By Ron Chen, Correspondent ASEAN Region
Expectations are high that Samsung Electronics will launch its Galaxy S21 Series smartphone on January 14, one month earlier than expected at the company’s Galaxy Unpacked 2021 press conference. Leaks indicate three new phones will be introduced – the S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra.
The leaks show the new devices as refreshes of the Galaxy S20, with improvements including faster performance via Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chip, enhanced camera set up, a sleeker design and the possibility of an S Pen.
Counterpoint Research’s Model Level Quarterly Smartphone Forecast shows the Galaxy S21 performing slightly better than last year’s Galaxy S20, but falling significantly short of the Galaxy S10. The research firm estimates the Galaxy S21 will ship almost 30 per cent less units over four quarters than 2019’s Galaxy S10.
Several factors have led to this year’s more muted forecasts including extended replacement cycles, uncertainty around pricing, a more crowded competitive environment and proximity to the iPhone 12 launch.
Research Analyst Sujeong Lim commented, “Galaxy launch dates over the past two years have crept closer to the iPhone, but prices have not. Last year’s delay from Apple coupled with an accelerated launch from Samsung puts the Galaxy S21 within 12 weeks of the iPhone 12 launch – this is not ideal from a price comparison standpoint.”
Better specifications does put the Galaxy S21 at a higher price point, but Ms. Lim believes Samsung is likely feeling pressure to keep prices as low as possible. “The iPhone 12 is hitting a massive sweet spot with its US$749 entry price. Furthermore, we are now in mid-winter, with the impact of COVID-19 only intensifying across key markets. Pricing will need to improve from S20 levels for Samsung to avoid disappointment.”
Counterpoint Research’s Director of US Mobile Devices and Carrier Strategies, Jeff Fieldhack highlighted the potential impact of releasing too close to Apple’s launch in key markets like the US. “Stellar iPhone 12 performance is not only helping Apple have its best iPhone year ever, it is taking the wind out of competitors’ sails by dominating promotions, shelf space and the online space. In addition, in the North America market, there is a post-holiday lull of flagship sales in January and February, making it a challenging time to make a significant product launch.”
An early Galaxy S21 launch is likely a tactic to capitalize on Huawei woes, with Samsung looking to fill the vacuum. “However, the smartphone space has become very crowded across all segments,” according to Ms. Lim. “Not only are Chinese vendors introducing many mid-to-low end devices with competitive specs, they are also releasing more super premium devices. The S10 was competing with around 48 ‘US$800-plus’ models in 2018, but the S21 will have to contend with over 65.”