Samsung just released its earnings guidance for the second quarter of 2018. The exact numbers could change slightly when the final results come out later this month, but the company expects profits of 14.8 trillion won (about $13.2 billion). This is down from 15.64 trillion won (about $14 billion) in the last quarter. This ends a run of four consecutive record-breaking quarters.
Much of the recent run of profits have been down to the company’s strong memory chip sales. This has covered up what can only be called a slump in sales of its recent flagship smartphones. According to an analyst cited in The Wall Street Journal, Samsung is expected to sell around 31 million Galaxy S9 devices in 2018. This is a huge drop from the 50 million Galaxy S7 phones that Samsung reportedly sold just two years ago.
While any company making that kind of profit is unlikely to be truly desperate for anything, Samsung must be concerned about the downward sales trends of its flagships.
There are many potential reasons for the reduction in sales, with a slowing smartphone market and increasing competition being two of them. However, it’s hard to look at the similarities between Samsung’s recent devices and not think that this could also be affecting sales.
The Galaxy S9 is a great phone, but…
While the Galaxy S9 is a great phone, it looks almost exactly the same as the Galaxy S8. There are slight improvements on the S9, of course: the camera has dual-aperture, it has a newer Snapdragon or Exynos processor, and Samsung made some software additions such as AR Emoji. However, the S8 and S9 are undoubtedly very similar devices.
With the upcoming Galaxy Note 9, Samsung will once again be going for slight improvements. While nothing about the Galaxy Note 9 has been officially confirmed, all the leaks and rumors we have seen so far points to a device that looks almost exactly the same as the Galaxy Note 8.
Considering the Galaxy Note 8 looks almost the same as the Galaxy S8 Plus and, therefore, the Galaxy S9 Plus, it’s looking like Samsung may be about to release its fourth device in a row with basically the same design. The anticipated larger battery, potential for a version with more RAM and storage, and some fancy new S Pen features are unlikely to be enough to have consumers rushing to the shops to upgrade.
The similarity between Samsung’s recent phones becomes even more apparent when you look at what some other manufacturers have come up with recently. We have seen phones with triple cameras, the notch trend, gaming phones, in-display fingerprint sensors, devices with two screens and, most recently, more than 90 percent screen-to-body ratios.
While I’m not saying Samsung should have used any of these ideas specifically, it does suggest that it could have done more. Luckily for Samsung, however, it appears to have a huge trick up its sleeve.
Could Samsung’s foldable phone be about to change everything?
According to various reports from the past few months, Samsung is getting ready to release a phone with a foldable screen at the start of 2019. The latest rumors suggest Samsung is expecting to start mass production later this year.
A foldable device has the potential to be the biggest game-changer since the original Galaxy Note brought phablets to the mainstream in 2011. It could introduce new ways for consumers to use their device, while also giving people a genuinely different option when it comes to upgrading their phone. People are not going to mistake one of today’s smartphones for a device with a foldable screen.
Of course, there will be hurdles to overcome to ensure its success.
Samsung has said that it wants to make sure it is delivering the best user experience possible before releasing the phone. However, the first device is still unlikely to be perfect and there will be things that Samsung can improve upon in future generations.
The price will likely be another issue and current rumors suggest it could cost over $1,800. That’s a lot of money now, but it could be less so in the future, due to either price drops or other smartphones increasing in price.
The phone is also unlikely to make an instant impact on overall sales. Samsung is apparently only expecting to produce around 1 million foldable panels in 2019. However, as its competitors catch up, Samsung would be at the head of a new category of device and, potentially, reap all the future sales that could come with it.
The foldable phone is an incredibly exciting prospect. After two years of excellent, albeit very similar devices, releasing a foldable phone will show that Samsung hasn’t been resting on its laurels when it comes to innovation.