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Samsung to launch two new high-end smartphones later in 2014

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July 31, 2014

Executives from Samsung say that the company will launch two new high-end smartphones later this year. The new devices will have a new and larger screen that uses new materials.

Samsung will likely introduce the new devices to the Galaxy Note 3 series in the fall. Samsung also said during its earnings report yesterday that it would introduce "a more diverse product portfolio" in wearables, but without providing any specifics.

Samsung typically introduces its newest phone-tablet hybrids in the fall. The other premium device could be Samsung's much-anticipated metal smartphone that has been called everything from the Galaxy Alpha to the Galaxy S5 Prime.

We've contacted Samsung and will update this report when we have more information. The news about the devices came as Samsung posted a 25 percent drop in second-quarter operating profits, marking the third straight quarter of profit declines as competition heats up in the smartphone market segment.

Samsung also warned that its second half would remain a challenge as competition in the mobile phone market leads to lower device prices and severely hurts its results.

"Prospects for growth still remain unclear as competition over global market share intensifies in the mobile industry," the company said in a press release.

"Samsung expects to see its sales of mobile devices increase with the rollout of flagship products and of newer models, but profitability may suffer due to a heated race over price and product specifications," the report added.

The period marked the first quarter of sales for Samsung's newest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5. The company vowed the device, which it unveiled in late February and started selling in April, would sell better than its predecessor, the Galaxy S4.

In May, Samsung revealed that it sold about eleven million Galaxy S5s in the first month of sales, outpacing the Galaxy S4 by about one million units.

There have been worries lately that sales of the Galaxy S5 are weaker than hoped, and Samsung hasn't released any updated shipment figures. But now we all know.

There also have been calls for Samsung to use more premium materials in its devices, such as metal, although the company still has not responded to that yet.

In other mobile news

Samsung is apparently planning to launch a new high-end smartphone in August. The new device will be designed to take on the iPhone 6, according to various reports out of South Korea.

Over the weekend, Korean publication ET News reported that Samsung is working on a new device known as the Galaxy Alpha that it plans to launch next month.

Samsung wants to get the mobile handset out to store shelves before Apple has had a chance to announce the rumored iPhone 6, the report said, citing sources who claim to have knowledge of the matter.

Overall, the Galaxy Alpha is the latest in a long line of potential names for a new rumored Samsung phone.

It's believed that the Galaxy Alpha could be the same device with another name that's been bandied about the blogosphere over the last several months. Some rumors have suggested Samsung is working on a Galaxy S5 Prime or a Galaxy F, both coming with the same high-end features mentioned in the Korean news story.

However, this is the first time the Alpha name has come out. Both Samsung and Apple are waging an ongoing battle in the mobile segment as both companies continue to sell millions of devices each quarter.

Combined together, the two are doing quite well, generating over 100 percent of the smartphone industry's profits, after losses from other firms are taken into account.

Details on the new smartphone mobile handset are sketchy at this point, and the ET News article didn't provide much as was also the case with other reports about the device.

And it's a similar story on Apple's case, where the company is expected in the coming months to unveil maybe two new iPhones. We are still waiting for news directly from Apple.

We contacted Samsung for comment on the report. We will update this story when we have more information.

In other mobile news

Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez put in all the effort and glamor she could hope in the May 2013 launch of her new retail chain Viva Movil, which specializes in selling Verizon Wireless products to the Hispanic community.

But a little over a year later, her stores are not doing so good, however. Lopez unveiled Viva along with then-Verizon Wireless Chief Operating Officer Marni Walden in May of last year at the end of a painfully uneventful wireless trade show.

Draped in a chic and slinky white dress, Lopez stood in front of a giant display and flashing lights talking about the opportunity she saw in catering to the Hispanic market with family-friendly stores, more attentive services and 'J-Lo-inspired' smartphone cases.

Then in June 2013, Lopez, who serves as chief creative officer for Viva, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the first Viva store in Brooklyn, New York.

But any hype garnered at the launch has since long faded. While Viva did manage to expand to 15 stores in the Hispanic-heavy markets of New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, awareness of the brand remains low.

We visited two Viva stores, one in the Los Angeles area and the original Brooklyn flagship location, where employees acknowledge some people walk in not even realizing it's a wireless store.

"More than one customer has come in asking for coffee," said a Viva employee who wished not to be named.

That Viva remains under the radar for consumers appears to be a missed opportunity for both Lopez and Verizon, which is eager to search for new areas of customer growth at a time when the industry is starting to slow.

Overall, Hispanics make up the fastest-growing demographic group of people in the United States and are a bunch of consumers very ripe for a more personalized experience when it comes to technology products and services.

Hispanic data usage is sixteen percent higher than the national average, according to a Nielsen survey, with 49 percent of Latino respondents saying they planned to replace or upgrade their smartphone within the next six months.

Members of the group are also twice as likely to upgrade their tablets within the next six months.

And of course, Verizon and Lopez aren't the only ones who have taken notice. In May of this year, T-Mobile partnered with Univision to create a Hispanic-centric wireless service, Univision Mobile, sold through Walmart and dealer stores.

"There's just certain things I get because I am one of those people, that maybe other people don't get," Lopez said in an interview last year. "I think being in the entertainment business, and that combined with building my own brand and being who I am, I come at it from a creative perspective that's a little bit different," she added.

Viva's campaign has largely been online, and is part of Verizon's "omnichannel" strategy of being able to sell services and products both at physical stores and online, according to Kim Collins, director of multicultural marketing for Verizon.

"The brand has been sustained by social media, and is very targeted," Collins said in an interview.

Now despite the big launch and high-profile face of Viva, Verizon treats it like any other indirect retailer. That also means when a high-profile device such as the iPhone 5S launches, Viva won't get the device for a week, with priority given to Verizon-owned stores.

The iPhone 5C, however, was there on Day 1, and that's interesting. It's not that Verizon Wireless actually ignores Viva. The employees were universally pleased with the support provided by Verizon, which certainly helps with sales training.

"Any issues that we could potentially have get fixed immediately," said Amed Gaitan, manager of the Viva store in Baldwin Park, California.

Overall, many of the Viva stores have actually flipped their logos so the Verizon name takes precedence over Viva.

"When we first started, people asked us if this was a clothing store," Gaitan said.

Located in a strip mall, the store does get decent traffic after work, Gaitan said, and he'll sometimes keep it running after the 8 p.m. closing time to accommodate some late customers.

Customers who do take the time to learn about Viva appreciate the different touches, Gaitan said.

"And we also get a lot of regulars," he said, noting that some people will come in monthly to pay their bills.

In other mobile news

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is accusing T-Mobile of overcharging its subscribers with hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus fees.

The FTC has filed a lawsuit late yesterday alleging that T-Mobile earned an illegal windfall in recent years from 3rd-party merchants offering bogus text message subscriptions for things like flirting tips, horoscopes and celebrity gossip, among other things.

Those charges frequently weren't authorized by T-Mobile subscribers. The fees were allegedly concealed on customers' monthly bills.

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As many as 40 percent of those customers hit with these monthly charges sought refunds, a fact that the FTC says should have been "an obvious sign to T-Mobile that the charges were never authorized."

The complaint alleges that the charges took place between 2009 until December of 2013, and that T-Mobile already had the documentation of very high complaint levels as early as 2012 but never did anything to correct the situation.

"T-Mobile knew about these fraudulent charges and failed to stop them or take any action," FTC consumer protection director Jessica Rich said on a conference call with the media.

The Federal Communications Commission is also investigating T-Mobile's alleged overcharges, she added.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere fired back yesterday, calling the FTC complaint "sensationalized, unfounded and without merit."

In a statement, Legere claims that T-Mobile stopped billing for premium texting services in 2013 and created a program for customers to receive full refunds.

He called on the FTC to hold the nefarious text subscription services responsible-- not T-Mobile.

"T-Mobile is fighting harder than any of the wireless carriers to change the way the mobile industry operates and we are very disappointed that the FTC has chosen to file this action against the most pro-consumer company in the industry rather than the real bad actors," he said.

The FTC doesn't yet have precise estimates for the number of customers affected or the total amount of bogus charges. Those issues will be settled in court.

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Source: Samsung.

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