The smartphone landscape is changing and Samsung has the perfect weapon to win 2020 – and it’s not the Galaxy Note 20.
Samsung’s reputation is built almost entirely on its flagship phones. The annual Galaxy S and Galaxy Note releases are what it is traditionally judged on. Those handsets also have the most significant effect on the balance sheet.
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Last summer, Samsung’s profits fell by half amid disappointing initial sales for the S10 range. There’s no indication, as yet, that the Galaxy S20 series is performing any better. A report from the Korea Herald in February suggested day-one S20 sales on Samsung’s home turf were down 50% on the S10. Although, of course, there are mitigating circumstances for the shortcoming. Research from Counterpoint suggests all phone sales are down over 20% on last year, for example.
Samsung already has a built-in solution to this quandary that we don’t hear that much about – the awesome mid-range Galaxy A-Series phones – especially the recently-announced A51 5G and A71 5G handsets. Right now, the A-Series has a rep’ as the phones people walk out of the store with if they don’t want to pay top dollar for smartphone contract. The second prize, if you will. And it seems people are buying it, with a recent report suggesting the A51 is a very popular phone.
Only the LTE versions are available for the time being, but the forthcoming Galaxy A51 5G (£429) and Galaxy A71 5G (£529) are future-proofed. It’s a breakthrough for those seeking next-gen connectivity at an affordable price. The new iPhone SE, for instance, does not have 5G and it’s highly unlikely Google’s Pixel 4a will.
An affordable phone from a reliable manufacturer that’ll offer access to next-generation mobile speeds when they arrive in your area? Exactly what’s not to love about that?
For keen smartphone watchers, the A-Series has long been known as a testing ground for Samsung’s innovations before they hit the big time. But for some, it might be surprising to see advanced features like under-display fingerprint sensors (optical rather than ultrasonic), and large AMOLED Infinity-O displays with punch-hole cameras on mid-range devices.
Both the A71 5G and A51 5G also have 4,500mAh batteries that can be charged at 25W and 15W respectively, come with a minimum of 6GB of RAM, 128GB of built-in storage and capacity to expand via a microSD card. And, if you’re that way inclined, the A51 has a 3.5mm jack – unlike S20 range.
Samsung hasn’t scrimped on the design here. Many reviews have commented that it’s not immediately easy to tell the A51 apart from the S20 Plus. We may finally be past the era where mid-range look like you found them on the discount aisle Poundland. We too loved the eye-catching design of the LTE model and called the display “a joy to look at.”
The A51 is around half the price of the entry-level Galaxy S20 phone (£799), so there are some trade-offs. The camera experience lags behind, for example. The Exynos 9611 processor on the LTE model struggled (We pointed out these shortcomings in our 4-star review of the Galaxy A51 LTE.), but we’re more hopeful when it comes to the 5G-supporting Exynos 980 on the upgraded model.
Sure, the margins may be lower in terms of profit, but the volume is certainly there to make up for it. The landscape is changing. The battle between the flagships of the iPhone 12 and Galaxy Note 20 will be fought amongst an increasing minority. The new battleground is the Galaxy A51 5G vs the iPhone SE vs the Google Pixel 4a. Offering a value proposition we haven’t seen in years, with no deal-breaking weaknesses, they will be the best phones for most people.
Samsung must more aggressive in this fight. Even against what appears to be an unrivalled bargain, in the iPhone SE, it’s a battle that can be won. It might just save 2020 for the firm’s all-important mobile division.
Chris Smith is a freelance technology journalist for a host of UK tech publications, including Trusted Reviews. He’s based in South Florida, USA.
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