Samsung's Galaxy event: end of the line?

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Pretending like peak phone hasn't already arrived is Samsung's schtick right now, and as it unveiled the Galaxy Note 10 yesterday, it was what you'd expect: a predictable phone, with no new strategy or plan to stick out from the herd of cheaper rectangles.

The Galaxy Note has always been strangely popular, especially given its larger size, and the Note 10 is about what you'd expect. A giant phone with 8GB of RAM and choices between 256GB or 512GB of storage—but they finally stretched the display to the outer edges of the device, opting for the camera 'pinhole' design rather than a notch.

If there's anything notable out of the event it's that the company dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack—it was one of the last holdouts—and deep integration with Windows PCs that allows controlling the phone from a computer, as well as full-on integration of Office, which many businesses might find interesting.

But, even writing this, I've basically fallen asleep. 

We're talking about a $899 phone in 2019, which has nothing that tries to push the boundaries, be it on price, hardware, or even interesting software. When there's the $350 Pixel 3a, or the boundary-pushing OnePlus 7 Pro for $669, it's hard to get excited about an iteration on the same old idea.

Peak smartphone means we're going to increasingly see this—there's just not that much space left for bombshell innovations each year, though I'd have expected Samsung to have more self-awareness given that it saw one of the highest sales drops of all time in Q1. 

Samsung cited "intensifying competition in the smartphone business" as a primary threat to its business model earlier this year, but the Galaxy Note event felt like it stuck its fingers in its ears, yelling, hoping to drown out the reality. HTC imploded gloriously because of a similar lack of awareness, always hopeful some future handset would revive sales, while never really changing anything.

While Apple is seeing slowing smartphone sales, it's already looking to its next business model in subscription services—which help make the iPhone stickier than ever for those that buy them. Smart or not, Apple sees the writing on the wall, while Samsung is stuck looking to the past. 


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