Samsung warns of 2016 tech gloom

Samsung warned of rising competition across businesses from smartphones to memory chips, again sounding a dour note for the global technology industry in 2016.

The world's largest smartphone vendor faces another difficult year after a 2015 plagued by economic turbulence and volatile exchange rates, chief executive Officer Kwon Oh-Hyun said.

Samsung - the maker of Galaxy smartphones - is fighting to protect its market share from Apple and Chinese rivals like Huawei and grappling with declining semiconductor and consumer electronics prices.

"We expect core products of our company, such as smartphone, TV, and memory, will face oversupply issues and intensified price competition," the CEO said in his annual letter.

"We expect that 2016 will also be a tough year."

Samsung in January reported a quarterly profit that fell short of expectations by almost 40 per cent and said it expects slowing demand for smartphones and more global economic headwinds this year.

The company is investing in new technologies such as foldable mobile displays to try and boost profit.

"Even under the challenging circumstances, we will renew everything from our product development and management to the organisational culture in order to lead the new era and become a true first mover," Kwon said.

Apple - Samsung's biggest customer according to data compiled by Bloomberg - has predicted its first sales decline in a decade.

Chief executive Tim Cook said the maker of iPhones was seeing "extreme conditions" unlike anything it had ever encountered, with economic growth in China at its weakest pace in 25 years.

Meanwhile Samsung has launched an upgrade programme that makes it easy to trade in your old Samsung smartphone when a new one comes along.

The programme appears to have launched in South Korea and in Britain.

Users are asked to agree to pay a small additional monthly fee - the price seems to vary by market - for 24 months when they buy their phone. After 12 months, if their phone is in good condition, they can trade their old phone in for a new one.

It's timed to the launch of the new Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.

Apple already has a similar programme for the iPhone. Many carriers also offer plans that let you upgrade your phone more frequently.

But the benefit for smartphone makers to run these programmes is clear: getting people signed up on their own upgrade plan gives them a better shot at a repeat consumer, and more often.

If you're paying for an annual upgrade plan, chances are pretty good that you won't be waiting two years before buying your next phone.

That's particularly appealing to companies such as Samsung right now.

Consumers, it seems, aren't quite as excited as they used to be about yearly smartphone upgrades, which have tended toward the incremental rather than the revolutionary lately.

Not only that, low-end smartphones are improving in overall quality, making them more appealing to those who don't need to stay on the cutting edge of smartphone design.