There was a time not so long ago, perhaps starting around the launch of the Galaxy S2 and ending with the arrival of the Galaxy S5, that it felt like Samsung could do no wrong. The Nokia and BlackBerry era was very much a thing of the past, and CEO JK Shin was on top of the world.
Samsung is still number one, yes, but it’s currently on a downward spiral, and – contrary to Apple – almost every Samsung-themed story these days is flavoured with a generous dose of doom and gloom.
Having recently detailed Seven reasons to love being Tim Cook right now, here we’re looking at five reasons it sucks to be Samsung.
1. Samsung has been largely shunned in Japan
Japan and South Korea are essentially neighbours, geographically (it’s just a short hop over the Korea Strait), but South Korea’s Samsung is really struggling to have much impact on the Land of the Rising Sun.
Or perhaps it’s because they’re neighbours that Samsung is struggling; the two have a rather, uhm, coloured history, to cut a long story short.
In mobile terms, Samsung has failed to penetrate Japan’s top 5 smartphone manufacturers for two straight years, with recent figures suggesting a market share of just 4%. No prizes for guessing that Apple is top of the pile, while Japanese smartphone buyers also prefer homegrown players like Sony and Sharp.
Ultimately, Business Korea suggests Samsung might cut its losses and bail on Japan altogether, rather than stick around and continue to operate at a loss.
2. Apple: big in South Korea
Apple and Samsung are the best of frenemies, with copycat claims flying around (good to see that’s died down a little of late, incidentally) while the latter supplies the former with processors. Samsung generally ships more phones, but Apple accounts for the best-selling individual phone in the iPhone.
Imagine, then, Samsung’s embarrassment as Apple’s popularity soars in South Korea, thanks to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Prior to late 2014, no foreign manufacturer had accounted for more than 20% of the South Korean smartphone market, but Apple broke down that particular wall with 33% share in November 2014 (Counterpoint).
3. Samsung’s dwindling global market share
We were getting used to Samsung accounting for around one third of all global smartphone shipments, but more recently it’s more like one fifth – just ahead of Apple.
Looking at 4Q14 vs. 4Q13, Samsung was the only top 5 player to record a year-on-year drop in shipments (-11%), much to the delight of everyone else: Apple (+46%), Lenovo (+77.9%), Huawei (+41.7%) and Xiaomi (+178.6%).
Throughout 2014, global smartphone shipments rose 27.6%, but Samsung failed to meet that rate, shipping just 0.6% more units as its rivals enjoyed double-figure growth.
Figures from IDC.
4. Baffling, uninspiring Galaxy wares
Samsung might be about to shake things up with an all-metal Samsung Galaxy S6 and three-sided Galaxy S6 Edge, but looking at the rest of its arsenal, things are just a mess.
You’d need a degree to stay on top of the Galaxy A and Galaxy E ranges, an army of midrange phones that are only marginally different; and in tablets, Samsung is tipped to churn out the thoroughly uninspiring Tab A and Tab A Plus, alongside Galaxy Tab E and Tab J devices.
Seriously, Samsung, sometimes less is more. And where the heck is your answer to the Motorola Moto G?
5. Samsung's internal disarray
For some bizarre reason, Samsung figured it’d be a great idea to fire out a flagship – the Galaxy S5 – with a perforated rear. The gold model in particular was famously compared to a Band-Aid, and Samsung’s head design guy was – unsurprisingly – “realigned” shortly thereafter.
It’s also strange that Samsung operates with no less than three CEOs. Head over to MarketWatch for a thoroughly interesting read explaining why having multiple CEOs is generally a bad thing. Too many cooks, and all that.
Indeed, it was rumoured back in November last year that JK Shin might get the axe, with his duties absorbed by fellow CEO BK Yoon, and while it was later reported that Shin’s job was safe, he accepted a significant pay cut in 2014.