Samsung has been making phones for a very long time. Its current Galaxy line is what made Android what it is today, and over the years, it has waged a bitter war against other platforms, such as Apple’s iPhone. To some extent, the war has since been settled because both platforms offer their customers a rich experience, and with the maturity of Android, there aren’t any significant differences between the two other than pure choice. There is also the ecosystem argument, where people buy Galaxies (Android) or Apple devices because they have been locked into those ecosystems over an extended period.
Both platforms have insanely expensive hardware
Another point that I want to bring up is the pricing. Back in the day, it was okay for a person to pick an Android device because the platform offered variety for different budgets. The same happens to date, and while some people cannot say it explicitly, Android devices (read: Galaxy phones) are still viewed as a peasant’s way of staying connected. iPhones, traditionally, have always been expensive, and Apple is the first phone maker to actually break the $1000 price point for smartphones.
However, this is no longer the case because Android handhelds (read again, Galaxies) have equally pushed their limits in terms of innovation to command a higher asking price. We are at a point where some Samsung devices cost more than iPhones, and this makes me wonder which direction the industry will be heading in the coming days.
Part of this transition is the fact that Samsung has dipped its toes into the foldable waters. It is currently the only phone maker with a significant market share in the foldables space, having ventured into this business many years ago when all other manufacturers were afraid to do so. With this early entry, Samsung has had an upper hand, improving its tech iteratively to make their current lineup (Fold4 and Flip4) usable and practical devices.
But at what cost?
The Fold4 is an amazing piece of engineering, but it costs an arm and a leg. A fully decked-out Fold 4 can go up to KES 250K!
Not to give an indication of adjusting the prices downward, Samsung launched the S23 series just the other day. We know everything about them, including the specs, how much they will cost, and if customers will get some additional perks such as screen replacements on account of the phone being prohibitively expensive (they will).
Starting with the base model, it costs a cool KES 135,000. If you think that is a lot of money, then you can choose the contract way and a first in the Kenyan market: Safaricom will be offering it at a discount of KES 20K, and KES 10K in monthly installments (payment period is yet to be specified). The deal will get you 10 of data per month (other users who buy these phones will get the same too from Safaricom – but they don’t have to buy the device from the telco) for 12 months (which I assume will be the repayment period too, but I have my doubts). The same contract deal exists for the S23 Ultra, but the deposit amount is higher at KES 60K.
Samsung Kenya still knows that its pricing for these phones is high, which is why it has souped up purchasing plans with other models. For instance, you can do a trade in with Badili Africa and pick one of these new shiny pieces of hardware.
If that’s not your style, then you can use your credit card and access the device on loan. If you pay that amount in a 6-month window, then you wouldn’t have to furnish the principal amount with any interest thanks to KCB.
So, are you seeing where I am going with this? It is quite clear, actually: these phones are becoming way too expensive for the majority of people.
Back in the day, Galaxy smartphones were affordable. The S2, S3, and even the S4 started at around KES 60,000. Then, for some reason (and I blame tech journalists from the West for this), Samsung Galaxy S prices skyrocketed. Reason? It was being criticized (maybe deservedly so) by reviewers for being too plastic-y (not premium enough). So, starting with the S6, Samsung stopped using plastic backplates for glass and sealed their devices to achieve that unibody design. This, of course, came at a cost because those materials were expensive. And it has remained so to date.
We can bring up the case of inflation, the outgoing pandemic that put a strain on supply chains, the Ukraine war, Kenya’s never-ending taxes, and much more – but all these reasons do not discount the fact that Galaxy S phones are premium, perhaps too premium to appeal to a substantial chunk of customers.
People will keep their older Galaxies
I mentioned that the Android/Galaxy experience has matured, which means that these phones can actually last longer than they used to.
For instance, Samsung has an excellent track record of updating its devices. It is perhaps the only phone maker that pushes these software and cosmetic overhauls for their devices. For example, if you buy the S23, you will get 4 years of major software updates and 5 years of security updates. That is actually unique to Samsung premium phones, meaning Samsung has every intention of keeping their customesr happy for as long as they want.
Can this be the reason why their phones are getting too pricy? Probably.
But then, there is another way of looking at it: you will likely keep your phone for longer, because what is the point of replacing a perfectly good phone?
Also, say you have the S22 Ultra from last year. Do you see the point of upgrading – because its successor costs KES 209K. That is actually higher than the Z Fold 4 base variant, which, to me, makes little sense.
Finally, the base S23 costs KES 135K. The S22 Ultra can be purchased for under KES 120K if you look around, with local warranty in tow too. Would you pay more for a current device, although it is still dwarfed (specs and price) by a one-year older device? Well, that can never be me, because the S23 should not be costlier than the S22 Ultra.
It is for these reasons that I think you are better off hanging on to your older Galaxy phones up to that point when they will stop working, or when they will be redistributed, unwillingly, to a new owner.