But -- can you see where this is going? -- two things have changed:
- People are more aware of the actual price of phones, thanks to the phasing out of carrier contracts and subsidies.
- Along with that awareness, people are seeing that some Android phones are available for significantly less -- both in the budget-to-midrange realm, where you can get "good enough" for a couple hundred bucks, and in the flagship realm, where you can get a major manufacturer's top-of-the-line offering for $400.
As a result, for the first time this year, Samsung's phones are being described as expensive. Take a minute and wrap your head around that: A new flagship phone that actually costs less than its predecessor is being described as expensive -- pretty widely, if you look around -- all because of the way the environment surrounding that phone has evolved.
Eventually, resistance will become futile
Call it commoditization or call it whatever you want, but the times are definitely a-changin'. And while Samsung still has a firm leg up over Motorola with its huge marketing budget, brand name recognition, and carrier store placement, sooner or later, "normal" smartphone shoppers are gonna start picking up on what we enthusiasts already see.
At some point, another major manufacturer will feel the pressure. Another major manufacturer will start trying to compete with Motorola at those lower off-contract prices. And then the ball will really be rolling. Little by little, over time, the base cost of buying a smartphone is going to plummet -- and eventually, resistance will become futile. It's practically inevitable.
After all, if Motorola manages to deliver on its promise of an excellent camera and superb stamina in the new Moto X (and after seeing what the company managed to do with the lower-end Moto G, I'm optimistic it can), the perception of being "expensive" starts to be a real problem for Samsung. Sure, a lot of people have grown to like Samsung's smartphones -- and the devices certainly have plenty of compelling qualities -- but for most shoppers, is there anything about them that makes them worth an extra $350 over Motorola's equivalent? (To say nothing of being worth an extra $500-and-change over the extremely low-cost alternatives.) We're talking nearly double the price from one flagship to another.
Apple might be able to pull off that kind of "premium pricing" approach, as people really do buy into that brand and the connotations it carries. But Samsung? I'm not sure Samsung is at that same level of allegiance. Not when we're talking a difference of hundreds of dollars -- a difference shoppers are about to see more clearly than ever.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.