Samsung needs to offer galaxy-sized difference with Galaxy Apps store

Shane Schick

As brand names go, the word "Galaxy" has a lot going for it. You think of stars, you think space, you think big. Particularly for something like an app store--where points of competitive differentiation revolve around the choices available--Galaxy conveys the right kind of message. However, Samsung needs to do more than simply act like a smart marketer. 

Though it was widely cited as a mere renaming, Samsung actually described its Galaxy Apps store as a new launch on its official blog. "An improvement upon its predecessor, Samsung Apps, the new app store features apps that will allow greater customization of mobile devices and will also function as a platform to offer various promotions and discounts," the company said, promising "hundreds of exclusive apps" on the Galaxy App Store. 

It's impossible not to think about Samsung's app store changes in light of its recent second-quarter results, which showed both disappointing sales of its tablets and what the company described as a slowdown in the smartphone sector. This was the firm's second straight decline in both revenue and profit, despite high-profile launches like the Galaxy S5 earlier this year. 

In the near term, of course, the Galaxy Apps store won't do a lot to change that situation, though it does make sense in light of Samsung's mobile strategy over the last year. This includes Samsung's first developer conference in 2013, the launch of several different SDKs and other initiatives designed to attract more developers to its devices. The company said Galaxy Apps will essentially reward developers for using SDKs such as Multi Windows and S Pen by creating sections like For Galaxy. Beyond that, however, categories like Best Picks and Top Apps don't sound radically different than what consumers would find on Google Play, or, for that matter, Apple's App Store. 

What Galaxy Apps will really do is test whether Samsung smartphone customers identify more with Samsung in particular or Android in general. If Galaxy Apps offers a highly curated selection that truly makes using a Galaxy S5 better than browsing through Google Play, for example, it could deepen relationships with the brand. However, in a press release with its earnings, Samsung said sales "were sluggish due to a longer replacement cycle than that of smartphones, which is usually between two to three years." If that's true, the wares in Galaxy Apps will have to nudge people to upgrade more quickly to enjoy the best the apps have to offer, which is a delicate thing to do even when sales are going well. 

If Samsung tries to make Galaxy Apps more than a showpiece for its own apps, meanwhile, developers will need to feel there is a benefit to them that's greater than promoting their apps or mobile games more widely within Google Play. What can Samsung offer in terms of engagement and retention, for instance, or in boosting revenue (where Google Play typically trails Apple's App Store)? Samsung may be trying to create its own galaxy, but success will mean figuring out a way to treat every app developer inside it like a star.--Shane