Getting in Ahead of the Crowd
Having been the first CSP to offer the BlackBerry Z10 to American smartphone users, AT&T is first to announce that it will be taking pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy S4 in just a couple of weeks, from 16 April. There's probably nothing to stop Verizon and others doing the same (T-Mobile has confirmed it will be selling the S4 from early May), but AT&T subscribers will be marking the date if they are due an upgrade.
The Galaxy S4 will be available on contract from US$249.99. It packs a powerful quad-core processor in the U.S. version and Samsung was keen to show off the new features at its recent launch. That included images from both cameras being used in one photo, SmartPause eye-tracking, motion-based screen scrolling and other innovations.
Are these features enough to excite the crowds? Having sold tens of millions of the previous versions, there is little sign of this juggernaut slowing, but it looks like whoever will be first out with a see-through or extending-screen device will be the one to reignite what is becoming a rapidly static upgrade-focused market.
Is the Price Right?
That price might also cause some concern, given that few contract phones are sold above the $199 mark. Is Samsung risking sales by creating a new ultra-smartphone price bracket? Will others like HTC's One and Sony's new Xperia take advantage by undercutting their biggest Android rival? Other CSPs might also aim to undercut AT&T to win over subscribers.
Once this launch is out the way, the focus will likely move to the launch of smart watches and other companion devices. Samsung has promised one is on the way, and endless speculation around an Apple iWatch continues. Would one of those be a more attractive purchase than a phone upgrade?
UDPATE: Best Buy has just rolled into town announcing that it will be opening up some of its mobile store space in a similar way to how Apple devices are sold. These new Samsung "stores" will be selling the Galaxy S4 pretty hard along with Note devices and lesser phones for those who can't quite stretch for the budget.