Samsung launched its Galaxy Note 9 in New York on Thursday promising better battery life and a tie-in with Fortnite, the hottest multiplayer game on the planet, as part of an effort to attract new customers and energise flagging sales.
It suggests a new strategy in a stagnating market. The Note 9 is the latest iteration of its oversized "phablet" style phone, which comes with a stylus and in the past has been targeted at business users.
However, a suite of incremental improvements – expanded storage up to 512 GB, a bigger 6.4 in screen and a faster process – shows how difficult it is to set the world alight when the time between new releases is so short. And when the price tag is expected to be $1000.
“It’s a lot of evolution but not a whole lot of new, innovation,” said Gerrit Schneemann, senior analyst with IHS Markit. “It’s a continuation of what we’ve seen before, which is what has been happening not just with Samsung but the market in general.”
The company also confirmed its latest wearable - the Galaxy Watch - and previewed its much-rumoured smart home speaker, the Galaxy Home.
One of the biggest changes to the phone itself is adding Bluetooth technology to the stylus – or “S-pen” - allowing users to take selfies, play and pause videos, and control PowerPoint presentations or other applications by remote control.
The company claims a 21 percent increase on battery capacity from the Note 8 will mean you never run out of juice while waiting for an Uber at the end of the day.
And a new “intelligent camera” will warn users of flaws in their photographs – such as someone blinking – in time to take another snap.
But perhaps the biggest cheers came with the arrival on stage at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn of Tim Sweeney, of Epic Games.
He announced that Fortnite, played by about 125 million people around the world, was finally coming to Android and that it would be exclusive to Samsung phones until Sunday. Users of the new Note 9, he added, would also get access to unique features.
JD Koh, Samsung Mobile chief executive, said the phone would be available from August 24.
“The opportunity to make the world’s most advanced smartphone more powerful, even more innovative... I can’t wait to see how you use it in ways we never even imagined, to achieve more than we ever thought possible,” he said.
It was one of this year’s most anticipated launches following the success of the Note 8, which had to make up lost ground of the disastrous Note 7. Millions of handsets were recalled and the model was eventually discontinued after manufacturing problems caused batteries to overheat and catch fire in 2016.
The company needs a hit. Its mobile division has seen profits dry up in line with other tech companies as markets reach smartphone saturation point and consumers wait longer to replace expensive handsets.
A lackluster earnings report last week revealed that Samsung's mobile revenue fell 22% annually to 22.7 trillion won ($20.4 billion) and slow sales of its flagship Galaxy S9 have not helped.
A market expert Ru Bhikha, from uSwitch.com, said a lot was riding on the success of the new model.
"Following a recent slump in sales, Samsung will be looking to the Note 9 to revive its fortunes," he said.
The announcement is likely to be the first of several new flagship smartphones announced over the next two months, with rivals Apple, Huawei, Google and others all expected to announce their latest handsets by early October as the smartphone market enters one of its traditionally busiest periods.