Verizon angling for exclusive to sell Samsung’s 5G-capable Galaxy S10

Verizon Samsung Galaxy S9 (Verizon)
Verizon currently sells the Samsung Galaxy S9. (Verizon)

Samsung has big plans for the 10-year refresh of its flagship smartphone next year, and the device maker is in discussions with Verizon about a possible exclusive agreement for distribution in the United States, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Taking a page out of Apple’s playbook, Samsung hopes to reinvigorate interest in its Galaxy smartphone lineup with a major upgrade and design overhaul that will bring 5G network capabilities and as many as six cameras to the planned Galaxy S10 smartphone, according to the Wall Street Journal. The 10th anniversary flagship device from Samsung is expected to debut in February 2019 with displays ranging from 5.8 inches to 6.7 inches.

The 5G variant of the Samsung Galaxy S10, which is expected to be released in the U.S. and South Korea next spring, will sit at the top of that lineup with a 6.7-inch screen, two front-facing and four rear-facing cameras, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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Because Apple isn’t expected to release a 5G-capable smartphone until 2020 at the earliest, Samsung will enjoy at least 18 months of first-to-market status with a 5G device. However, carriers and device makers have a long way to go before customers are convinced they should upgrade to a new 5G smartphone.

Samsung will likely have to rely on design and other features to revitalize its sluggish smartphone sales in the near term. 5G device sales aren’t expected to ramp up until 2021, and even then sales will remain paltry for several years, according to analyst forecasts. Gartner predicts 5G-capable smartphones will represent just 9% of global handset sales by 2021, and Strategy Analysts forecasts 5G smartphones will account for only 5% of all smartphones sold by 2021.

Samsung has reportedly had discussions with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile about its forthcoming Galaxy smartphone refresh, but no final decisions have been made, according to the Wall Street Journal. If Verizon is able to secure an exclusive for the Galaxy S10, it would probably be more of a marketing play than a significant sales driver for the carrier.

As U.S. operators launch 5G services, they’re going to need flagship devices from the world’s most popular manufacturers to boost interest in the technology. If Verizon is the only U.S. carrier with rights to sell the Galaxy S10 directly to customers, it could be a major point of differentiation with its competitors.

Carrier exclusives remain an important strategy for the big four operators. Harkening back to the early days of AT&T’s exclusive hold on the Apple iPhone, carriers hope to replicate that success and continue to place bets on devices that could become the hottest commodity in the mobile space. Apple is almost certainly done with exclusive arrangements for the iPhone, but if Verizon can land an exclusive for Samsung’s next flagship smartphone it would be a significant development and a major selling point for the carrier as it deploys and tries to market 5G services.

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