By Jon Swartz
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. announced a new lineup of its popular Galaxy smartphones Tuesday, with a base price of $1,000 that is moving in an opposite direction of rival Apple Inc.’s iPhones.
The South Korean electronics giant unveiled three Galaxy S20 phones with 5G connectivity and better cameras, ranging in price from $999 to $1,399, to go on sale in March; and new Galaxy Buds+ earbuds. Samsung /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -0.19% also showed off its next stab at a foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Z Flip, which is cheaper and has more apps than the Galaxy Fold, which was also announced in San Francisco a year ago.
See also: Samsung has a $1,980 foldable smartphone because innovation is pricey
The Flip, starting at $1,380 and due Feb. 14, resembles a flip phone with a square, bendable glass interior display and will invariably draw comparisons to Motorola Co.’s new $1,500 Razr phone. It is the first product under Samsung’s new head of mobile, TM Roh. Samsung offered hints of it during an ad during the Academy Awards on Sunday. Unfolded, its screen is 6.7 inches diagonally.
Foldable phones are vendors’ latest attempt to jump-start a market where sales have slackened, though with their steep price tags are likely only to appeal to tech enthusiasts and early adopters for the time being. But Samsung also moved prices higher on its standard Galaxy S line of phones, which stands in direct contrast to Apple’s /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.25% direction in its most recent round of new phones.
Samsung’s previous lineup of Galaxy smartphones cost as little as $649 for a Galaxy S10e when introduced a year ago, with the cheapest standard Galaxy phone, the base S10 model, starting at $799. The cheapest phone in the new lineup, the Galaxy S20, will cost $999, with the Galaxy S20+ starting at $1,199 and the Galaxy S20 Ultra beginning at $1,399. The S10 lineup will be discounted.
Apple originally pushed the envelope by selling the iPhone X for a base price of $1,000 starting in late 2017, but created more of a range of prices in its most recent launch of the iPhone 11. The cheapest iPhone in the latest line from Apple started at $699, $50 lower than the lowest-price option in Apple’s previous launch cycle.
For more: Apple’s iPhone 11 event reveals a dramatic change in strategy
Samsung appears to be headed the other way, giving all of its new Galaxy line of smartphones a $1,000 price tag. Apple set revenue records in the holiday season thanks to the strength of its latest iPhone 11 offerings.
The inclusion of 5G technology in the S20 models at “close to the same price as last year’s version, means that 5G penetration of the user base will be much better than I have been expecting,” Richard Windsor of Radio Free Mobile said in a note Wednesday.
Samsung should be able to take the high road in pricing because the smartphone market is “bifurcating into premium- and low-priced markets as consumers hold on to their phones longer,” Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told MarketWatch in an email.
“Samsung has the A Series for lower-priced phones and therefore I’m OK with the prices of their premium products as they deliver different features,” Moorhead said.
“They all have the cool factor, but can cool consumers justify several hundred dollars of premium for it!?” said Mehdi Hosseini, an analyst at Susquehanna International Group in a note Wednesday.
Added Bob O’Donnell, president of and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research: “Samsung prices have been high for a while.”
Samsung focused on the camera in Tuesday’s event, after the iPhone 11 added an extra lens for wider-angle shots, and Google’s /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL +1.34% /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +2.04% Pixel phones offered a lowlight feature.
If anything, Tuesday’s unveiling had the feel of a do-over. Defects in the $1,980 Galaxy Fold’s screen, squishy app compatibility, and delays in availability put a dent in sales. Compounding matters, reviewers panned the phone’s smaller front screen.
After Tuesday’s event, Samsung was expected to talk more about the new Galaxy phones at the annual Mobile World Congress later this month in Barcelona, Spain, but fears of the Covid-19 outbreak could hurt attendance at that event. On Tuesday, AT&T Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +2.00% and Intel Corp. were among those to drop out of the event, joining Nvidia Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200467500/composite NVDA -0.28% , Facebook Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +0.23% , Cisco Systems Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209509471/composite CSCO -0.09% , Ericsson /zigman2/quotes/208932705/composite ERIC +0.32% , LG /zigman2/quotes/209966407/delayed KR:066570 +0.74% , Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208567357/composite SNE +3.37% , and Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.55% .
Indeed, as the crowd filed in for the Samsung event, it passed a team taking temperatures in the security line to check for the coronavirus. The company also offered hand sanitizer stations and face masks.