Apple recently became a $1 trillion company, fueled partly by the growth from its iPhone. In contrast, its top competitor in smartphones, Samsung, has been dealing with slowing revenue from its signature Galaxy S9 smartphone.
To prompt more sales, Samsung on Thursday unveiled the Galaxy Note9, its latest big-screen smartphone (also known as a “phablet”), which comes equipped with a digital pen. Like Apple’s top-selling iPhone X, the Galaxy Note9 costs about $1,000. It arrives in stores on Aug. 24.
Samsung introduced the new Note a few weeks earlier than it normally would, as a way to drum up awareness for the device.
For a phone this pricey, the new features of the Note9 are hardly cutting edge. Samsung highlighted the Galaxy Note9’s exceptionally large battery, which it said would let people talk, text and play games all day. The company also emphasized faster speeds and the device’s larger 6.4-inch screen (the last Galaxy Note measured 6.3 diagonal inches).
The changes may not be enough to return Samsung to healthy growth in smartphones, some analysts said.
“I don’t see the Note helping tremendously,” said Carolina Milanesi, a technology analyst for Creative Strategies. She added that the Galaxy Note has typically been a smaller seller compared to Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphones, so the Note 9 is unlikely to make a meaningful impact on the company’s profit.
The slowing growth of Samsung, still the world’s top handset maker by volume, is a reflection of a saturated market. Many people who want a smartphone already have one, and people are upgrading to new models more slowly than they used to.
Even Apple, which brought in more than $11 billion in profit last quarter, saw its iPhone sales increase only 1 percent from a year earlier. Yet Apple still increased its iPhone revenue substantially by getting people to pay about 20 percent more for iPhones on average, thanks largely to the introduction of the pricier iPhone X.
Samsung is betting on making bigger technology innovations in the future. The South Korean company this week said it would invest more than $22 billion over the next three years in areas including artificial intelligence.
Mark Newman, an analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein in Hong Kong, said Samsung was well positioned to be a market leader in A.I.
“On the hardware side for A.I., there’s no one that’s stronger than Samsung,” he said. “The key to A.I. is memory and they are the biggest memory semiconductor maker in the world by far.”
Follow Brian X. Chen on Twitter: @bxchen.
Amie Tsang contributed reporting from London.