Last week’s revelation that Samsung has overtaken Nokia to become the world’s biggest handset vendor is even more impressive when you consider where it was a year ago. In 2011, the Korean manufacturer had a 6% share of the smartphone market, but it now sits at 28% after a high profile marketing campaign and a range of devices that has impressed even its rivals. This one-two punch helped Samsung topple Nokia from the top of the shipments chart for the first time since 1998, with Strategy Analytics’ claiming it has a 25% share.
There’s no sign of Samsung slowing down either, with the imminent launch of the long-awaited successor to the Galaxy S II. However, Simon Stanford, VP of the manufacturer’s UK & Ireland telecommunications and networks division, stresses throughout our interview that Samsung is far from complacent about the months ahead. He says: ‘I guess [the smartphone market] is the most competitive it has been because of the new entrants. We take them very seriously and don’t take it for granted that we have to be one step ahead, and that’s in terms of research and development and manufacturing capability.’
The company is also making its mark in the retail arena, partnering with Phones 4u for its central London ‘store within a store’. The Oxford Street branch follows the experiential format that’s proved popular among mobile retailers in 2012, with Samsung’s Galaxy range of devices on display for customers to try out. Stanford says: ‘We want everyone to come and have a look at what we offer. As the market gets more and more complex, we want as many opportunities to showcase our products.’ But it seems unlikely that Phones 4u will be the only retailer to introduce a Samsung concession. He adds: ‘We are working with a range of partners and there should be more to talk about in the next couple of months.’
One area that could be unlocked by these new concessions is the tablet market. Stanford accepts the category is currently dominated by one brand and that the UK market remains largely unevolved. ‘Tablets are still important and a category we want to explore more.’ He says having dedicated staff with in-depth product knowledge and giving consumers the opportunity to play with a device could see the tablet market develop into at the very least a duopoly. He adds: ‘There’s no point placing tablets into stores that don’t have trained and knowledgeable staff. The products are great but it’s how we educate consumers as to what a tablet is and can do that is important. Historically, that hasn’t been done. Consumer education on a retail level will be our primary focus in terms of advertising.’
Other retail opportunities lie within the forthcoming London Olympic Games, with Samsung one of the sponsors. Stanford says: ‘As we move into the Olympics we want to get products into the hands of as many people as possible. There will be more innovative ideas across our partners during the coming months.’ When asked whether that could result in Samsung pop-up stores being rolled out across the capital, he adds: ‘There are a lot of opportunities for London.’
All attention turns to Samsung’s future this week with the manufacturer revealing (after Mobile goes to press) exactly what consumers can expect from the successor to the Galaxy S II. Stanford is coy on the handset’s details, although he does mention more work with Visa around Near Field Communications (NFC), amid rumours the Galaxy S III will be enabled for mobile payments.
However, Stanford is confident the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Note will continue to sell strongly in the coming months. He says: ‘Sales of the Galaxy Note are doubling week on week, which we are very happy about. The television advertising is the most successful that we have done to date and highlights where we are going… We’ve found staff have enjoyed selling and using the product and the category is something that will develop further.’
One way of developing this category is through pricing. As Mobile revealed last issue, Samsung is planning talks with operators about ‘more creative tariffing’ with Stanford speaking of the company’s desire to make its high-end devices ‘more affordable’. A cheaper range of existing devices, along with the flagship Galaxy S II successor, could see Samsung further cement its position as the leader of the handset market. Stanford says: ‘Look at where we are in terms of smartphone share. It was formerly 6% and now it’s 28%. We are in a really strong position and feel we have smartphones for every aspect of the market.’