Samsung’s Strategy

Something doesn’t feel right…

It’s March, new Samsung phones were announced weeks ago and… I haven’t ordered one.

This is something of a first. I’ve owned an S6, S7, S8, S9, S10+, S20+ and now the S21 Ultra. It almost feels wrong to break the run, but I won’t be buying any of the S22 models.

I’ll be the first to admit that upgrading every year wasn’t really worth it. Samsung has very good trade-in prices on its pre-orders, and throws in extras such as Galaxy Buds and free subscription time to streaming services, so it hasn’t been quite as expensive as it could have been. Even so, the upgrade from one year to the next is rarely revolutionary. I switched from the plus model to the ultra last year, to get the full range of cameras, but the improvements this year seem to be incremental.

That didn’t stop me before, so why now? When I bought the S21 Ultra I didn’t hold back – I have the 512GB storage model with 16GB RAM. The top S22 Ultra model has expanded the storage to a ridiculous 1TB, but dropped the RAM to 12GB. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the 512GB I have, and I doubt if I’d notice the difference between 16GB and 12GB of RAM.

The big change, though, is that the S22 Ultra is a Samsung Note in all but name. It has an integrated stylus, which makes the phone wider. The S21 Ultra is already a big phone, but it’s just narrow enough to feel reasonably comfortable in the hand. It’s actually narrower but taller than the largest iPhone, at 75.6mm wide compared to the iPhone’s 78.1mm. When it comes to the width of a phone, a few millimetres can make all the difference between comfortable and awkward.

As well as being wide, at 77.9mm, the S22 Ultra has the squared corners of the old Note series phones. I think it would just be too big and unwieldy. Fine if you’re a fan of the stylus – and many people are – but it’s just not something I’d ever use.

I can see why Samsung has done it. As far as it’s concerned, foldable is the future, and I think it considers the Galaxy Fold to be its flagship device. By rolling the Note into the main Galaxy S line, it has simplified its strategy for traditional phones.

I think it’s a mistake. If you want the best Galaxy S phone, you have to get the version with a stylus. If you don’t want the stylus, you’re left with the S22+. The plus is a great phone, but the cameras aren’t quite as good and it has a smaller battery.

So how would I have done it if I was in Samsung’s position? I think there should be a phone with all of the bells and whistles except the stylus. I’d rather the S22+ had the same specs as the Ultra, other than size and stylus. That would leave the S22 with the specs of the current S22+. It could then drop the current base model from the S line.

Samsung launches an FE edition of its S phones later in the year, and the S21 FE didn’t make much sense – it didn’t actually come out until January, just a month before the S22, and by then the S21 was available at a lower price. By giving the S22 the specs of the current S22+, it would have left a gap to leave room for an S22 FE later in the year.

First world problems, of course, and I’m perfectly happy with my current phone. One of the biggest drivers for upgrading every year was for the improvements in the camera system. Now that I’ve got back into “proper” photography, for want of a better term, that’s no longer such a concern.

Perhaps breaking the chain will finally make me more sensible when it comes to upgrading my phones and other gadgets…

in Mobile

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