tag compared to the $800 Galaxy S22 for starters. But Google also addressed the Pixel 6’s pain points, such as tons of bugs and connectivity issues. The company also expanded to three new markets, while returning to India for the first time since 2018. Toss in well-received features like smart call functionality, offline voice typing, many extra camera options, and plenty of Pixel-only features, and it’s no wonder the Pixel 7 was a runner-up for our Best of 2022 award (behind the bigger Pixel 7 Pro).
It’s worth reiterating that Google is still a ridiculously long way behind Samsung when it comes to global and regional shipment figures, as well as market share in the premium segment. In fact, Google doesn’t even crack the top five globally. Pixels certainly won’t close the gap to Samsung flagship phones anytime soon.
Google might not be a threat to Samsung, but the Pixel line earned plenty of critical praise for its value proposition.
It’s also fair to say that Google and Samsung’s pricing strategies aren’t exactly apples-to-apples comparisons. Both companies offer pre-order promotions (including bundled gadgets and free store credit) and frequent discounts throughout their phones’ lifespan. But Samsung often beats Google thanks to more generous trade-in offers that greatly soften the blow of buying a new phone. Samsung also enjoys a tight relationship with carriers around the world, resulting in major discounts and other promotions via these avenues.
Nevertheless, it’s clear Google is gaining some momentum in the smartphone space after years in the doldrums. The company accounted for a 2% share in North America in Q2 2022, prior to the launch of the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7 series. This actually represents 230% yearly growth compared to 2021. Granted, companies growing from a low base always post impressive growth figures, but it still showcases the Pixel maker’s progress after years of a scattershot strategy.
What Samsung needs to do
Cutting the cost of the Galaxy S23 should be a top priority for Samsung if it wants to nip the admittedly small threat from Google in the bud — at least in the media perception game.
Samsung doesn’t necessarily need to match the Pixel 7, but even a $700 starting point would be a sensible starting point, even if means fewer pre-order benefits and bundle offers. After all, the Galaxy S23 is poised to offer expensive features like a more powerful chipset, 120Hz screen, and a telephoto camera. These extras are an easier sell for $100 more, but not so much at a $200 difference.
Do you think Samsung should cut the S23's price?
Samsung could also theoretically go even lower with its base Galaxy S phone. In saying so, the company would likely have to reduce its profit margin or make a few cutbacks if it wanted to preserve this margin. Then again, the base Galaxy phone doesn’t leave much room for compromises in light of the FHD+ screen, small battery, and relatively slow charging speeds. But a plastic back, 90Hz refresh rate, and/or a reused camera system might be a small price to pay for a $600 Galaxy S phone.
There’s clearly no doubt that the Galaxy S23 will out-sell the Pixel 7 in short order. However, Google has been showing more grit in the last two years and is proposing an alternative path for Android users: less talk about specs and more focus on a coherent hardware-plus-software experience. And this strategy has earned it a lot of goodwill from media and users alike. Samsung can’t afford to rest on its laurels simply because it’s been the top dog in the Android flagship world for a few years.