Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) launched the Galaxy Note Edge in the U.S. on Nov. 14. The phone is currently available at most major carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

The U.S. launch of the 5.6-inch phablet, which has a curved screen that wraps around its right edge, represents a surprising step for the South Korean tech giant, which previously released its more innovative designs in limited quantities. For example, the concave Galaxy Round and the metal-framed Galaxy Alpha were only launched in South Korea and a handful of test markets.

Samsung's Galaxy Note Edge. Source: Samsung.

But Samsung -- which saw its mobile revenue and operating profit fall 33% and 74%, respectively, year-over-year last quarter -- knows that it needs a hit premium flagship phablet to compete against Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 6 Plus. Meanwhile, its low and mid-range handsets are being marginalized by Chinese competitors like Xiaomi and Lenovo, which flooded the mid-range market with cheaper comparable handsets.

Can the U.S. launch of the Galaxy Note Edge help Samsung bounce back against Apple, or is it too little, too late?

What the Galaxy Note Edge means to Samsung
Despite launching countless different phones over the past year, Samsung's global market share fell from 32.5% in the third quarter of 2013 to 23.8% during the third quarter of 2014, according to IDC. Apple -- which launched just two new phones (5s and 5c) during that period -- only suffered a minor dip, with its share slipping from 12.9% to 12%. Last quarter, global iPhone unit sales soared 16% year-over-year thanks to the arrival of the iPhone 6. 

But Apple isn't Samsung's only problem. To stand out in a market filled with similar-looking Android handsets, Samsung heavily modified Android with TouchWiz, tried to cut Google(NASDAQ:GOOG) out of the monetization loop with its own App Store, and launched its own open source OS, Tizen. Those moves convinced Google that Samsung would eventually break away from the Android ecosystem. That's why Google launched the Nexus 6 through Motorola Mobility, prior to its sale to Lenovo -- it needed a flagship Android phone which could keep Samsung's market share in check.

Google's Nexus 6. Source: Google.

Since Samsung was getting squeezed on all fronts, it needed to launch more innovative premium phones to stay ahead of Apple, which nullified its advantage of large screens with the iPhone 6 Plus. Since concave screens weren't practical (they made the phone thicker), and metal frames were found everywhere, the Note Edge was definitely the most unique and head-turning choice.

Why the Galaxy Note Edge won't matter in the U.S.
In terms of specs, the Galaxy Note Edge tops the iPhone 6 Plus in most categories.




Internal storage

Rear/front cameras


Galaxy Note Edge

5.6", Super AMOLED, 524 ppi

Quad-core 2.7Ghz Krait 450, 3GB

32/64 GB


3000 mAh

iPhone 6 Plus

5.5", IPS, 401 ppi

Dual-core 1.4Ghz Cyclone, 1GB

16/64/128 GB


2915 mAh

However, the Note Edge is actually pricier than the iPhone 6 Plus. The unlocked 32GB version of the Edge costs $1,160 at Best Buy(NYSE:BBY), compared to $1,095 for the unlocked 16GB iPhone 6 Plus. The cheapest Edge comes with more storage than the cheapest iPhone 6 Plus, but it breaks Samsung's tradition of launching devices at a slightly lower price point than Apple. With a two-year contract, the 32GB Edge costs $400 at AT&T, compared to $299 for the 16GB iPhone 6 Plus.

Samsung obviously wants to reposition itself as a premium brand, but this strategy could backfire in the U.S., where Apple controlled 41.7% of the smartphone market, according to comScore's September numbers. Samsung comes in second with 29%. A March 2014 Morgan Stanley AlphaWise survey also found that Apple retains 90% of its customers between handset upgrades, compared to 77% for Samsung.

In addition to enjoying brand loyalty and market dominance in the U.S., Apple's iPhone 6 is a central hub for three new features -- Apple Pay (mobile payments), HealthKit (fitness apps, wearables, electronic health recorrds), and HomeKit (smart homes). Samsung is working with PayPal on mobile payments, expanding its S Health platform, and dabbling in smart home technology, but those efforts come nowhere close to matching Apple's long-term vision for wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The verdict
This Edge's only real selling point is its sleek curved screen with widgets and tickers on the side. Unfortunately, its premium price and lack of mature payment, health care, and IoT features will likely cause the handset to flop and simply be remembered as a pricier variant of the Galaxy Note 4.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.