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MWC phones hit Korean market Friday

Overall slowdown in smartphone market pulls down sales predictions

Major smartphones introduced at this year‘s Mobile World Congress by Korean strongholds Samsung and LG are set to hit the market Friday amid concerns about a slowdown in the smartphone market here.

Samsung Electronics is rolling out its Galaxy S9 while LG Electronics is bringing out its V30S ThinQ, both of which were showcased at MWC in Barcelona.

With LG having pushed back the release of its newest flagship phone, tentatively being called the G7, industry interest has been focused on the sales performance of the Galaxy S9. 

Samsung‘s Galaxy S9 began pre-sales in Korea on Feb. 28. (Samsung)
Samsung‘s Galaxy S9 began pre-sales in Korea on Feb. 28. (Samsung)

At the MWC, DJ Koh, who heads up Samsung’s smartphone business, pointed to the improved camera as the defining feature of the S9.

“I would definitely put the camera first among others,” he said. “Then I also want to highlight the stereo sound and preloaded SmartThings platform on both Galaxy S9 and S9+.”

Responses to the S9 were largely similar, with observers noting the improved camera with its Super Slow Motion support as the most differentiating point from the Galaxy S8, with no other surprising upgrades. 

The lack of a “wow” factor, says industry sources, may lead to slow sales for the S9 over the course of the year. 

“The hardware on phones are becoming more durable, and consumers are becoming more wary of switching phones if their current one is still working well,” said an official with a telecom carrier here. 

“People who pre-order phones are generally early adopters, so the pre-sales are not bad. But we‘ll have to wait and see if those numbers keep up.”

Samsung has also remained quiet about its pre-sale numbers for the S9, a departure from last year when the company announced pre-sale numbers as they broke various thresholds. The Galaxy S8’s pre-sales broke 550,000 units in two days, and 1 million units in 11 days when the phone came out last year.

According to analyst Noh Keun-chang at Hyundai Motor Investment & Securities, market estimates conservatively put sales of the Galaxy S9 at 40 million units.

Meanwhile, the LG V30S ThinQ is pushing its new artificial intelligence capabilities for the first half of the year before the new flagship comes out. 

The new ThinQ functions allow users to maximize their use of existing functions such as the camera and search using voice commands and automatic adjustments, without having to navigate complicated menus. 

However, it is unclear whether users will switch over to the new model, as existing V30 users can also receive a software update to use the artificial intelligence functions.

By Won Ho-jung (