Back on April 3 I pointed to Apple 21 as the next big test for Apple (AAPL) shares. (Apple is a member of my long-term 50 Stocks portfolio.)
That’s the date when Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 smartphone will go on sale. The S8 is critical to Samsung–the company needs a big product win to claw back the market share that it lost to Apple and other smartphone makers in the Galaxy Note 7 debacle. The phone eventually had to be recalled after persistent problems with exploding batteries. (Strange how that deterred some buyers.) Samsung’s smartphone sales fell 8% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2016 and the company lost 2.9 percentage points in market share. That let Apple take over the No. 1 position in global market share in the fourth quarter with 17.9% of the market (up from 12.5% in the third quarter of 2016) to Samsung’s 17.8% share, down from 20% in the third quarter of 2016.
Apple’s gain in market share–to 17.9% from 12.5%–in the course of a quarter is huge. Especially since both Apple and Samsung have been losing market share in China to Chinese manufacturers selling competitively featured smartphones at far lower prices.
And today Samsung announced that one of the key features for the S8, a feature that Samsung badly needs to compete with Apple and with Android-based smartphones, won’t be ready for the April 21 on sale date.
Samsung’s Bixby, the digital assistant that is intended to compete with Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant on Android phones, won’t be ready to launch on Aril 21. Some features will be in place, Samsung said today. But voice activation won’t be available in the U.S. market until “later this spring.”
When Samsung unveiled the S8 back in March, Bixby was a star feature. “You can talk, tap or type, because Bixby understands it all,” Samsung said then. Even at that date that statement wasn’t quite true. Bixby only controlled a limited set of applications. You could use Bixby to make a phone call, for example, but not to conduct a general search query.
So now the question for the S8 is how many customers will be wowed enough by the phone’s big, high resolution, infinity screen so that they won’t care that when it comes to digital assistants Bixby is, well, not ready for prime time yet.