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Opinion 116 Shares 22 comments

Samsung's smartphone troubles go beyond the Note 7 recall

Samsung's now-recalled Note 7 was largely received around the world as one of - if not the - best large-screen phone you could buy, until they started catching fire and Samsung was forced to recall them all. However, the misstep has left the South Korean handset maker in a tricky spot as it loses ground to rivals. 

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Huawei's Mate 9 is rumored to have curved edges / © VentureBeat

Samsung's performance in recent years has outstripped much of its competition and put increasing pressure on Apple to stay at the top of its game if it wants to stay at the top of the sales charts. And there's a reason that Samsung's flagships have become increasingly popular - they're really good phones that bring extra value. 

Cast your mind back to the Galaxy S5 and you'll remember it was one of the first mainstream phones to offer waterproofing (OK, other phones had it first but almost none came to the US or Europe), which made it a little more odd when Samsung didn't include that option on the S6. But it did introduce its first 'Edge' model with a neat, curved screen arrangement, so a lack of waterproofing could be forgiven.

This year, before the Note debacle, it launched the S7 and S7 Edge, which combined waterproofing with that curved screen design, except this time it was even better than before because the rear panel also has a slight curve, making it much more comfortable to hold (and less prone to being dropped). 

It might feel like a bit of a novelty, but in a smartphone market where 99 percent of devices are anonymous-looking black slabs of glass, the S6 Edge and S7 Edge really managed to stand out. Walk into a phone shop and look at the models on display, and you can immediately see the alluring curves of the Edge stand out. 

Now, Samsung's going to have to work extra hard to find another advantage over the competition, because it's just lost that edge (pardon the pun). 

Leaked images of Huawei's upcoming Mate 9 flagship show a design that certainly looks a lot like the S7 Edge and that should be a concern for Samsung. So should Xiaomi's huge - and stunning - display on its Mi Mix. 

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The almost bezel-less Mi Mix, which costs less than $600 for the top spec. / © Xiaomi

Huawei's Mate 9 (and Mate 9 Pro) handsets haven't officially launched as yet, but if Huawei can improve on its last Leica P9 model and improve the EMUI interface, Samsung's going to have a battle on its hands. It's a similar story for the Mi Mix - it doesn't have entirely curved edges on its display but it does pack a huge 6.4-inch display into a chassis with almost no bezel. It's like the 'infinity pool' of the phone world, and that should worry Samsung. The real worry for Samsung about the Mi Mix? The top spec (6 GB RAM and 256 GB storage) model will cost less than $600.

The Note 7 was one of the best smartphones I've ever used and would have provided Apple with a real problem, if it hadn't been dangerously defective. Instead, it's tarnished the brand and Samsung's handling of the problem has compounded the lack of trust in consumers.

The only real upside for Samsung is that Apple and Google aren't capitalizing on the problem effectively because they don't have enough phones in stock to fulfill demand and Xiaomi says it has no plans to launch the Mix outside of China, which is a real shame.

Apple's iPhone 7 Plus is currently showing a wait time of up to 8 weeks, depending on the color you choose. Google's Pixel phone is also out of stock in both 5-inch and 5.5-inch varieties if you want the 128 GB model. Neither company had anticipated the increased demand that would be caused by the Note 7 recall. 

Differentiation in hardware is harder than ever, and convincing buyers that you need to spend $700 on the latest features when a mid-range $300 handset offers 90 percent of the same experience is a hard sell at the best of times. Samsung led the way with curved edges, waterproofing and software features that really set its flagship handsets apart, but now it'll need to now find another way to stand out in an increasingly crowded market, as well as rebuild the trust that's been lost since the launch of the Note 7.

22 comments

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  • rick 4 weeks ago Link to comment

    i have the Samsung s7, beautiful device! Now im waiting on the Samsung s8 to come out. i like the 5.0" to 5 5" screen size. The screen is so beautiful on the s7.The note 7 was beautiful too. but it dosnt fit in my pocket that good.

  • Out of curiosity: I know it's far from a major reason people why buy the note range, but are there any other phones with a fine-point stylus (or a seperately available stylus) similar to the S-pen? I'd guess the apple and surface pens aren't compatible with their respective companies' phones, let alone android.

    • Bastian Siewers
      • Admin
      • Staff
      1 month ago Link to comment

      You are right, they are not. There is simply not a single offering that is really comparable to the Note series. It's not just the S-Pen that made them stand apart, it was the features that come with the S-Pen. There are other phones shipping with a stylus, like the LG Stylus, but the phone itself and features are not comparable, sadly.

  • Amadi34 1 month ago Link to comment

    I wouldn't be writing a "woe is me" or worse an obituary about Samsung yet. The Note 7 was the best phablet in its class hands down, Samsung has been making excellent phones for years, and the Note 7 fiasco will pass, I'm glad they plan to continue with the Note line, all they need do is come out with great, and safe Note8, and they will be back in the saddle, as for the high cost I think its worth every penny, look at the Iphone7 or the Google Pixel for that matter, they are both pricey, I guess the issue is buy what you can afford.

    • People say Samsung is expensive. The iPhone is a featureless brick compared to the Galaxy or Note, yet it still costs as much. I'm not hating on Apple, I'm just pointing out facts. They "innovated" with NFC, which Samsung had in 2012. They finally made a bigger than 4inch screen on the iPhone 6, woohoo...look at the Galaxy S3 (or even S2 I think).

      • ljhaye 1 month ago Link to comment

        First there was Apple Pay using Touch ID in 2014 then their was Samsung Pay using a fingerprint reader in 2015. Pretty innovative by Samsung especially with Google wallet already present since 2011. However when Motorola introduced the fingerprint reader to a smartphone with the Atrix Samsung didn't decide to copy it then.

        Apple drops the headphone jack and I'm willing to bet that Samsung is now going to do the same thing as they like to keep feature parity with Apple products. The odd thing is that the first phone without a headphone jack was realeased earlier this year by Motorola but Samsung hasn't copied it yet.

        Samsung was innovative by introducing larger screen phones to mask larger batteries because of the battery drain from LTE at that time. If big screens are so innovative then small screens should be just as innovative as well. Why is it that only Apple can make a 4" flagship phone but no Android OEM's can make a flagship under 5"?

      • @ljhaye Are you really this stupid?

        P. S. The question is rhetorical.

      • ljhaye 1 month ago Link to comment

        Stupid, how? What is the point your trying to make? I was explaining Apple's perceived lack of innovation vs Samsung.

      • I apologize for calling you stupid.

        My reaction was triggered by your total lack of providing relevant arguments in favor of your claim(s) (as it happens, such thing do annoy me from time to time). Oh well, it's internet after all, and I am now feeling sorry for taking time to reply, because, in the end, I simply don't care about the topic at hand.

      • ljhaye 1 month ago Link to comment

        Apology accepted but I wasn't offended I just wanted clarity.

        What were the claims that needed clarity? No one ever said Apple was innovative because of NFC hardware the innovation was how they combined NFC with Touch ID to create Apple Pay. Apple was innovative and is the same model used by Samsung and Android Pay. Prior to Apple Pay there was Google Wallet which only used NFC.

        Secondly about the headphone jack that was sarcasm but various Samsung rumor sites have already speculated that Samsung WILL remove the headphone jack on future galaxy S /Note devices.

        Lastly if a larger screen size is considered innovative then so is a smaller one. I support that point by illustrating that NO Android OEM's create flagship devices that are less than 5". There is a market for 4" & 4.7" flagship devices but they are not being manufactured and instead we get mid level devices at 4.7". Screen size originally increased with the introduction of LTE modems which consumed so much power bigger batteries had to be used in correlation with other power saving techniques. So innovation does exist if you can build a fully functioning flagship device in a smaller form factor.

        I hope this provides some clarity.

      • Apparently Apple is doing a fine job. They just execute better.

      • No answer, huh? He makes a good point

  • In my opinion, Samsung should have come out with the loyalty program at the first instance of when the second batch of bad Note 7s were released. They're just now starting the program in Asia and hopefully ( for those still loyal to Samsung ) to the US and Canada. What really rubbed me the wrong way was when I was going to trade in my Note 7 at a Verizon store, the S7 Edge ( which was 8 months old at the time and should have been on sale ) was priced more expensive than a Pixel XL and also an IPhone 7 plus. I wasn't going to pay that for a phone that is considered the smaller sibling of the Note 7.. I might come back to Samsung eventually, but this whole entire shit show has left an impression on me and it's time to try iPhone for a year..

  • Stuza 1 month ago Link to comment

    I'm down about £160 because of all the accessories I bought with my N7, how much of that did Samsung refund? That's right, NOTHING. I remained loyal during the first recall and this is my reward? Yeah, right, I'm buying Samsung again.... Not.

  • "And there's a reason that Samsung's flagships have become increasingly popular - they're really good phones that bring extra value."

    Are you serious? The words "value" and "Samsung flagships" do not belong in the same sentence. Samsung's flagship phones are ridiculously expensive. Sure, theyre decent phones, but the price is higher than it needs to be. Value for money they are not. Now - more than ever - other phone manufacturers are showing us that a premium smartphone can be made and sold for half the price that Samsung charges.

  • Dazzler 1 month ago Link to comment

    I've got an S7 Edge and would love other manufacturers to get on board with the curved design, personally I love it and could not consider going back to a device without it.

    The S7 Edge was out of my price comfort zone so hopefully other manufacturers creating innovative designs could lead to a cheaper upgrade option in 2018!

  • Mark 1 month ago Link to comment

    Samsung is have lots of issue with their phones. It is not only the Note 7 that caught fire there have been sporadic cases of both S7 models catching fire. My wife's S7 is always locking up and having to hard restart it. I have updated it and factory reset it several time the problem still persist. Samsung will do nothing about it, been to the shop several times they just restart it and say it's working. It also gets very hot at times. Samsung really need to get their act together. If they bring back the removable battery I might give them another try. I still love the Note 4 but, I am buying LG phones now already have the G5 and the V20 is on preorder.

  • Samsung not going to have a really Top class phone for Sale over Xmas will really hit them,People will now be saving themselves to see what Samsung will offer on the Future Galaxy S8,with loads more Chinese phone produces joining the "Edge" screen line up and more cheaper than what Samsung as to offer,Samsung must really make the Galaxy S8 phones really stand out with Design & Features,and will Samsung make there future phones more Affordable

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