Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung is still the top brand in Android smartphones, with the company dominating the $400 and above Android phone segment, according to Counterpoint Research. This is at least partly thanks to the flagship Galaxy S series, and we can see why they are so popular.
Samsung’s premium phones are available in almost every market, offer a respectable spec sheet, and come with the best update promise in the entire Android phone landscape. The Galaxy S series is the face of Android in many countries.
Now the company is gearing up the Galaxy S23 series for launch, and it’s clear that the base Galaxy S23 model should compete with the Pixel 7. , but the Pixel 7 suggests a sleeping giant may have awakened.
Why buy an $800 Galaxy S23 when there’s a $600 Pixel 7?
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
When released in 2021, the Galaxy S21 was considered a good deal at $800, especially considering the previous generation Galaxy S20 launched in 2020 for an eye-watering $1,000. The S21 didn’t have the fastest charging speeds, biggest battery or sharpest screen compared to rivals like the Xiaomi Mi 11 and OnePlus 9, but it still offered top-notch features like wireless charging and water resistance – a rarity for affordable Chinese rivals.
Later in 2021, the Pixel 6 shook things up in a big way, undercutting the Galaxy S21 by $200. For just $600, you get a long commitment with updates, top-notch main camera, respectable power level, bigger battery, and premium extras such as wireless charging and water resistance. The Pixel 6 was far from perfect, however, due to well-documented connectivity issues, plenty of bugs at launch, and a very small list of supported markets. But it formed the foundation from which the Pixel 7 would emerge.
The Pixel 6 challenged the Galaxy S21, but it’s the Pixel 7 that bolstered Google’s more interesting proposition.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” seemed Google’s approach to the Pixel 7. The search company maintained the same $600 price tag compared to the $800 Galaxy S22 to begin with. But Google also addressed the Pixel 6’s pain points, such as numerous bugs and connectivity issues. The company also expanded into three new markets while returning to India for the first time since 2018. Add in well-received features like smart calling functionality, offline voice typing, plenty of extra camera options, and plenty of Pixel-only features, and it’s no wonder the Pixel 7 took second place for our Best of 2022 award ( behind the larger Pixel 7 Pro).
It’s worth reiterating that Google is still a ridiculously long way behind Samsung when it comes to global and regional shipment numbers, as well as market share in the premium segment. In fact, Google doesn’t even crack the top five worldwide. Pixels certainly won’t close the gap to Samsung’s flagship phones any time soon.
Google may not be a threat to Samsung, but the Pixel line has been critically acclaimed for its value proposition.
It’s also fair to say that Google and Samsung’s pricing strategies aren’t exactly apples to apples. Both companies offer pre-order promotions (including bundled gadgets and free store credit) and frequent discounts over the life of their phones. But Samsung often beats Google thanks to more generous trade-in offers that significantly soften the blow of buying a new phone. Samsung also has a close relationship with carriers around the world resulting in deep discounts and other promotions through these channels.
Nevertheless, it is clear that after years in the doldrums, Google is gaining some momentum in the smartphone field. The company had a 2% share of North America in the second quarter of 2022, ahead of the launch of the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7 series. This effectively represents a 230% annual growth over 2021. Granted, companies growing from a low base always post impressive growth rates, but it still shows the progress of the Pixel maker after years of a scattered strategy.
What Samsung needs to do
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Reducing the cost of the Galaxy S23 should be a top priority for Samsung if it wants to nip Google’s admittedly minor threat in the bud – at least in the media perception game.
Samsung doesn’t necessarily have to match the Pixel 7, but even a $700 starting point would be a sensible starting point, even if it means fewer pre-order perks and bundle offers. After all, the Galaxy S23 is about to offer expensive features such as a more powerful chipset, a 120Hz screen and a telephoto camera. These extras are easier to sell for $100 more, but not so much for a $200 difference.
Do you think Samsung should lower the price of the S23?
Samsung could also theoretically go even lower with its base Galaxy S phone. With that, the company would probably have to reduce its profit margin or make a few cutbacks to maintain this margin. On the other hand, the basic Galaxy phone doesn’t leave much room for compromise in light of its FHD+ display, small battery and relatively slow charging speeds. But a plastic back, a 90Hz refresh rate, and/or a repurposed camera system might be a small price to pay for a $600 Galaxy S phone.
There’s no doubt that the Galaxy S23 will outsell the Pixel 7 in the short term. However, Google has shown more guts in the past two years and is proposing an alternative path for Android users: less talk about specs and more focus on a coherent hardware-plus-software experience. And this strategy has earned it a lot of goodwill from both media and users. Samsung can’t afford to rest on its laurels simply because it’s been the best dog in the Android flagship world for a few years now.