When Samsung launched its flagship Galaxy Note 5 smartphone back in August, the one noticeable thing was the reduced price of the unlocked SIM-free variant of the device. Now whether that’s because of the carriers doing away with their device subsidies, or because of Samsung’s steadily eroding market share and disappointing Galaxy S6 / S6 Edge sales is anybody’s guess, but if there were ever any doubts in the minds of industry watchers and tech enthusiasts about whether Apple was about to follow suit and reduce its prices with the subsidy regime slowly but surely breathing its last in the US, the launch of the iPhone 6S over the weekend made one thing crystal clear – the Cupertino, California-based tech company is not about to budge from its premium positioning, seeing as the 6S launched at the exact price-point as its predecessor, the iPhone 6S.
While last year’s Note 4 came with a starting price of $826 for the unlocked, SIM-free version, this year’s 32 GB version of the Note 5 was priced at $696 at full retail. Apple however, launched the 16 GB version of the iPhone 6S Plus with the same $749 price-tag that the iPhone 6 Plus came with last year. The 64 and 128 GB unlocked versions of Apple’s latest phablet meanwhile, cost $849 and $949 respectively, at full retail.
While Samsung’s smartphone business grew at a much faster pace compared to that of Apple’s in the early part of this decade, things have taken a decidedly different turn over the past couple years. While the company’s smartphone business grew at an astronomical 131 percent in 2012 and an impressive 44 percent in 2013, last year was a particularly tough year for Samsung, as its sales remained flat at 315 million units. According to South Korea’s Shinhan Investment Corporation, this year is unlikely to be any different for the tech giant, as the company’s smartphone business is likely to once again see a nominal growth of 0.95 percent this year, with estimated shipments of 318 million units overall. Apple meanwhile, is likely to ship 230 million units, which would be an increase of 19 percent over last year.
According to an unnamed ‘industry insider’ quoted by Business Korea, “The shipments (for Samsung) are unlikely to show a meaningful increase for the time being. To have an impact on the market, Samsung Electronics will have to increase the supply of high-end phones, even though mid-end handsets still take up a large portion of its production volume”.