This has been a strange year for Samsung. While the South Korean giant was able to steady itself at the top of global smartphone sales, many of its Chinese rivals began to close the gap with Huawei CEO Richard Yu, even saying that Huawei could steal first place in 2019. But the bigger question is that just as Samsung's phones were in 2018, many of their products were overshadowed by things that will not be available until the middle of next year, assuming you can afford them.
At the same time, Samsung's problems are not limited to competition, because many of the company's problems are self-inflicted. Some of Samsung's key initiatives have not yet worked out and, in the rapidly evolving world of smartphones, Samsung has been unable to focus on its strengths and reinforce your weaknesses. Here's what went wrong with the Galaxy in 2018.
By far the biggest problem for Samsung this year is the Galaxy S9 which simply does not offer enough improvements to attract the kind of people who buy new phones every year to upgrade. Thanks to the foundries of Samsung, the GS9 was the first phone equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, while the Samsung monitor division ensured that the GS9 also had the best screen available. But, once other phones reached, what were the new GS9's most distinctive features? A rear camera with the world's first dual-aperture lens on a smartphone, only smaller frames and AR funk emoji. That's not enough.
While the camera addict loves the nerd aspect of having double apertures, the real world results were just OK. Meanwhile, AR Emoji looks like Bitmoji's shit. But where the hell was the new design? Returning to the GS5, Samsung offered remarkably more stylish designs on all phones. The Galaxy S6 ushered in the era of glass sandwich phones, while the S6 Edge featured the world's first dual-curved display, both of which are design statements that still influence the look of today's phones.
Next came the S7 which brought back the water resistance of the S5 and microSD card slot and took the S6's style and turned it into something that looked like a sophisticated space pebble. And then came the S8, one of the most beautiful phones ever. This not only brought us closer to the land promised by Bezel than ever before, but still left enough space for front cameras and an iris scanner without a notch, he also displayed a clever virtual home button instead of the old one. Fingerprint reader.
So the S9 came out, and it was more or less the same. In addition to moving the fingerprint sensor back to the middle of the phone instead of the side (which, if we're honest, was never a big deal), S8 and S9 are indistinguishable. To make matters worse, after a year of hatred, Samsung did not get rid of the Bixby button nor made its function customizable. Samsung, if you are going to put a button on a phone that does only one thing, it is best to make sure that the thing is fantastic. Unfortunately, as any Samsung phone owner knows, fantastic is one of the last words anyone would use to describe Samsung's digital assistant.
And when you expand the view to bigger issues across the enterprise, Samsung's slowness in upgrading its phones to the latest version of Android is rather embarrassing. Samsung is the largest handset maker in the world and has recently taken over the position of P & G as the world's largest advertiser. However, four months after its launch, not even a single Samsung main phone managed to upgrade to Android 9 Pie. The only Samsung phone with Android 9 is the mid-range A8s, which is not available outside Asia and has just been announced last week. When people say that Android has a fragmentation problem, Samsung is one of the biggest reasons.
The software, in general, is still a weakness for Samsung. And even if the current Samsung Experience Android skin is not as bad as it used to be the TouchWiz, given the success of Pixel 3, the software is a flaw that Samsung can no longer afford. In addition, the Galaxy App Store is a mess, Samsung was late for the trend to use AI to improve its photos, and its new policy regarding the use of free themes in the next update of Android 9 is a drug. This is a shame, because many of the easy-to-use design choices made in OneUI are good, but still make up for the fact that it's long overdue.
Even more worrying is that in 2018 it seems that Samsung has moved away from what it does best: hardware that defines the industry and is market leader. In a pure spec comparison, in addition to having a low resolution screen, the OnePlus 6T ejects the GS9 for $ 100 less. And while Note 9 and its internal stylus remain the best handset on this side of the Pacific, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro offers full face recognition for 3D scanning, reverse wireless charging, a fingerprint sensor on the screen and three rear cameras- all the things that Note 9 of $ 1,000 does not have.
Strangely, one place where Samsung decided not to play it safe was with their ads. Because instead of doing the right thing and putting photos taken by their devices for use in promotions, Samsung was caught not once, but twice trying to pass photos taken on a DSLR as photos of smartphones. I do not really care if the ads only appeared in Brazil, Malaysia or anywhere else, cornering and dishonesty do not reflect well the company's decision making.
If Samsung wants to keep the top spot, Samsung needs it all. Give your main cell – both large and small – dual cameras, more RAM and the kind of features that make people remember how many innovations Samsung has inspired over the years.
Yes, the 5G phone and the bendy boy from Samsung are coming, and their new selfie camera looks perfect. But it's important not to let the complicated technology, like the panel sensors, fall by the wayside. With total sales of declining phones worldwide, the market will only become more competitive. There is no room for Samsung to leave anything unpacked.
Smartphone Smackdown 2018: This week we're looking at the best smartphones of the year and what we do not like about them.