Samsung, the Galaxy Note 5, and the UK conundrum


You can colour me plenty disappointed today as the news emerged that Samsung will not be launching its Galaxy Note 5 in the United Kingdom. The company launched the phablet flagship two days ago, but sensationally has decided to leave out one of its key markets and Europe as a whole until 2016 at the earliest. Samsung cited markets reasons for the snub, but tried to sweaten the deal by saying that the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus will at least be released in the UK.

Before tackling the details, let me tell you where I am. I am not a fan of Samsung, not even the new metal spec’d out Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, sorry… but the Galaxy Note smartphones, well they are different. I love them and have since the first iteration, they are invariably the best smartphones on the market when they are released, specs and design, a perfect combination. I would like to add that I live in the UK, I will now not be able to get the Galaxy Note 5.

While Samsung’s “market reasons” are arguably legitimate, the company has decided to ignore an entire continent (it seems the GN 5 will not be arriving in Europe this year either). Some of these markets are the largest in the world and feature populations with the most middle class disposable income. However, the United Kingdom is an Apple country, with its iPhone accounting for 34% of the market share at last count. Samsung is focusing on mega markets (China, India, and USA) and has clearly decided that Europe is lost to Apple.

The ironic thing is, Samsung apparently launched the Galaxy Note 5 a month earlier than normal to combat the threat of Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6s Plus. However, it seems that the company is still running scared of the iPhone, so much so that Samsung has decided to hand a whole continent to Apple. Sure, the Galaxy Note 5 will likely arrive in the UK in 2016 (not officially confirmed), but by then the iPhone 6s Plus would have landed and likely smashed sales records.

Moving far beyond the United Kingdom or even Europe, then this strategy is even more puzzling. Samsung’s market share is declining globally and in four of the world’s biggest smartphone spaces the company loses out to Apple. ComScore announced today that Apple leads the US market with 44.1% of sales, while Samsung accounts for 28.1%. Ok, Samsung losing in Apple’s home country seems reasonable, but it is a trend repeating in other major markets, with Apple outselling Samsung in China, Japan, and again the UK.

So, how is Samsung the market leader? Well, the company has a massive amount of products available, while it has sewn up plenty of emerging markets, India and Brazil among them. They are two huge nations with enormous populations, and they have lapped up Samsung’s lower priced smartphones. Not the flagships though, so the Galaxy Note 5 is unlikely to have much impact in those regions, which makes the decision to leave it out of Europe for at least six months even more baffling.

It is worth mentioning that Samsung is still comfortably the biggest selling smartphone brand globally, but how long can the company concede major markets to Apple and let the likes of Xiaomi creep up in emerging ones?

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