By Joyce Lee
SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS> on Tuesday said pre-orders for its Galaxy Note 8 premium smartphone have hit the highest-ever for the Note series, beating its predecessor Note 7 over five days by about 2.5 times.
Samsung is banking on the device to protect its market dominance as it competes with Apple Inc’s <AAPL.O> latest iPhones due to be unveiled later on Tuesday. Note 8 sales begin in the United States, South Korea and elsewhere on Friday.
Pre-orders reached about 650,000 Note 8 handsets over five days from about 40 countries, making the initial response “very encouraging,” DJ Koh, president of Samsung Electronics’ mobile communications business, said at a media event.
The device succeeds the short-lived Note 7, whose battery fires resulted in Samsung pulling the device from the market after just a couple of months at a cost of billions of dollars.
Its reputation tarnished, the world’s biggest smartphone maker by market share nevertheless decided to retain the Note brand after a survey showed 85 percent of 5,000 Galaxy Note users expressed brand loyalty, Koh said.
The Note 8’s U.S. price of $930 to $960, including dialling and data plans, begins an era of premium-priced handsets which analysts expect to be joined by $1,000-plus iPhones.
Apple is widely expected to unveil a special edition iPhone commemorating 10 years of the handset, equipped with edge-to-edge screen and augmented reality, that will compete with the Note 8 for pre-holiday season sales in Western markets.
In China, the Note 8 is tasked with reviving fortunes in the world’s biggest smartphone market where local handset makers such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL], Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi Inc [XTC.UL] reduced Samsung’s market share to 3 percent in April-June, showed data from Counterpoint Research.
Koh said it will take time to recover in China but expects changes this year such as appointing a new mobile chief, restructuring and focusing on key buyers to be effective.
Koh also said Samsung hopes to showcase a foldable handset next year but that technological hurdles must be overcome before a decision can be made.
“We are digging thoroughly into several issues we must overcome, as we don’t want to just make a few, sell a few and be done. We want to hear that Samsung made a very good product.”
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Richard Pullin and Christopher Cushing)