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Samsung's S9 could be a tough sell as smartphone innovation stalls

Flagship phone will focus on incremental gains over its previous S8

DJ Koh, Samsung's Mobile Communications Business president, holds up new S9Plus at the 2018 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain REUTERS/Sergio Perez

DJ Koh, Samsung's Mobile Communications Business president, holds up new S9Plus at the 2018 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Samsung’s latest flagship phone illustrates the difficulty of innovating in a smartphone market where big players are technologically closer than ever before.

The S9 and larger-screened S9 plus will feature improved cameras and AI-powered assistants as well as easier-to-deploy social media functions, incrementally improving over the S8.

“Innovation in smartphones has plateaued and now it is all about marginal gains be that screen technology, camera features and processing power," analyst Ben Wood from CCS Insight.

"This is potentially a tough sell for Samsung but the real goal of the S9 is making an already good product even better as Samsung takes the fight to Apple," he said.

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"With the absence of any flagship smartphone announcement from any of its major competitors, Samsung had a great marketing window of opportunity to claim leadership in the high-end smartphone market, coming back in the race with Apple's iPhone X," said Forrester analyst Thomas Husson.

He expected Samsung's Chinese rival Huawei, to launch a highly competitive new smartphone differentiated by the use of more advanced Artificial Intelligence technologies and more aggressive pricing.

"To truly lead the space, I continue to believe Samsung must accelerate its transition towards more content, services, software innovation and partnerships," he said.

DJ Koh, Samsung's president of IT and mobile communications, said the most important function of a phone today was "visual communication", and the Galaxy S9 had been designed for the visual and social generation.

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