Samsung took the wraps off the eco-friendly packaging of its Galaxy S 6 and S 6 Edge smart phones at an event at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last night with the declaration that “Next Is Now.” And “next,” while not terribly innovative, has critics observing that it at least there’s nothing plastic about it.
There’s a lot riding on acceptance of the new models as Samsung’s market share had been sliding.
“By some estimates, Apple surpassed Samsung as the world's biggest smartphone maker late last year, selling a record 74.5 million iPhones in the December quarter on the back of the success of its big-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus,” report Reuters Se Young Lee and Harro Ten Wolde.
“Consumers were underwhelmed by [Samsung’s] previous two updates to the once dominant range, including the Galaxy S5, which was launched at the same show last year to great fanfare,” writes the FinancialTimes’ Daniel Thomas.“Sales fell flat amid criticism that the cheap-looking plastic handset had not moved on enough from previous efforts.”
“Both of the new phones are made entirely of metal and glass: the cheesy and cheap-feeling plastics that have dominated Samsung’s products for years are nowhere to be found,” writes Dan Seifert for The Verge. “This change can’t be overstated: Samsung finally has made flagship products that look and feel like they are worth the premium price tag they command.”
“In terms of specs, the Galaxy S 6 and S 6 Edge are top of the line, with a new 64-bit processor, and increased and also more powerful internal memory,” Molly Wood reports in TheNew York Times. “Samsung said it believes its active-matrix organic LED display boasts the world’s highest resolution (a claim that is hard to verify before other devices have been announced), and added that it is 20 percent brighter than the Galaxy S5.”
The devices will be available to consumers on April 10; pricing was not disclosed.
“The Galaxy S 6 and the Galaxy S 6 Edge are Samsung’s attempt to finally convince the world (or at least snooty phone reviewers like myself) that it has design chops akin to Apple or HTC,” observes TheWall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern. “When it comes to its hardware, I’m now a believer. When it comes to its software, I see the efforts, though I’m still not totally convinced.”
“Remarkably, Samsung did not mention Google or Android at all. How is that possible?” asks Shelley Palmer in his email newsletter. “Samsung sells more Android devices than anyone. I would have expected at least a tip-o-the-cap to Google. Samsung says, ‘Next is Now,’ but hardware only empowers part of the consumer experience.”
It did unveil Samsung Pay, which “takes on Apple Pay, but goes further,” reports Lance Ulanoff for Mashable. Making use of hardware technology it acquired when it bought LoopPay a couple of weeks ago, consumers who are not able to make “contactless” payments can “ just hold up the phone’s special strip to the [retailer’s existing] magstripe reader — really just a magnetic reader — to pay,” he writes.
“Samsung Pay will be ‘compatible with more locations than any competing offering in a single application,’ and protected by Samsung KNOX (Samsung’s mobile enterprise security systems), fingerprint scanning and advanced tokenization, the company said,” reportsTime’s Jack Linshi.
“I think Galaxy users and Android fans will find a lot to like in the Galaxy S 6 to make it more of a worthy upgrade than the Galaxy S5. But increasingly, flagship phones like these have to compete not only with their predecessors and high-end rivals, but also with an array of phones that offer many of the same features at far, far lower cost,” writes Re/code’s Bonnie Cha.
“China’s Xiaomi and many other regional powerhouses are touting devices that cost half or even a quarter as much as the Galaxy S line with a lot — if not all — of the bells and whistles.”
While we’re talking about shrinking margins — a.k.a. lower costs to consumers — TheWall Street Journal’s Ryan Knutson writes an intriguing story this morning about his 30-day experiment using only Wi-Fi connections “that are available nearly everywhere” — at least if you’re in urban areas and not traveling in a car or walking down the street.
His conclusion is that eliminating that monthly mobile device bill “definitely doable” — “So doable, in fact, that it would be surprising if wireless carriers aren’t already starting to worry that their industry could one day face a version of the cable-television business’s cord-cutter problem.”