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5G

Samsung takes a bullet for US carriers' 5G

When US carriers asked for flashy 5G phones, Samsung answered the call. But, based on new research, the company's decision to be an early player in 5G appears to have backfired.

Specifically, according to BayStreet Research, Samsung's overall phone shipments in the US were down 16% year-over-year in the first quarter. And despite the eye-watering price tags on its new 5G flagship phones, the company's revenues in the US market were down 11% during the same period.

BayStreet's overall findings dovetail with similar numbers from Wave7 Research. The figures tell a tale of a trusted handset vendor that wanted to support US operators' collective move to 5G, but came away with little to show for it.

Indeed, Samsung has long worked to support its US wireless network operator partners like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, whether through the installation of carriers' bloatware or via the inclusion of carriers' new network technologies and spectrum bands.

Samsung executives undoubtedly hoped to make a tidy profit doing so again this year with the company's 2020 Galaxy S flagship. Samsung's GS20 iterations support all the various flavors of 5G in the US – there is no 4G-only option – and they all sit above the $1,000 price point. Samsung's calculation was clear: Draft off carriers' 5G promotions and beat iPhone vendor Apple to the 5G market by at least six months.

But that's not what happened.

Instead, as BayStreet's figures show, most customers couldn't find the 5G value in Samsung's GS20 price tag – likely due to the fact that lowband 5G isn't much faster than 4G and highband 5G is decidedly difficult to find.

And that was before COVID-19.

According to AT&T and Verizon executives, the pandemic has largely brought phone sales to a standstill while stuck-at-home Americans avoid retail stores and unnecessary expenses.

It's unlikely that Samsung will be able to rekindle US smartphone sales anytime soon. And it's unclear whether the company will be so chummy with US carriers in the future.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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