Ahead of last week’s announcement of the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+, Samsung was expected to roll out both of its new smartphones through all its global markets but the Korean manufacturer made the decision not to bring its latest Note to Europe, with no plans to do so this year.
Although there’s already a petition to bring the handset to Europe, Samsung is so far staying steadfast and the Galaxy S6 Edge+ will be the company’s focus in Europe. Outside the EU, Samsung intends to bring the Galaxy Note 5 to America and Asia and the handset goes on sale in just a few days’ time.
Understandably, Samsung’s decision not to bring the Note 5 to Europe was meant with some confusion and while we’re waiting for Samsung to explain more about the decision, let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons Samsung made the decision.
Possibly an astute decision
As much as some comments I’ve seen would suggest that Samsung has based this decision on a whim, I think it’s fair to say that the company must have a good reason for doing so. It’s not the first company to offer different handsets in different regions based on user feedback and it won’t be the last, so here’s some of the reasons that may have led to this decision.
The biggest problem that Samsung faced with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge was its under-estimation of the appeal of the curved device. The company predicted that one Galaxy S6 Edge would be sold for every four S6 handsets sold but in reality, the demand was almost equal.
When planning its inventory, this prediction meant the supply was mismatched, with lots of Galaxy S6 inventory and not enough S6 Edge supply. With the handset in limited supply, customers were forced to either wait or look at other devices and Samsung didn’t want that to happen with its new devices.
The Galaxy S6 Edge cannibalised sales of the Galaxy S6 and Samsung lost out heavily, with large amounts of unsold inventory of one device and not enough supply to meet demand for the other. Having already had this issue once, the company may have expected the Galaxy S6 Edge+ to be more appealing more and didn’t want the Note 5 to be an unwelcome distraction.
Lessons from past mistakes
Cannibalisation is something that every manufacturer who releases more than one device in a cycle should be worried about and having already suffered from it once, Samsung was presented with the opportunity to learn from this. As such, the decision not to bring the Note 5 to Europe shouldn’t be treated as much of a surprise given the performance of the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.
In the past, the company has been accused of not listening to its customers and not learning from past mistakes and the Note 5 decision is an example of the company trying to do just this. Having already had the hindsight of four months’ worth of sales for the Galaxy S flagships, the company has data that may have presented the Note 5 as a hindrance to the bottom line, rather than a help.
Something I was told at the UK launch event was that a potential reason for Samsung not bringing the Note 5 to Europe was because internal data showed very little interest in the S-Pen in European markets. Whether this is indeed true has not been revealed by Samsung just yet (we’re waiting on a statement from the Korean manufacturer) but if it is, the decision not to bring the Note 5 to Europe makes more sense.
Having used every Galaxy Note smartphone to-date I can safely say that, while the S-Pen was useful, it was never essential to the experience and I found myself using it less than I expected I would. Based on comments I’ve seen on social media, it seems a lot of people agree, which may be another factor behind Samsung’s decision.
It may backfire…
With all those possible factors behind the decision, Samsung appears to have pulled off a masterstroke by not offering the Note 5 in Europe. However, things are never that simple and just as easily, here’s a few reasons why the decision not to offer the Note 5 in Europe may backfire for the Korean manufacturer.
The Note brand should not be underestimated
As much as the S-Pen may not be used as Samsung might have hoped, it has come to resemble one thing; an integral part of the Galaxy Note experience. As much as it is almost identical to the Galaxy Note 5, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is NOT a Note handset and as such, Samsung’s marketing team will have struggle to persuade people that it actually is.
I can remember countless occasions on where I’ve sold a Note handset to customers mainly by saying its Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note. There were even several occasions when customers would specifically request the latest Note because it came highly recommend. Why does the Note brand have such appeal? It’s simple – while the Galaxy S series has had dud devices, there’s never been a Galaxy Note yet that’s been a let-down or had an extremely negative response in the market.
The Galaxy Note brand is a special beast and one that’s become known as offering one of the best big-screen experiences on the market. The S-Pen is an integral part of the brand as it has been a key factor in separating the Galaxy Note range from other Galaxy devices and as diluted as the Galaxy S brand has become (with a lot of different devices), the Note range has, so far, been spared this fate.
The problem for Samsung is that when a customer now asks for the Note in Europe, the only response will be that it’s not available. Yes, sales people can pitch the Galaxy S6 Edge+ and it will no doubt still sell but some of the customers waiting for the new Note are likely to be those who saw the Galaxy S flagships and made the conscious decision to wait for the new handsets.
For these and anyone who wanted a specific Note device, the lack of a Note 5 is likely to drive them towards competitor devices, which will again, affect Samsung’s bottom line. Apple’s success with the iPhone is largely down to the brand and in the Galaxy Note, Samsung has a brand that can challenge not only Apple but also every device in the large-screen market. Not offering the brand in Europe may prove to be a decision that dilutes what is arguably Samsung’s best smartphone brand.
The Je Ne Sais Quoi
A common consensus is that smartphone users in Europe prefer smaller devices while those in Asia prefer bigger displays and while this is somewhat true, it’s becoming ever less apparent. The fact is that consumers everywhere are trending towards larger devices and the decision not to offer the Note 5 for the smartphone traditionalists (who don’t care about a fancy design) is likely to alienate a subset of the general market.
The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is certainly impressive as a handset but it does lack the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that the Galaxy S6 Edge has, mainly because it is essentially the same handset but larger. The Galaxy Note 5 however, still has this as it is a revamp of the Note range, is new and different and is probably the sexiest Galaxy Note ever made.
Not introducing the Note 5 on the market may mean it doesn’t cannibalise sales of the S6 Edge+ but it also means that Samsung won’t be able to market that ‘unknown’ quality of the Note 5. The Galaxy S6 Edge+ will certainly appeal to some but the Galaxy Note 5 would have captured the ones the S6 Edge+ didn’t appeal to because, at the end of the day, the S6 Edge+ is an Edge device.
Edge is Samsung’s next ‘thing’ but it may not be for everyone
I like the Edge Screen; I think it’s unique, I think it’s sexy, I think it standouts and although it’s not very useful, it does have a certain appeal. The problem is that not everyone agrees with me.
I like the Edge Screen.. but not everyone agrees with me
For everyone that is impressed by the Galaxy S6 Edge, there are people who just don’t see the value in it. In my opinion, smartphone users can be segregated into two largely loose categories – those who prefer the fashionable and those who want the productivity – and while some users fall into both categories, the Edge Screen is unnecessary for those who want the latter.
For all the talk of Samsung devices in previous years being plastic and uninspiring, its new strategy is to try and combine sex appeal with functionality and mostly it delivers. The problem with the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is that it is designed to appeal to those who want a sleek big-screen device and don’t mind paying for it. With so many other handsets on the market, a customer who doesn’t care about how sexy the handset is and has no use for the Edge Screen isn’t going to spend a lot of money on the S6 Edge+ mainly because it has no appeal to them.
The Galaxy Note 5 would have solved this as the S-Pen would provide an extra level of functionality that sales people could turn into a must-have feature. A key part of sales is creating a perceived need and while it would be simple enough to create a perceived need for the S-Pen features, creating a need for the app or contact shortcut features of the Edge Screen – especially given the likely price difference versus other options – may prove to be much more difficult.
Almost all of the above is speculation (as well as educated guesses based on my own knowledge) and at the moment, it’s unknown whether Samsung’s decision will prove to be astute.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the Galaxy Note 5 availability decision is likely to be one that’s discussed for quarters to come; if the Galaxy S6 Edge+ sells well in Europe, Samsung is likely to be mostly vindicated but if it fails to take off, the company will be criticised for this one decision.
Whatever does happen, Samsung’s decision will no doubt infuriate some users, especially those who have waited for the Note 5. Galaxy Note 3 users are likely to be coming to the end of their long-term contracts and with Apple set to offer a new Plus-sized iPhone next month, those users may find themselves switching allegiances when they realise the Galaxy Note 5 is not available on the market.
At the same time, some users may decide the S-Pen is not a necessity and the Edge Screen feature is something they’d like to have on their next device. However, Samsung can’t price the Galaxy S6 Edge+ lower than the Galaxy S6 Edge, which means customers will likely need a more expensive service plan if they want to get Samsung’s new device. The added cost may be a factor that also seems them switch allegiance to a competitor.
Will Samsung’s decision pay off? The jury is firmly out on this one but my personal thoughts are that the company certainly should bring the Note 5 to Europe, even if its in limited quantity. As I said in my Note 5 preview, I fully intended to buy the Note 5 when available but given I own the Galaxy S6 Edge, I’m almost certainly not going to buy the S6 Edge+.
Will this decision pay off?
I’m sure there are others who have (or will) come to similar decisions but what do you think? Do you want Samsung to bring the Note 5 to Europe? Let us know your views in the comments below and don’t forget to vote in the poll. You can also go and sign a petition that’s doing the rounds and maybe together, we can bring Samsung’s latest handset to Europe.