Samsung isn't updating one of its best phones from last year, and it proves how different its strategy is from Apple's
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Samsung didn't launch a successor to last year's less expensive Galaxy S10e when it unveiled its Galaxy S20 lineup, and it also increased the prices of its flagship smartphones.
- That's a departure from Apple's approach, in which it positioned the cheaper iPhone 11 as its primary new model, while the pricier Pro was framed as an alternative for photography enthusiasts and power users.
- Samsung does offer cheaper smartphones, like its Galaxy A series and last year's Galaxy S10. But by keeping its flagship smartphone at a premium price, Samsung is sending a much different message than Apple.
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Each year, Samsung and Apple debut new flagship smartphones designed to compete with one another - packing new technologies and features into each release with the hope of one-upping the other.
But when the South Korean technology giant unveiled its new Galaxy S20 lineup on Tuesday, the difference between Apple's and Samsung's strategies have never seemed more clear. While Apple is putting its less-expensive iPhone model in the spotlight with the iPhone 11 family, Samsung is introducing new models that are even pricier than their predecessors.
Apple's iPhone X may have been the impetus for making $1,000 prices the norm for smartphones back in 2017, but since then it's learned an important lesson: Not everyone is willing to pay $1,000 or more for a new smartphone. As such, it positioned the $700 iPhone 11 as being its new flagship phone, while the $1,000 iPhone 11 Pro and $1,100 iPhone 11 Pro Max were framed as being premium models targeted at camera aficionados an power users.
At first blush, the iPhone 11 launch made it seem like Apple had drastically cut the price of the iPhone, coming after it launched the $1,000 iPhone XS in 2018.
But it didn't. With the iPhone 11, it simply launched a successor to the $750 iPhone XR - the cheaper model from 2018 that was largely perceived as being a less expensive alternative to its leading iPhone XS - and made that phone its flagship for 2019.
Apple has good reason to attempt to recreate the success of the iPhone XR. According to Counterpoint Research, the cheaper XR was the top-selling smartphone in the world during the third quarter of 2019, outselling devices made by Samsung and Chinese tech giants Oppo and Xiaomi.
Samsung, on the other hand, appears to be taking a completely different direction. While Apple is going all-in on its cheaper smartphone, Samsung seems to have cut it from its lineup entirely. The company's new Galaxy S20 family doesn't include a successor to the Galaxy S10e, the smaller, cheaper version of the S10 it launched last year. That device, as I wrote last year, ended up being one of my favorite phones of 2019. It had many of the same features that defined the pricier Galaxy S10, like an ultra-wide-angle camera and a notch-free screen, but at a price (and size) that was more palatable.
Instead, Samsung launched the $1,000 Samsung Galaxy S20, the $1,200 Galaxy S20 Plus, and the $1,400 Galaxy S20 Ultra. Those phones are even more expensive than the devices it launched in 2019; the Galaxy S10 started at $900, for example, while the Galaxy S10 Plus began at $1,000.
That means the Galaxy S20 is $100 more expensive than its Galaxy S10 predecessor was at launch, while the S20 Plus costs $200 more than the S10 Plus did when it debuted last year. It's worth noting, however, that Samsung's new phones do come with features not found on the S10 family that are probably responsible for the price hike, like 5G compatibility across all models, an improved camera, and a screen with a higher refresh rate.
And of course, Samsung does offer a wide variety of smartphones that are less expensive than its new Galaxy S20 phones. It offers midrange phones like its A series of devices, unlike Apple which only offers its flagship line and the older iPhone XR and iPhone 8. It's Samsung's mid-tier devices that has helped it maintain its spot at the top of the global smartphone market, according to The International Data Corporation. Plus, it still sells last year's Galaxy S10 phones at reduced prices alongside the Galaxy S20.
But by increasing the prices of its flagship smartphones - and cutting the budget model from its 2020 lineup - Samsung is still sending a very different message than Apple. While Apple is trying to prove that there's a version of the newest iPhone for everyone, even those with a tighter budget, Samsung is maintaining that its flagship phones are only for those willing to spend at least $1,000 or more.