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Samsung poised to challenge Apple at retail in US with first full-scale stores

Samsung 837 in the Meatpacking District.

Looking to push beyond its modest retail efforts so far, Apple rival Samsung is planning to open three full-scale U.S. stores on Feb. 20, the same day it announces the Galaxy S10 and its first foldable phone.

The initial locations include The Americana at Brand in Los Angeles, Roosevelt Field on Long Island in Garden City (N.Y.), and The Galleria in Houston. Visitors will be able to try and buy products ranging from phones to VR glasses and TVs, and — much like Apple stores — get in-person customer support, with walk-in repairs available for mobile devices.

Samsung's U.S. retail footprint has so far consisted mostly of pop-up stores and dedicated spaces in chains like Best Buy. An exception is Samsung 837, based in New York City's Meatpacking District, but that space is foremost a showcase for the Korean company's technologies.

Apple has long touted its retail stores as one of its key advantages, since people can try products in advance and have a place to turn if they need help with setup or troubleshooting. It remains to be seen if Samsung will be able to cultivate an equal or superior level of support, or if enough people will choose to shop at outlets instead of online or at the many third-party vendors that carry Samsung gear.

Samsung has tried this approach in the UK. The effort failed due to low traffic, and was shuttered very quickly after opening.

The company's Feb. 20 "Unpacked" event is expected to be its biggest in some time. On top of the Galaxy S10 and a still-shrouded foldable phone, it should also unveil a new Galaxy Watch, more fitness trackers, and wireless Galaxy Buds.

The offensive comes at the same time as Apple is coping with declining iPhone sales, driven mostly by tough competition in China from local smartphone makers.