Samsung's Galaxy Note 5: A High-End Gamble - InformationWeek

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Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
8/15/2015
11:05 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Samsung's Galaxy Note 5: A High-End Gamble

Samsung hopes its Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ handsets will boost sales, but may find them a hard sell.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5, S6 Edge+: Side By Side
Samsung Galaxy Note 5, S6 Edge+: Side By Side
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Samsung's flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, have not won over consumers. In fact, sales have been nearly disastrous. They weighed heavily on Samsung's recent earnings.

It's difficult to see how larger and more expensive versions of those phones will do any better with cost-conscious buyers.

The S6 and S6 Edge were supposed to be Samsung's salvation. The 2013-era Galaxy S4 sold spectacularly well around the globe. Its follow up, the 2014 Galaxy S5, didn't fare so well. In fact, Samsung only sold about 60% as many as it predicted. The S5 was an evolutionary update to the S4. Samsung realized perhaps some change was in order.

So Samsung dug deep and produced its finest-ever handsets in the S6 and S6 Edge, which arrived in April. The design, materials, and features are everything flagship smartphones should offer.

Too bad consumers aren't buying them.

[Wondering what Google's restructuring means for its mobile business? See Why Google CEO Sundar Pichai Is Good For Android.]

The S6 and S6 Edge did away with a few critical features: swappable batteries and support for external storage. Many loyal Samsung customers were put off by the decision to strip these features from its top-level phones. It didn't help that Samsung miscalculated the supply mix for the two phones; it ordered too many of one and not enough of the other.

(Image: Thomas Clayburn/InformationWeek)

(Image: Thomas Clayburn/InformationWeek)

The Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ are almost direct carryovers from the S6 and S6 Edge. They boost the screen a bit, and toss in more RAM and add a bigger battery, but they are otherwise nearly identical on a spec-for-spec basis.

Samsung might have trouble selling them in the numbers it wants.

Let's face it, high-end smartphones are expensive as hell.

The majority of flagship handsets cost $650 and up.

Apple's iPhones range from $650 to $950, depending on options. Samsung's Galaxy S6 and Note 5 series have similar price points. The HTC One M9 plays in this space, too. The common thread here is that these are premium smartphones, the best of the best, the top of the line. These phones have the best screens, the fastest and newest processors, and incredible cameras. They also have compelling designs and are made from top-notch materials to exacting specifications.

The success of the pricey iPhone clearly tells us people are willing to pay for such devices, but there's only one iPhone. There are thousands of Android handsets, and many of them offer a better value for the dollar. The Motorola Moto X, for example, costs $399. The LG G4 costs $499. There are myriad handsets that deliver excellent performance for $250 or less.

Samsung knows that its phones cost a lot.

It admitted as much last month when, facing slower-than-anticipated sales of the S6 and S6 Edge, it dropped their prices by $100 to $200. That's an ominous sign and could foreshadow the eventual fate of the Note 5 and S6 Edge+.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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Rosin Smoked
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Rosin Smoked,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/20/2015 | 11:00:26 AM
These Are Computers
Without expansion options like the return of the SD slot, a device is simply irrelevant. If you spend this much on a device (and manage not to lose it), being able to replace the battery when it weakens after a few years matters too.

I can see providing sealed models for rugged environments - but then why not go all the way with those and make them truly waterproof? They still need models that sacrifice dust/splash resistance for expansion.

If Samsung is listening, I could get excited about a phone that offered a random MAC address option, a USB-C interface, good camera and decent sound. Otherwise - well, there are still used Note 3 and Note 4 devices out there.
rjhebert
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rjhebert,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/17/2015 | 6:29:25 PM
Samsung Note 5
Where is the world-class flagship phone with ALL the features Samsung Note 5 Edge? These weakling iCompetitors strutted-out on August 13th are going to take Samsung following down the same path as HTC to obivion. I'll just keep my Note 4 Edge & Gear S for another year, thank you! I want to see: 1) Exynos xx22 octa-core all-in-one frequency - hopping chip ready for next year's network speed increases and Android advances, 2) 10,000mAh battery, 3) dual SIM cards, 4) 256gig super-high-speed storage, 5) 4gig memory along with superior memory management, 6) 4X high-efficiency screen using less power, 7) a physical camera button and better camera software interface, 8) USBc port for superior charging & data transfer, 9) power button on top so I don't accidentally shutdown the phone while adjusting volume, 10) more "medical" sensors, like blood-sugar, skin stress galvanometer, blood pressure, heart rate irregularities, and software to diagnose dangerous situations, 11) the wallet-cover in-the-box, the cordless charging base in-the-box, the Gear S2 in-the-box, I don't think that is too much to ask for $1,000 dollars US.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
8/17/2015 | 10:18:41 AM
Re: sales decline
@Sam2can,  I can see why Samsung dropped the removeable battery.  My Note 4 goes forever as long as I'm not streaming media or playing online games but even then it still lasts for hours.  Add to the fact the external battery packs are now so good at quick charging I've never had a need to replace the battery in my Note 4.  As for memory, I still like the option of bumping up the storage with the SD card as Samsung made a big mistake with the Note 5 and S6+ with the largest storage at 64GB with no 128GB model.  A high end smartphone requires high end storage.  Another miss by Samsung.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
8/17/2015 | 10:11:45 AM
Re: Samsung
@Brian.Dean, I got the Note 4 last year.  It's not even a year old yet and the Note 5 is out.  I find nothing in the Note 5 to make me "upgrade".  LG, HTC, and Motorola all have great completive products to Samsung but I like the Sony Z4 best.  If Sony was to product a Z4+, I might be tempted.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
8/17/2015 | 9:52:44 AM
So Samsung dug deep?
Samsung redesigns their most successful phone, the S4, in the S5 with no SD card or removable battery only meeting 60% of expectations.  So Samsung learned their lesson  "dug deep" producing the S6,  essentially the S5 with a metal frame.   And now to further stick their heads in the sand Samsung produces the Note 5 and S6+ with the same lack of market acceptance.  I can't wait for the S7 to see their third attempt at creating a phone Samsung wants to sell rather than what customers want to buy.  This kind of reminds me of Detroit, letting a 91% share of the market erode down to 40%.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
8/17/2015 | 9:36:13 AM
Re: sales decline
@XavierS499,  cloud storage is NOT memory capacity.  If that were the case then why put any memory on a phone?  No, on board memory means a lot. To add insult to injury the new Note 5 and S6+ only come in 64GB models.  For many this won't be enough memory.
XavierS499
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XavierS499,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2015 | 11:33:43 PM
Re: sales decline
They took out the removable battery and as alot but gave us higher memory capacity aswell as 115 gbs on Google drive So technically we didn't really loose anything we gained more memory As for the batter its a li-polimer battery so its supposed to be a better type of battery as li-ion was
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
8/15/2015 | 4:39:41 PM
Samsung
I agree Samsung is going to have to change its strategy if it wants to remains a major player in the smartphone market. The numbers of competitors with compelling products are increasing. Motorola's Moto X, LG's G4 and the Zenfone 2 from Asus, all had good sales figures. 

Or maybe, Samsung does not want to compete with Motorola and LG, etc., and is basically trying to capture Apple's market.  
Sam2can
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Sam2can,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2015 | 3:35:03 PM
sales decline
i will swap to lg for the first time. Samsung has lost its way without the removeable battery and sd card. I will stick with android though. If they brought removeable battery and sd card on nexus tablet i would have bought one as well. Instead i went for 64 GB ipad air 2. But it is the lg g4 pro for me and my father, uncle and brother. What is evan more stupid is that i put covers on our phones. So i was happy with leather and dont care about wireless charging. 
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