Samsung launches pricey Galaxy Note20 series

Samsung Electronics unveiled its latest Galaxy Note smartphone on Wednesday hoping to regain ground against rivals Huawei and Apple as the smartphone market begins to recover from its Covid-19 slump.

Samsung launched its previous premium model, S20, in February at the start of the pandemic but since then it has ceded its top ranking in the smartphone market to China’s Huawei, as people opt for cheaper models in straitened times.

The new Note20 boasts a larger screen at 6.7 inches, 5G connectivity, enhanced writing features with its S-Pen stylus, and access to more than 100 console and PC games via a tie-up with Microsoft’s Xbox cloud service.

It will go on sale from 21 August 21 in about 70 countries including South Africa, where the basic version will retail for R24 999 (R27 999 for a 5G variant). Samsung will offer a R4 000 voucher to those pre-ordering the device. The voucher can be used in Samsung’s newly launched South African online store.

“It is an uncertain time to launch a new premium device given the challenging competitive and economic environments,” said Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at PP Foresight Tech, adding that the “eye-watering price” could deter some buyers.

Apple fans are unlikely to jump ship to the new Samsung model as the 5G iPhone is likely to be launched later this year, analysts say.

Biggest fall

Samsung posted a 29% year-on-year drop in shipments in the June quarter, the biggest fall among top vendors, according to researcher IDC. Apple, which launched the budget-friendly SE during the period, remained resilient with 11% year-on-year shipment growth, while Huawei posted only a 5% fall.

The global smartphone market shrank about 16% year on year in the April to June quarter due to Covid-19 lockdowns and consumer caution, a larger contraction than in the first quarter, and is expected to improve only slightly in the second half, IDC said.

“Its not until H1 2021 that most countries around the globe will start showing positive growth in smartphone shipments,” said Nabila Popal, research director at data provider IDC.

Despite this, South African Samsung executives expressed optimism that the Note20 series will sell at least as well as the Note10 series launched in 2019.  — Reported by Joyce Lee, Hyunjoo Jin and Douglas Busvine, (c) 2020 Reuters, with additional reporting (c) 2020 NewsCentral Media