Samsung's Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus go on sale next week across the Middle East. At first glance, you'd be hard-pressed to see the difference between the Galaxy S9 and last year's Galaxy S8. They look almost identical- much in the way that every Apple iPhone S looks identical to it's predecessor.
However, Samsung is charging an extra AED 300 or 400 for the new phones compared to the outgoing models. At launch, the Samsung Galaxy S8 was priced at AED 2,799 while the Galaxy S8 Plus at AED 3,099.
The new Samsung Galaxy S9 is priced at AED 3,099 while the Galaxy S9 Plus is priced at AED 3,499 for the similarly equipped 64GB models. That is quite high. In fact, the pricing for the Galaxy S9 Plus is more than what the Galaxy Note 8 launched at late last year: AED 3,399.
There are two questions that need answers here. First, is the pricing of the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus justified. And second, with a price drop on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, is the Galaxy S9 worth buying over its predecessors? To answer these questions, we need to turn to Samsung's biggest competitor.
The Apple Effect
Apple launched the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus last year in September. They were mostly iterative upgrades over the iPhone 7 just like the Galaxy S9 is over the Galaxy S8. At launch the iPhone 8 was priced at AED 2849 while the iPhone 8 Plus at AED 3,249.
The iPhone 7 that was released a year earlier was priced at AED 2,599 and the iPhone 7 Plus was priced at AED 3,099. Apple had increased pricing on both these models by AED 250 and 150 respectively.
But there are a couple of points worth mentioning here. Apple's prices do not include VAT that was introduced in the UAE beginning of this year whereas Samsung's prices do.
The VAT Effect
Taking VAT into consideration, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus cost AED 2,991 and AED 3,411 which is about AED 390 and AED 310 higher than last years models. Apple did double the storage between the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models- going up from 32GB to 64GB so there was some additional value in that.
Coming back to the Galaxy S9, and removing VAT from the equation for rightful comparison, the Galaxy S9 is priced at AED 2,949 which is AED 150 higher than the outgoing model. That's less than what Apple charged between the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 upgrade.
However, comparing it to the current pricing of the Galaxy S8 at AED 2,399, we don't particularly find the upgrades that Samsung is offering worth 800 Dirhams more. You get a faster unit, a better camera and some design tweaks but that's more or less expected in every new model every year- sans the price hike.
The Galaxy S9 Plus on the other hand feels like a better upgrade. Taking it's VAT free pricing into consideration, it's priced at AED 3,325 which is about AED 225 more than it's upgrade but lower than the Galaxy Note 8. It is, however, more than what Apple charged between the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus upgrade.
For the AED 225 extra that Samsung is charging you, the S9 Plus offers more RAM (6GB vs 4GB) and two cameras instead of one over last years model. Even taking the current pricing of the Galaxy S8 Plus at AED 2,649, we feel the Galaxy S9 Plus is a good upgrade and justifies the price Samsung is asking. It's biggest competitors are the Galaxy Note 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus both of which are priced within AED 100 and, arguably, the S9 Plus is more advanced than both.
That being said, the move to higher pricing on premium phones is unfortunately a trend that won't go away. Apple is already charging over AED 4,000 for the iPhone X and with the price hike on the Galaxy S9 suggest the same move from Samsung. Leaks on Huawei's upcoming P20 suggest it being priced around AED 3,500 as well and it won't be surprising to see the Galaxy Note 9 launch close to AED 4,000.