Samsung refreshed the Galaxy S9 lineup of Android flagships with Ice Blue, a new color option that happens to be the first gradient finish of the company's high-end phone series. Both the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will be available in the new color, though the Ice Blue devices have so far only been announced in China. The latest finish, depicted above, is significantly lighter than the Coral Blue Galaxy S9 models and transitions from a shade of light blue to ice-like white. Only the 128GB variants of the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 have been confirmed as coming in Ice Blue so far, priced at the equivalent of $970 and $930, respectively. The new products are now available for pre-orders in the Far Eastern country, with the local branch of Samsung confirming the Ice Blue Galaxy S9 model will start shipping to consumers on Tuesday, November 20. The new Galaxy S9 Plus variant will begin shipping on the following Monday, November 26.
The prices of the Ice Blue Galaxy S9 devices are in line with other variants of the 128GB models. While the South Korean company has been attaching pre-order bonuses to the two handsets in other parts of the world, such freebies are being offered permanently in China. In the case of the Ice Blue Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus models, anyone who buys them moving forward will receive a complementary Samsung-made wireless charger. The same promotion is currently associated with every other Galaxy S9 model sold in China.
Background: Originally announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, this February, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus were first made available in Midnight Black, Titanium Gray, Coral Blue, and Lilac Purple. Samsung already refreshed the Android flagship lineup over the summer when it introduced the Burgundy Red and Sunrise Gold colors, both of which have been launched on a global level. Limited-edition Galaxy S9 models debuted in association with select brands were also introduced in the company's home country of South Korea earlier this year.
The world's largest smartphone maker rarely experimented with gradient colors in the past and such finishes were most recently popularized by Huawei whose Twilight finish proved to be extremely popular among buyers of both the P20 and Mate 20-series smartphones over the course of this year. Many manufacturers ended up copying the purple-dominated look, including Motorola, UMIDIGI, and LEAGOO. While Samsung's Ice Blue uses a distinct hue, it's unclear whether the company would have commercialized it had Huawei not proven the market for gradient smartphone colors exists.
Samsung itself traditionally refreshes its high-end smartphone series with new colors on a frequent basis, though it usually does so to maintain their momentum. Coupled with aggressive marketing, those revisions played a significant role on the company's journey to the title of the largest smartphone maker on the planet. Many analysts believe. This year was somewhat different as the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus didn't debut as strongly as anticipated. Their initial performance was disappointing enough for Samsung to highlight it to investors as part of its quarter-three financial report which described the Galaxy S9 sales as "soft." Following additional promotions, new color launches, and minor price cuts, the lineup is believed to have still performed decently and is expected to be one of the best-selling smartphone families of the year, though it's unlikely to surpass last year's Galaxy S8 series.
The Seoul-based technology giant is now turning toward the immediate future, having already teased its first foldable Android smartphone prototype set to be turned into a consumer-grade product in early 2019, possibly at Las Vegas-based CES in January. Besides the bendable Infinity Flex display, the company is also working on reimagining its Android implementation that it will start calling One UI starting with Android 9 Pie. The Galaxy S10 series will almost certainly run One UI out of the box, much like the rest of the company's 2019 portfolio. Over the last several years, the company settled with four launch colors for its Android flagships, in addition to revising them with at least three additional ones for some seven months following their commercial debuts. With the release of the Ice Blue Galaxy S9 models, its revision efforts pertaining to this particular lineup are likely coming to an end.
The reason why China ended up being the first (and possibly only) market to receive the unique color are likely associated with the fact that Samsung is still desperately trying to regain some of the market share it lost in the country over the last half a decade. Despite holding over a fifth of the Chinese smartphone market and being the largest handset vendor in the country in 2013, numerous industry trackers now estimate Samsung's current share in China is smaller than a single percentage point as the company has been undercut by local rivals such as Xiaomi and Huawei. In response, the firm launched a number of aggressive promotions, committed more resources toward localizing its China-specific devices, and even invested in niche markets such as contemporary flip phones, having announced the latest such device in the form of the unconventional W2019 just yesterday.
Impact: While it remains to be seen whether the Ice Blue Galaxy S9 models end up being released outside of China, the debut of the new colors likely marks the end of Samsung's Galaxy S9 revisions. With no fewer than seven colors (not counting limited-edition models) to choose from, consumers around the world already have a wide variety of options when it comes to Galaxy S9 finishes, even though not all variants are sold in every market. Depending on the commercial performance of the new Ice Blue models, Samsung may opt to start including a gradient color option to its future flagship releases from day one. Both the Midnight Black and Colar Blue finishes that are considered a staple of the firm's high-end devices once started as experimental products with extremely limited availability.
The release of the Ice Blue Galaxy S9 models also extends the recent trend of gradient color options in the mobile segment that are now being embraced by a wide variety of manufacturers, including some major names such as Huawei and LG. Following years of mostly black and dark devices, it appears that the (immediate) future of smartphones — both Android and otherwise — may be much more colorful.