Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge Plus and the Note 5. Credit: Samsung
Samsung is expected to launch its own smartphone leasing plan, following the recent lead of Apple in a long-term attempt to wrest customer control away from U.S. carriers.
"If Apple does it, then it must be good enough for Samsung," said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics. "The two companies are in an intense fight and Samsung cannot let Apple have a leg up on just about anything."
Samsung did not comment directly on any plans to set up a leasing program, but a spokeswoman did tell Computerworld, "Samsung continuously evaluates trends and assesses business growth opportunities.... We remain committed to growing our mobile business in the U.S."
Forbes reported Sunday that Samsung may be launching its leasing program for Galaxy devices within the next several months in the U.S., quoting an unnamed industry official.
Apple announced its iPhone Upgrade Program on Sept. 9; it lets a U.S. customer select an unlocked iPhone at an Apple retail store after making an appointment.
The Apple customer chooses a wireless carrier and then pays for the device over 24 months, with the ability to upgrade to the newest iPhone after the first year. Monthly prices start at $32.41 for an iPhone 6S with 16GB. The phone is covered by the AppleCare+ aftermarket warranty, which includes accidental damage coverage.
After the Apple announcement, several financial and technology analysts declared Apple's move as a bold one that allows savvy smartphone users to mostly bypass a carrier. Jan Dawson, an analyst at research firm Jackdaw, called Apple's upgrade plan a game-changer.
More recently, two analysts said the move by Apple and possibly other handset makers, could threaten the consumer-to-carrier relationship and lead to more "churn" -- the practice of customers moving their business from one carrier to another.
But that impact could take years to be felt.
Much depends on the scale of retail operations, which weigh heavily in favor of the carriers. "The average U.S. carrier has 3,000 brick-and-mortar stores, compared to just 266 for Apple, so that's a small number," Entner said. "In the short-term, Apple's program doesn't make a difference."
While Apple's distribution of installment plan phones is limited, Samsung's "will be even more limited, unless Samsung can get some retailers to partner with for distribution," Entner added. Samsung today sells devices through Best Buy and other U.S. retailers, but Entner said that is still a limited channel. He estimated the top four U.S. wireless carriers together have 10,000 retail outlets.
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