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Will a late Samsung Galaxy S II launch limit U.S. sales?

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Samsung’s hottest new smartphone, the Galaxy S II (SGS2), is finally headed to the U.S. market. The handset was introduced last night at a press event, with similar models for three of the four largest carriers in the country: AT&T (s t), Sprint (s s) and T-Mobile. Verizon chose to pass on this particular device, likely because it only offers 4G service on HSPA and WiMAX networks, not LTE, which is what Verizon(s vz) offers.

The SGS2 has already earned the title of Samsung’s fastest selling smartphone with 5 million sales in its first 85 days of availability in Europe and Asia. I have little doubt that it will continue to sell well in the U.S., but perhaps not as well as it might have sold if it were launched earlier: The next one to three months are going to offer many solid smartphone choices.

I took a very informal poll on Twitter after the Samsung press event last night, and while my sample size is certainly small, there’s a common theme in every single response I received: The window of opportunity for a guaranteed SGS2 sale has closed. Why? People — admittedly, high-end smartphone loving geeks, based on the makeup of my Twitter followers — feel the SGS2 launch is too close to the next iPhone(s aapl) and a new Nexus flagship phone that is expected to highlight the Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) version of Android. (s goog)

Here’s a sampling of the responses:

  • @Ohpleaseno: waiting for ICS (and my contract to expire)
  • @WillGinn: I am waiting to see new iOS and ‘Google’ phone before committing.
  • @rickhuizinga: The Galaxy S II is too late. It’s now a 6 month old phone. I’m waiting a month or two for the next Nexus.
  • @MattLee100: love the Galaxy S II, but may wait to see what the next nexus device looks like first
  • @BiGMERF: think I may hold off for Nexus.
  • @jonfingas: The Nexus/Droid Prime looms over this one, if you can wait. Galaxy S II is hot, but it’s not stock Android!

While it may appear that I’ve culled out responses that only fit my thesis, I didn’t: Not a single responder said they would be buying the SGS2. Does that mean the Galaxy S II won’t sell? Of course not: Given the solid reviews of this phone, it’s a top-notch handset and will surely appeal to many. However, if the phone were launched sooner in the U.S., perhaps to correspond with the European launch, those 5 million sales in 85 days might have easily been 8 to 10 million sales over the same time period.

There’s always a newer, shinier object around the corner when it comes to technology, so even an earlier launched GS2 would have eventually shined less at some point. The problem with a later launch is that the time to wait for the next new piece of technology is close enough that consumers are rethinking their purchase decisions. Had the SGS2 arrived three months ago, I know I would have bought it on the first day of availability. Now there’s simply too many potentially comparable, or perhaps better, choices coming soon. And hardware isn’t the only influence here: After using the iOS 5 beta for several weeks, Apple has addressed some of the reasons I moved to Android in the first place.

Sprint is the first carrier to begin offering Samsung’s new handset, which becomes available on Sept. 16; neither AT&T nor T-Mobile have shared availability, and instead have said the handset will be here in the “coming weeks.” Not long after that time period, it’s a sure bet consumers will also have a new iPhone, possibly a flagship Nexus handset and even a few new Microsoft Windows Phone 7 devices with the impressive Mango software update to choose from.

While it’s difficult to stay ahead of the fast-paced, ever-changing smartphone technology curve — now a 6-9 month cycle — Samsung should have launched the SGS2 sooner, rather than later, in the U.S.

5 Responses to “Will a late Samsung Galaxy S II launch limit U.S. sales?”

  1. Pff… The iPhone 5 has no release date and Google is planning on rolling out ICS to all current Android phones, which will include the SGS II. Short of a 12MP camera or magically bigger battery, there are few features that could possibly top the SGSII. Verizon users will wait for the Droid Prime only because they have to – a rebranded SGSII with some minor upgrades.

    People will buy it in droves.

  2. Another problem is that Samsung also just announced the SGSII LTE version with an upgraded processor, too. Along with the plethora of reasons to wait for the Nex(t)us, why would I want a model of a phone that is already being replaced elsewhere with a better version?

  3. qddbakasl

    i believe that the phase-in was timed to match the ramp-up that they saw in buys for the S I. Has AAPL introduced subsequent iphones in < 1 year? That doesn't seem like a good way to build loyalty, so even tho this schedule doesn't seem ideal, I don't know that they could have done it any other way.

  4. Another mitigating factor is that those of us who bought the SGS in some flavor are still a year away from contract expiration if we did the 2 year deals and nothing in the SGS II is tempting enough to incur penalties for unless you’re a pretty devout smartphone geek. So most of those 5m SGS sales aren’t going to be SGS II sales.