SEOUL (Aug 10): Samsung Electronics Co Ltd launched the Galaxy Note 9 "phablet" in New York on Thursday, promising better battery life and quick cooling to attract gamers and rejuvenate flagging sales.
The focus on gamer-friendly features appears to be a shift away from Samsung's previous positioning of the Note as a productivity-boosting device, and is an attempt to lure younger customers as the company's smartphone sales falter.
Samsung last month posted its slowest quarterly profit growth in more than a year as rivals such as China's Huawei Technologies nipped at its heels, challenging the market leader with cheaper, feature-packed models.
An industry source said the new Note would be priced similarly to its predecessor Note 8, which sported dual rear cameras and the biggest screen to date on a Samsung smartphone, and sold at around US$950. The Note 8 had recorded brisk pre-orders.
The new Note will support up to 1 terabyte of memory — it will have a 512 gigabyte version that will support an additional 512 GB memory card — the source said, making Samsung the first major smartphone maker to sell a 1TB phone.
Samsung launched the Note 9 at 11 a.m. in New York on Thursday, or Friday midnight in Seoul. The new Note is set to hit stores on Aug 24, Samsung said.
The release comes about three weeks earlier than its predecessor's release date, a move prompted by increased competition in the second half of the year as rivals release new smartphone models.
Samsung said the Note 9 will be the first Android phone to support Fortnite, a hugely popular video-and-smartphone survival game that was only playable on computers, consoles and Apple products until now. Lovers of the game would get an exclusive Note 9 character skin, or alternative appearance for characters.
The phablet — a cross between a smartphone and a tablet — would also be able to cool itself quickly during game sessions that typically heat phones up a lot.
Its S Pen stylus is Bluetooth-enabled and designed to act as a remote for controlling Youtube video playback.
Hopes on new model
"We expect the Note 9 to sell more than its previous model and we will mobilise all our sales and marketing resources to ensure the successful launch," KyeongTae Lee, Samsung's vice-president of mobile communication, told investors on the company's earnings conference call last week.
Samsung does not break out shipments of its smartphone models, but analysts reckon it has shipped around 10 million Note 8 models so far.
The company hopes to break through its sales slump with the new note, after it reported last month that its flagship Galaxy S9 phone missed sales targets. Profit in the mobile division fell by a third in the April-June quarter.
Chinese rival Huawei predicted last week that it would become the world's top smartphone seller by volume — displacing Samsung — in the final quarter of next year.
Meanwhile, Apple Inc managed to sell more of its US$1,000 iPhone Xs in the June quarter and regain some favour in China.