Like The Avengers, Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) and Marvel teamed up.
It's been just over a year since Samsung and Disney's (NYSE:DIS) comic book wing unveiled their partnership, and while the combination may have helped drive additional sales of Samsung's Galaxy hardware, it hasn't been enough. It's certainly generated some buzz, but it hasn't had much of an effect on Samsung's mobile business, and it doesn't appear that it will -- at least not in the near future.
Galaxy S6 Edge: Iron Man edition
Samsung and Marvel first announced their alliance last June. "Marvel and Samsung will integrate their brands in unique and creative ways to bring their collective audiences together," they wrote in a press release.
Samsung agreed to pre-load the Marvel Unlimited app on some of its Galaxy devices. The two also created some exclusive content for Samsung's virtual reality offering, the Gear VR headset, and Samsung released some Avengers theme packs for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.
Then, last month, Samsung released a special edition version of its Galaxy S6 Edge, one based on Marvel's popular Iron Man character (from the eponymous film trilogy and The Avengers). It definitely succeeded in attracting attention: Business Korea reported that a Chinese buyer paid over $91,000 for one of the handsets. The red body -- a popular color in Chinese culture -- combined with the phone's unique serial number (66) may have driven demand to excessive levels.
Images of the Iron Man-themed Galaxy S6 Edge leaked on the Internet months before Samsung confirmed the phone's existence. Notably, those images included other Galaxy S6 Edge variants, ones corresponding to other Avengers characters, including The Hulk and Captain America. Samsung has not confirmed the existence of these other variants, or announced plans to bring any of them to market, but it remains a possibility.
Disney can't save Samsung's sinking mobile business
However, even if it does, it isn't likely to move the needle on sales of Galaxy S6 Edge. Unfortunately for Marvel fans, Samsung has kept its production run extremely limited, and as of now, Samsung has only sold the handset in two countries -- China and its native Korea.
None of the steps Samsung took prior to the release of the Iron Man phone appear to have had any effect on its mobile business. In April, Samsung turned in another disappointing earnings report. The electronics giant raked in $4.3 billion, but that was still down a full 39% from a year earlier, and worse than analysts had anticipated. Its mobile division saw its earnings decline 57% on an annual basis. That quarterly report didn't include the Galaxy S6, but Samsung has remained relatively mum as to the success of the phone, saying only that it is selling better than its predecessor. At the high end, Apple's larger iPhones appear to be taking some share, while at the low end, cheap Chinese vendors are producing ever-better low-cost Android devices.
The acquisition of Marvel has proven to be a home run for Disney, as its character IP has translated into some of the most successful films of all time. Both The Avengers and its sequel remain among the highest-grossing films ever made. Yet that success doesn't seem to have carried over to Samsung's Galaxies. That may have been due to the limited output of the partnership -- a few thousand handsets, an app, and some content isn't particularly significant -- but it's a lackluster result for a deal that once seemed to hold such promise.