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Samsung commits to making more exciting midprice phones

It's going to bring its A-game to its A series and open up Bixby to third-party app developers

Samsung Galaxy A8

Samsung is jazzing up its A series for the millennial market.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung's mobile strategy has served it well over the years, making it the top phone maker in the world by no small margin. But that doesn't mean the company is content to coast along -- in fact it is shaking up its midrange phone strategy to make devices more appealing to millennials.

Samsung is looking to bring more cutting-edge features into its mid-priced A series of phones, mobile chief DJ Koh told CNBC in an interview published Monday.

"In the past, I brought the new technology and differentiation to the flagship model and then moved to the mid-end," said Koh in the interview. "But I have changed my strategy from this year to bring technology and differentiation points starting from the mid-end."

The overhaul of Samsung's mobile strategy comes at a time when the company is facing increased competition from Chinese phone manufacturers including Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo and OnePlus. Huawei in particular is proving a fierce competitor in the market, overtaking Apple to become the number two phone seller in the world last month.

In the second quarter of this year Samsung's mobile division was stung by a slowdown in demand for its flagship Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus phones, reporting its lowest profit growth for over a year. This is not a problem specific to Samsung -- many of the top phone vendors are suffering from increasingly sluggish sales.

The most expensive phones -- including those in Samsung's top-tier S range -- are also only getting more expensive, potentially creating a bigger market opportunity for companies making cutting-edge phones for the midrange. This is exactly the market Samsung will be hoping to exploit with its refreshed midrange offering, the first of which should arrive later this year, according to Koh.

Samsung also said it would start letting third-party app developers for its smart assistant Bixby, Koh said. The company is looking to give Bixby a boost after announcing the Galaxy Home -- a smart speaker to rival Google Home, Amazon's Echo and Apple HomePod -- last month. A Bixby software developer kit and API are set to be released in November at Samsung's Developer Conference.

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