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Samsung's boring Galaxy Note 9 and the curse of constant innovation



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More than an hour in the launch of Galaxy Note 9, DJ Koh, Samsung President and CEO of IT and Mobile Communications, ended his address with an unprotected, clear off-script comment. "You inspire us to push through barriers and make the note better every year," he said and paused a little. "It's not easy every year, honestly." Following the rigid, heavier scripting presentation, Koh's honesty was revealing, and the entire audience of staff, analysts and technology journalists responded and released what could be described as a genuinely sympathetic laugh.

The reason for this being aside? For Samsung, Apple, Google, LG – and all the other companies that provide huge sums of money, from satisfying our fast appetite for new hardware – the effort to succeed is great. And despite this endless gate, their efforts are usually not enough to widen the demand for actual leap forward with functionality and software.

Take the new note 9, if you read speculative coverage before announcing, you will not only have hope and look for a handset with a large storage bump, but also extras like a fingerprint sensor below the screen. Instead, Samsung just moved its position. Cue disappointment (despite repositioning, decides a critical error on Note 8). Apple suffered from this too, so many hopes that iPhone X would have such a feature.

We should all have seen that this should not happen, though. The new Synaptics Clear ID optical sensor that makes this option of the submenu possible will never be available in amounts necessary for such major manufacturers. Synoptics only announced Clear ID was in mass production in December 2017, but a top-end Samsung phone would require some ten million devices, an iPhone even more. Even though you get cleaner aesthetics on your phone without visible buttons and acres of untouched display real estate, technology is now slower than ultra-fast capacitive scanners – and annoying layers do not fit a flagship. Fake consumers, those who demand the new technology will inevitably become grumpy.

On the other hand, as is the note, you can not blame people to hope to see more experimental technology-based. After all, previous notes have seen Samsung test features that continue to be part of the entire S series. Note Edge, for example, was the first with the Galaxy with a screen bowed around the page, now this is on all of all advanced Samsung mobiles. The Iris scanner appeared first in 2016's bad note 7, and dual camera lenses debuted last year's note 8.

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In addition to reaching hardware parity, consumers are not so willing to automatically upgrade phones – and it takes something with a serious wow factor to make them do it. Even Apple felt the hug as it did not make significant changes to its iPhones for three consecutive years. Last year, iPhone X was an end to this, and Apple this month became the first public company to be worth $ 1 trillion.

While talking about iPhone X, another factor is that Samsung really needs a safe fire smash hit. The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus had weak sales. Despite improved cameras and sound, Samsung lost in the second quarter of the year (after S9's launch in March) more market share than any other major handset maker and posted its worst performance since the second quarter of 2013. Deliveries fell 11 percent from last year to 70.8 million units. Increased competition from Google, Huawei, Xiaomi and OnePlus, eats in its dominance in the Android sector.

The note bar is used to move more than 40 million units. Now the USP big screen has been eradicated. Brand name sales now average 25 million units. This is all without mentioning 2016's Note 7, where exploding, expanding or overheating batteries led to the recall of 4.3 million phones, and Samsung cost anywhere between $ 3.1 billion and $ 6 billion.

Aside from increased storage, DJ Koh knocks on the note's remaining USP: S-Pen stylus to make it a winner. Galaxy Note is not the only stylus phone, but it's so far ahead of any competitor it might as well be. The problem is that most Notes users never actually use S-Pen. But now, the new version of Bluetooth, like Apple's pencil, is getting far more useful: Click the pen on the pen to take pictures, or go forward in the slides in a presentation you run from the phone itself, and so on.

If more storage and a new S pen are enough to make people switch to the new note, it's still to be seen. It does not feel like that. It's hardly as exciting as the Samsung Galaxy X folding phone apparently is unveiled next year. So should the Korean company have appeared from the annual treadmill and expected to release some killer – especially since Samsung even described the high end smartphone market as stagnant back in July?

Daniel Gleeson, senior analyst, Ovum consumer technology, says the risk of reducing the frequency of product launches is very real. "Unlike new releases, it's difficult for handset manufacturers to keep their seats in the operator's shelves , or to maintain consumer excitement in the face of newer devices – although the difference between the phones is minimal. "

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Gleeson claims that Apple in some ways already uses this strategy. Its releases get major design updates every other year or so, with the mid-range focusing more on internal changes and software adjustments. "You can see Apple's sales spike when there is a big change in physical design. However, Apple is unique in that users will wait for new releases and set up specifications that may be behind the competition. Android manufacturers usually do not have the same luxury."

The major problem with this approach is that the expertise needed to make these occasional superstars will be left asleep or at least underused for a period after each launch. "There will also be ramp up / scaling issues basically all parts of the business – marketing, manufacturing, key component purchase, etc.," says Gleeson. "Apple's structure where it is organized by function rather than by product means it does not face the same downtime problem, but HTC simply does not have the product portfolio to try this."

Samsung, therefore, To ensure its dominance, it's apparently locked to produce new hardware every year, if it has something to really shout about or not. That is why DJ Koh's glimpse of honest honesty and the public's polite, familiar laugh.


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