Samsung's Galaxy Note Edge arrives soon in the U.S. with its innovative curved edge display, but at a steep price.
At Best Buy, the Edge with 32GB goes for $1,159.99, unlocked, which puts it right in line with current Amazon pricing of $1,095 for an unlocked iPhone 6 Plus with 64GB of storage. (There is no 32GB iPhone 6 Plus model.)
AT&T announced Monday that it will carry the Edge starting this Friday for $399.99 with a two-year contract or $945.99 with no annual agreement.
The AT&T-subsized contract price of one penny less than $400 is double what many top-of-the-line smartphones have recently cost.
Sprint said it will have the Edge, which runs Android 4.4, a week later, on Nov. 14, for zero down with 24 monthly payments of $35 apiece, for a total of $840. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile will also carry the Edge, but haven't announced prices. It will come in black and white models.
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"These are amazing prices for people who are used to just seeing the $199 price" of a subsized smartphone, said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar WorldPanel. "There is a premium for it, for sure."
Milenesi and other analysts said Samsung is likely making sure there are limited sales of the Edge because Samsung could be having problems obtaining the unusual curved screens. "This may be more of a device to show off innovation from Samsung's perspective; they lift the average selling price, but don't make massive volumes," she said.
Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy , said the unlocked price is not an exceptionally high premium, but fits into Samsung's latest strategy. "Samsung has lost brand prowess and they are trying to rebuild themselves," Moorhead said. "The Edge looks innovative and buyers will be asked about it whenever they pull it out to use it."
The Edge is indeed innovative, but it isn't clear whether early adopters and others buyers will respond to its higher prices to get the new technology. "Time will tell how users will react to yet another way to control a phone," Moorhead said, referring to the curved display that lets you view content separate from what's seen on the main display.
The Edge can be laid on its side with content visible on the edge, including the time and date and headlines from an Internet feed.
The Edge features a 5.6-in. display with a 2560-x-1440+160-resolution, with the extra 160 pixels being the width of the wraparound bar on the right edge of the display. In that area, users can get all kinds of notifications and apps without interfering with the content on the main part of the display.
It isn't likely that the higher cost of the curved display is the entire reason for the steeper price, however. "The higher price is about status as well as function," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "Why do people pay thousands of dollars for the right label on a watch or a car or designer clothes? Are they really that much better? To a certain class of buyers, status is important."
Samsung's strategy with the Edge is a good one, Gold argued. "It gives the air of 'this is not for everyone.' Exclusivity can drive product sales, but it can also backfire."
Gold agreed that Samsung might be using price to limit supply, and said that other smartphone makers will follow suit. "I think you'll see many attempts to go premium in a smartphone market that is pretty much a commodity market at this point," he said.
Like the recently released Galaxy Note 4, the Edge has a digital stylus called an S Pen that has mouse-like functionality and can be used to record handwriting. Both devices also have a 16-megapixel rear camera and a 3.7-megapixel front camera.
The Edge includes a 2.7GHz quad-core processor and a 3,000 mAh battery. In addition to the 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM, it has a microSD card slot to support another 128GB of storage.