While HTC has been buckling down and at least somewhat minimizing their product offerings (focusing mainly on the HTC One) – Samsung seems to be pushing a completely different strategy: one that involves flooding the market with as many phones and variants of existing models as possible.
Case and point: The Samsung Galaxy S4.
While this is one of Samsung’s flagship brands, it isn’t really just one phone anymore. First you have the GS4 in Snapdragon or Exynos, depending on the region. Then you have the S4 Active with waterproof/dustproof capabilities, the S4 Zoom with a better camera but lesser overall specs, and the S4 Mini with weaker specs but a much smaller form factor. There’s also a Korean-only LTE-A GS4 model that has a Snapdragon 800 processor.
Need a super-super-sized smartphone? Samsung has the Galaxy Mega 5.8 and 6.3. And let’s not forget rumors suggesting that the Galaxy Note 3 might have as many as 4-8 variants, some with premium bodies and fancier displays, others with cheaper plastic casings.
We are not even going to touch on all of the ‘budget’ Galaxy devices or the non-Galaxy-branded Samsung Android devices.
According to the Korean-based ET News, this is just the beginning. Samsung plans to continue creating new variants that cover all the bases from different sizes to different materials, specs, etc.
At some point you have to ask, is there such thing as TOO many options?
Why Samsung’s multi-option approach makes sense
Part of the beauty of Android is choice. Don’t like a certain app? Change it. Don’t like that default launcher? Find a 3rd party one.
The same can be said for Android phones. From Huawei to Sony to HTC, Samsung, Motorola and countless others – Android users have hundreds upon hundreds of phones to choose from. Again, choice is a good thing.
But what of using the same brand name over and over again and creating crazy names like the Galaxy S Neo Mega Ultra? (ok- that one is made up..) It’s certainly seems a bit ridiculous.
On the positive side, Android users do like customization.
While true PC-like hardware customization doesn’t exist (at least yet?) in the smartphone world, companies like Samsung give us tons of choices so we can find the device that best meets our definition of a ‘dream device’.
In contrast, Apple tells users that they can either have the new iPhone (currently iPhone 5), the old iPhone (iPhone 4S), or the older iPhone (iPhone 4). Not much diversity there.
Same goes for Blackberry where you can choose between a few BB10 devices, or get an aging BB7 handset. Windows Phone 8 has a little bit more customization that Blackberry or Apple, but good luck finding the range that you’ll get with Android – such as a 5+-inch or 6+-inch smartphone.
In short, Samsung has a device for every type of user with any kind of budget. They are able to do this by expanding their ranges to cover all sorts of sizes and specs.
*as disclosure: For those wondering, I currently use an LG Nexus 4 as my main phone. I have an iPad 2 and a Microsoft Surface Pro – so I dabble in all platforms*
Why Samsung’s multi-option approach isn’t so great…
What if you aren’t a techie type that understands specs and features? Is this kind of variance so great then? Yes and no.
The good news is that if you don’t know the difference between an S4 Pro and a Snapdragon 800 – you’ll simply choose the version of a Sammy Galaxy phone that has the lowest price point and it will probably do everything you’ll need while saving you money. It also means that other non-techies won’t care that your S4, Note 3 or Mega isn’t the BEST, only that it is a Galaxy-branded device.
On the downside, it also makes picking out a phone more difficult. Going to the store and asking for a “Galaxy Note 3” or “Galaxy S4” becomes much more complicated when the cashier/service person asks you dozens of questions just to find out what phone you are looking for.
Beyond possible consumer confusion, we also can’t forget about carrier issues. I mean, can we really expect every carrier to carry 4+ models of the Note 3, Galaxy S5, Mega, etc? Nope, they’ll choose one or two and we’ll be stuck with it.
This means that if you really want the phone of your dreams, you’ll have to do it by buying it unlocked.
That’s good for Samsung and for those that are against being locked to a carrier.
Unfortunately, it’s not so good for those that can’t afford to buy outright or have a CDMA phone that doesn’t play nicely with the whole unlocked trend.
Brand image issues
Right now, we know that if you buy a Galaxy S4 or Note 2 – you are getting the best of the best from Sammy. We know that if it is anything else from Samsung, it is probably mid-range or lower.
If the future Galaxy S5 has both a low, mid and high-end version – will that affect buyer perception? That’s a good question, and one we really can’t answer until Samsung actually goes out and makes all these variants happen. That said, the Galaxy S4 the variants haven’t seemed to hurt the brand much in the short-term.
Summing it up…
If Samsung is truly serious about spreading out its line-up even further and adding different materials, processor configurations and more, some folks are going to love it. Some folks are going to be confused. Others really won’t care one way or another.
Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter whether you (or I) like the idea of a million Galaxies or not. If it proves profitable for Samsung, it is the right strategy.
The S4 hasn’t quite meet the expectations that Samsung set for it, but Samsung is still doing very well. If Sammy really seems to think that there is a future in creating an even wider range of devices and product tiers – they might be right.
What do you think, do you like the idea of multiple variants of Samsung’s flagship phones? Or do you feel that the massive amounts of different Galaxy and non-Galaxy Samsung phones add enough consumer confusion as it is?
Let us know what you think in the comments below!