According to data provided to PCMag, Samsung's Galaxy S20 sales figures in the US are looking positively grim. While the coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly had a big impact on smartphone sales in America, I don't think anyone fully expected the level of damage these numbers suggest Samsung's flagship phone series has sustained.
Specifically, the data shows that current estimates have the Galaxy S20 series selling in under half the quantity the S10 series did during its first 7 weeks on the market. In nearly two months of retail availability, the S20 family has likely failed to even break the million unit mark according to analysis firm M Science's analysis. By comparison, the Galaxy S10 series broke a million units of sales in its first 3 weeks of retail availability.
This isn't just down to coronavirus, though: the Galaxy S20 went on sale a full two weeks before the first statewide lockdown in the US, and pre-orders started well before almost anyone was even discussing the serious possibility of one in this country. It wasn't until March 19th that the state of California even announced it would implement a lockdown, so the impact of social distancing and retail closures had not yet arrived. Still, there was likely some effect, as later analysis showed retail foot traffic across the country began to plummet in the second week of March, shortly after the S20 went on sale. That week is crucial, as far more people make their purchase decision in the second week of availability according to M Science's data. That could be for a number of reasons; the spread of big marketing campaigns from carriers, time spent by consumers researching their upgrade options, and general awareness of a product's availability increasing. But, as shoppers failed to show up at carrier stores and handset retailers around the country during that crucial week, a whole lot of Galaxy S20s went unsold.
Globally, analysts have predicted that Samsung's sales for the S20 series could end up down 60% compared to the S10 once all is said and done. Galaxy S10 sales were already lower than the S9, and Galaxy S9 sales didn't end up beating the Galaxy S8, and S8 sales failed to best Galaxy S7 sales. That's not a great tend to be setting.
Part of the reason Samsung's S series shipments are on the decline is simply a diversification of its portfolio: Samsung sells a number of mid-range phones globally -- particularly the higher-end Galaxy A series -- that have doubtless cannibalized Galaxy S sales. But many of the more ambitious A series phones haven't been released in the US in years past, with Samsung focusing heavily on its top-tier products in this country. There's also the popular Galaxy Note line, which Samsung expanded last year into two models, one which was decidedly more pocketable, that may have taken some share back away from S phones. But I don't think it's not all just trading slices of the same pie that's to blame here.
Samsung's S20 series debuted with positively eye-watering prices, starting at $1000 for the base S20 model in the US, and going up to a positively shocking $1400 for the S20 Ultra. Reviews of the Ultra were decidedly mixed: we found the price far too high (as did most publications) given middling camera performance and a lack of standout features when compared to its smaller, cheaper siblings. But the consensus across the industry has become clear, and most think Samsung simply flew too close to the sun with these prices, and they did so at a moment (through no fault of their own) when it became a specifically very bad time to sell a very expensive smartphone.
With Apple's new $400 iPhone SE the darling of critics almost everywhere (even here), Samsung has to be feeling like the Galaxy S line ended up in exactly the worst spot possible this spring.