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New smartphone launch cycle of Samsung and LG

Posted January. 25, 2018 08:02,   

Updated January. 25, 2018 08:31


Korea-based major electronics companies, including Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, are revamping their market strategy for official launch and release date of new premium, flagship smartphone in the first half of 2018. Accordingly, the industry is paying more attention to any change in market share of the smartphone market in the first half.

Samsung said the company would unveil its premium smartphone “Galaxy S9” at the 2018 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain on February 25. It has been a year since Samsung came to the MWC with the S series phone.

Samsung participated in the MWC with the S series phone for three consecutive years from 2014 to 2016 with “Galaxy S5” through “Galaxy S7” models. However, Samsung revealed the “Galaxy S8” at the company’s unpacked event in 2017, a month later compared to 2016. The industry speculated that Samsung wanted to release a better quality phone as the company’s “Galaxy Note7” went down by explosion.

LG seems to have taken an opposite path with its G series phone, which has been launched in the first half historically. LG had unveiled its G series phone, starting from “G5,” at the MWC since 2016, but the company decided to showcase the “G7 (tentative model name)” at the company’s event this year. Schedule of the event has not been set yet. Instead, LG will unveil a new, upgraded version of the “V30,” which was introduced in the second half of 2017, with improved artificial intelligence features at the 2018 MWC. “LG is taking a platform strategy to upgrade a few features of a high quality model,” said a company official.

LG’s decision to postpone official launch and release of its premium G series phone implies a significant change. The company’s strategic approach has shifted from earlier launch of a new model than its competitor to hitting the market with a higher quality product at the optimal time. After the release of its flagship V series phone in the second half of 2015, LG advanced the launch date of the G series phone to the first half. The outcome, however, was not satisfactory. While competing in a race for earlier release, the company failed to manage quality of its product. Though the G6 was released a month earlier than Samsung’s Galaxy S8, the market response was not positive about quality of LG’s smartphone with lower specifications of components including Snapdragon processor. “The new decision is based on LG Mobile CEO Hwang Jeong-hwan’s commitment that a higher quality product should be released, though later than a competitor’s product,” said an industry insider.

The industry is closely looking at how market share will fluctuate in the first half following new product launch cycle of Samsung and LG. In addition, it remains to be seen if Samsung’s release of a new model at the 2018 MWC, instead of its unpacked event, will help the company claim bigger market share than that of Apple, which is facing the “battery gate” incident. In the meantime, Apple plans to introduce three new iPhone models in the latter half. “Samsung seems to unveil the S9 earlier this year than last year to benefit from first-mover advantage in the market even as rumors circulating that Apple is halting production of the iPhone X earlier than expected,” said industry sources.

Jae-Hee Kim jetti@donga.com