Price-Cuts Adversely Impact Early Adoption of Samsung Galaxy S21 Smartphones

By Aman Bansal, Flurry Analyst

Samsung recently launched its latest lineup of smartphones, the Galaxy S21 series, which represents the latest smartphone technology from the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer. The lineup was unveiled on January 14, 2021 and made available to the public on January 29, 2021 in the U.S. as well several other countries. The Galaxy S21 is the least expensive and smallest (6.2”) smartphone in the lineup starting at $799, followed by Galaxy S21+ with a bigger screen (6.7”) starting at $999 and Galaxy S21 Ultra with the biggest screen (6.8”) starting at $1,199. All smartphones in the lineup are 5G-equipped, just like their predecessors in the Galaxy S20 series. This report evaluates the S21’s first week launch performance.

Flurry Analytics is used in over 1 million mobile applications, providing insights from 2 billion mobile devices per month. Let’s start by reviewing how the Galaxy S21 lineup performed during its launch week compared to Samsung’s Galaxy S20 series launch last year.

Samsung S21 Market Share Gained During Launch Week

In the chart above, we show the install base captured in the U.S. for the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S20 series during their respective launch weeks. Across both years, lower-priced models are shown in green, midrange in blue, and premium-priced in dark blue. This year’s Galaxy S21 series captured a combined 0.36% install base during the launch week, a big drop compared to the Galaxy S20’s 0.61% last year. In both 2020 and 2021, the most premium devices, represented in dark blue, captured the most market share. And this year, the S21 Ultra captured even more than last year’s S20 Ultra; however, market share for the total S21 series is down compared to last year’s S20 series due to lower-than-normal adoption rates of the base model and mid-range model.

We believe this drop in sales volume during the launch week was caused by anticipation that Samsung may reduce prices soon after launch, as it did for the Galaxy S20 smartphone just weeks after last year’s launch. As we write this report, a little over two weeks have passed since the Galaxy S21 series was released, and Samsung has already cut its prices. The prices for Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ have already been reduced by $100, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra saw a steeper price reduction of $200. This practice of cutting the price so soon after the launch likely dissuades early adopters from purchasing the new flagship Galaxy smartphones during launch week. 

While Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ saw very little sales volume during launch week, the Galaxy S21 Ultra seemed unaffected, capturing 0.31% of the Samsung smartphone market share in the U.S., which is even higher than the market share captured by Galaxy S20 Ultra last year. This indicates that consumers purchasing the Galaxy S21 Ultra aren’t waiting for the price to drop, and seem to want the most advanced Galaxy smartphone as soon as they can get it. 

The popularity of the most expensive flagship smartphone isn’t just limited to Samsung. Flurry recently reported that the iPhone 12 Pro Max was the best-selling phone in the iPhone 12 series lineup. The largest and most expensive smartphones are likely seeing strong sales in the middle of a pandemic as people are investing more in their digital assets while staying home. Additionally, there may be less economic hardship felt by higher-income earners during the pandemic as they continue to be employed, can more often work from home, and who are the primary consumer base for more expensive smartphones. 

Let’s next look at which Samsung smartphones have the most overall penetration in the U.S. today.

Samsung Market Share by Model as of January 2021

In the chart above, we list the install base for the top 15 Samsung smartphones in the U.S. during the week of the Galaxy S21 series launch, January 29 through February 4, 2021. The green bars represent the Samsung smartphones launched in 2020, the blue bars represent launches in 2019, and the gray bars represent pre-2019 Samsung smartphones in the market. Unlike iPhone models, which are much fewer in number, Samsung releases a much higher number of smartphones under different series such as Galaxy S, Galaxy A, Galaxy Note, etc. While Galaxy S smartphones are the most popular, taking 9 out of the top 15 spots, both Galaxy A and Galaxy Note smartphones take 3 spots each. None of the smartphones in the Galaxy S21 lineup have made it to the top 15 list yet, and amongst the Galaxy S20 series launched last year only the Galaxy S20 cracked the top 15 list. The top ranking smartphones all belong to the older Galaxy S family, which indicates the popularity of the S series in the United States, and growth potential of the Galaxy S21 series over time.

Next, let’s review the share of new Samsung smartphone activations over the last two years.

Samsung Activations by Model January 2019 - January 2021

In the chart above, we illustrate the share of new Samsung devices activated in the U.S. from over the past two years. To simplify the chart, we grouped devices by their model series. The darkest blue represents the most premium Samsung line, the S series. The Galaxy S series’ share has declined from 43% in January 2019 to only 30% in January 2021. The lightest blue, the Galaxy J series (which has since been discontinued), is the lowest-priced Samsung device in the market. Combined, the Galaxy J series and the Galaxy A series represent the low-to-mid-priced Samsung models. Together, these series made up 37% of Samsung’s share in January of 2019, but their combined share has increased by 18 points to 55% of all Samsung smartphones in the market as of January 2021.

Based on new device activations trends over the last two years, it appears that Samsung’s install base mix in the U.S. is shifting from more premium to more lower-priced devices. Of course, the U.S. is somewhat of an anomaly for Samsung, as it is one of the few markets in the world where Apple has a larger market share. We will continue to monitor Samsung S21 series adoption trends, both in the U.S. and worldwide. Since prices have been reduced, initially tepid adoption during launch week could improve momentum over time. Make sure you follow us on the Flurry Blog, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest reports on the mobile industry.

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