Europe’s biggest tech showcase, Mobile World Congress (MWC), kicked off Monday with a raft of global smartphone makers launching devices.
But the notable absence was a flagship smartphone from Samsung, the world’s biggest vendor. The South Korean giant usually uses MWC to take the wraps of its new smartphones. But following the exploding Note 7 saga, which saw the company’s biggest recall and eventual discontinuation of the handset, Samsung said it would delay the Galaxy S8 launch.
Rivals which are biting at the heels of Samsung are hoping to take advantage of the opportunity.
“This year has presented an unexpected window of opportunity for Samsung’s rivals to position their new devices in the limelight. It’s a unique chance to get airtime before the Samsung marketing freight train grabs all the headlines when the widely anticipated Galaxy S8 breaks cover,” Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC in an interview on Sunday.
Huawei unveiled the P10 smartphone on Sunday with great fanfare at MWC in Barcelona. Queues of people were lining up waiting to get into the event which used dramatic music, lighting and visuals to dazzle the audience. Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer division, used the press conference to make continual comparisons between the P10 and Samsung’s flagship S7 device and Apple’s iPhone.
Yu told CNBC on the sidelines of the company’s press conference that the absence of a Samsung flagship phone for at least another month presents an opening for rivals.
“Yes, it’s an opportunity, it’s an opportunity for everyone,” Yu said.
South Korea’s LG, Samsung’s fiercest rival, also launched its new phone called the G6, while TCL Communications brought out a new BlackBerry running Google’s Android software and boasting a physical keyboard. Sony also took the wraps of its flagship Xperia XZ Premium.
Samsung used MWC to launch two tablets, and teased the S8 launch which will be held on March 29. It will be hoping consumers will stay loyal to the brand and wait for the Galaxy S8 rather than jumping to rivals.
The company has said that its customers had remained loyal despite the Note 7 fiasco. A Reuters/IPSOS opinion poll released towards the end of November, found 91 percent of Samsung users would likely purchase another phone from the company. Samsung is remaining optimistic that it can deliver compelling goods to consumers.
“Our customers are expecting great things from us and we wanted to tell them that we can do great things for them as we have always done. And we promised them today that we can do great things in the tablet segment and we also gave them a hint that we can do many more things in other segments,” Jean-Daniel Ayme, corporate vice-president for mobile in Europe for Samsung Electronics, told CNBC in a TV interview on Sunday.
“Our legacy of innovation will never fade.”