Samsung puts off phone debut
Tech show announcement keys on safety tests, tablets
A more cautious Samsung was on display Sunday at the Mobile World Congress, the annual technology show in Barcelona. As the company works to regain its reputation after last year’s unprecedented recall of the Galaxy Note 7 phone, it decided not to introduce a new smartphone at the show, breaking with tradition over the past three years.
Samsung set the tone of its news conference ahead of the show’s opening Monday with a video showcasing its safety testing procedures rather than touting the past year’s successes or offering a flashy product announcement.
“Innovation is our legacy. Quality is our priority,” the company’s video said.
The company focused its presentation on new tablets, while announcing that its next phone will get its time in the spotlight at a March 29 release event.
The company did not elaborate on why the phone’s release will come later, but it said last month when it reported the results of the Note 7 investigation that it may delay its new phone’s debut.
The next phone will have a new design, David Lowes, chief marketing officer for Samsung Electronics Europe, said in a live stream of the Barcelona news conference. Apart from an ad with the tagline “Unbox your phone” that showed a stylized illustration of a phone with an edge-to-edge screen, the company provided no further details about its next model.
The next Galaxy phone will be a crucial test for Samsung, which had waged a successful campaign to chip away at Apple’s iPhone before the Note 7 crisis. The company has apologized for releasing phones that caught fire and exploded but has yet to follow up with a new smartphone to woo customers back and prove its stated commitment to safety.
With the Note 7, Samsung flubbed an opportunity to score points off Apple, which
in 2016 reported a yearlong decline in iPhone sales for the first time. Samsung reported that it lost at least $5 billion in sales and losses related to the recall. And that is not the only crisis facing the tech giant: Samsung also drew headlines this month after the South Korean government arrested its vice chairman and company heirapparent, Lee Jae-yong, on bribery charges.
The effect these problems have had on Samsung’s relationship with its customers has been difficult to quantify, but analysis firm IDC reported that Apple regained its lead over Samsung in smartphone shipments in the last quarter of 2016.
Still, despite its more measured tone in Barcelona, Samsung didn’t pull all its punches. The company showcased two tablets with designs that appear meant to take on top competitors, including Apple and Microsoft. The new 9.7-inch Galaxy
Tab S3 is a high-end update to its Android tablet line. It will ship with the company’s S Pen stylus.
Samsung also showed off the Galaxy Book, a tablet that comes with a keyboard and stylus, which kicks off a new product line to compete with Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface line. Unlike its competitors, Samsung will ship the Galaxy Book with the accessories necessary to make it a laptop replacement. Samsung also made it a point to court the same creative class of customers — artists and designers who can take full advantage of its stylus — as have Apple and Microsoft.
Samsung is trying to rebuild its reputation by offering fewer and higher-quality products, a strategy that could improve its standing and reap greater profits, analysts said.
“Samsung is recommitting to its higher performance units, which offer better profit margins and opportunities to enhance the brand,” said Rhoda Alexander, director at IHS Technology, in a research note shortly after the presentation.
A Mobile World Congress attendee tries out Samsung’s Gear virtual reality system Monday at the gathering in Barcelona, Spain.