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Samsung Electronics

Samsung bets on exclusive-edition Galaxy S8 to regain China market share

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 flagship smartphone will come with a 6 GB memory exclusively for the mainland China market, according to people familiar with the plan.

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 April, 2017, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 April, 2017, 10:58pm

Samsung Electronics will offer a powerful variant of its latest Galaxy S8 flagship smartphone exclusively for China, as it hopes to recover the market share lost during the 2016 recall of its Galaxy Note 7 model, and soften the blow of the mainland’s boycott of South Korean brands.

The company is expected to host a press conference in mid-April to launch its latest smartphone model in China, with a 6 GB memory exclusively for the mainland, according to people familiar with the matter. The new model features a wraparound screen inspired by its Edge model, giving it the appearance of a larger display. Navigation will be entirely by touch, dispensing with the need of a home button.

Samsung China did not respond to query sent by the South China Morning Post regarding its sales plan in China.

Still, the snazzy model that was launched last week in New York, along with its larger sibling the Galaxy S8+, may face an uphill battle to regain its former glory in China, where it once dominate the sales of Android-powered smartphones, analysts and retailers said.

“After the Note 7 battery saga, demand for Samsung’s smartphones have decreased notably in our shop as safety is always the top concern,” said Fu Jiajia, who runs a shop at Huaqiangbei in Shenzhen selling different brands of smartphones. “Many consumers were excited when the Galaxy S7 was launched last year, but I don’t see it with the Galaxy S8 anymore.”

Samsung recalled 190,000 Galaxy Note 7 handsets in China last year, after a dozen reported cases of the phone’s battery overheating. The company, which initially refused to recall the handsets, gave in after fierce criticism and claims of discrimination by Chinese consumers.

The ensuing public relations fiasco saw Samsung being edged out by Chinese smartphone brands such as Oppo and Vivo.

The South Korean company remains the largest smartphone supplier worldwide, with 21.2 per cent share of the global market, shipping 311.4 million handsets last year. That’s followed by Apple with 215.4 million units and Huawei’s 139.3 million phones.

“Even without the Note 7 incident, Samsung hasn’t been doing well in China,” IDC’s senior market analyst Tay Xiaohan said in an email. “Its brand has not been well received, and Chinese consumers have also turned to many of the Chinese vendors such as Oppo, Vivo and Huawei that offer better alternatives.”

The Chinese brands sold the most number of smartphones last year in China, with Oppo occupying 16.8 per cent of the market, Huawei at 16.4 per cent while Vivo had 14.8 per cent, IDC’s data shows.

The Galaxy S8 offers Samsung a fresh start, as well as five months of sales opportunity before Apple unleashes its new iPhone -- expected to be a game changer, coming on the phone’s 10th anniversary -- on the market and grabs all the attention.

“Given the strong level of competition with Huawei, Apple, and to a lesser extent with Vivo or Oppo, it will be tougher for Samsung,” said Forrester Research’s principal analyst Thomas Husson.

The company will also have to persuade Chinese customers to abandon the boycott of South Korean brands, following South Korea’s decision to defy China’s opposition in installing the US-made THAAD missile defence system against North Korean attacks.

“I have already stopped using facial mask imported from South Korea,” said the smartphone salesperson Fu. “In fact, Chinese smartphone brands are doing really well nowadays. They are powerful in functions and come in at much cheaper prices. That’s why Chinese customers are choosing our own brands these days.”