SAN FRANCISCO — To mark 10 years of producing Galaxy S series gadgets, Samsung introduced a bumper crop of new devices at its latest dual Unpacked media events on Tuesday.
Justin Denison, senior vice president of marketing, got the most buzzworthy announcement out of the way first by showcasing the Galaxy Fold, a folding smartphone-tablet mash-up packed into a 4.6-inch footprint.
In closed position, the device looks like a somewhat chunky smartphone capable of running the same app experience modern consumers know. But it also opens up like a book to reveal another 7.3-inch screen on the inside.
The display, what Samsung dubs “infinity flex,” is large enough to supersize an app view to reveal more visuals or controls. With all that screen real estate, the Fold can also display three running apps at once, for the hyper multitasker. In terms of specifications, it’s a beast of a phone, with two batteries, a whopping 12 GB of RAM and six cameras — three rear cams, one in the front when folded, and two inside when opened up.
Samsung has been talking about foldable devices for years, so since it tipped its hand last November with a folding prototype, anticipation has been high.
According to DJ Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile communication business, the South Korean electronics titan set out to prove that mobile device innovation isn’t dead. Over the last decade, the company has shipped more than 2 billion Galaxy phones, he said, and pioneered new device categories — like the phablet, a tablet-size smartphone defined early by Samsung’s Galaxy Note devices.
“No company has done more to put the smartphone at the center of our mobile connected lives,” Koh said. And now, he and his team are gunning to define a new category again with the Fold.
Whether it will succeed depends wholly on whether consumers are willing to cough up a laptop-worthy $1,980 price tag when the product launches on April 26.
If people flock to it, the size, dual screens and folding interaction — as well as the spate of cameras — could usher in a new way of approaching development and user interfaces for all sorts of visually oriented mobile apps.
Of course, Samsung didn’t stop there. The mobile family expanded in all sorts of directions, with four new S10 smartphones ranging from low-end to high-end devices with a range of features — from 3D camera technology to on-screen fingerprint scanning and 5G cellular connectivity.
Of all the devices — the Galaxy S10, S10+, S10e and S10 5G — the S10 and S10+ specifically are descendants of last year’s flagship phones, the S9 and S9+. But in a rather Apple-esque fashion, the S10e and S10 5G are two brand-new products offering an inexpensive device and a premium model priced more than $1,000.
At 6.1-inch and 6.4-inch screens, respectively, the $900 S10 and $1,000 S10+ are slightly bigger than last year’s versions. And one of the more intriguing aspects of the units is the ability to charge other devices, like some of its new wearables. The designers also seated the front selfie camera in a unique way: There’s no notch here, like the iPhone, but a hole or cutout carved into the actual display itself. That screen also features a fingerprint scanner that’s basically invisible, and the addition of a third camera in the back, for shooting wide-angle images.
The tech company also announced a pile of new Galaxy wearables. Describing them as “sleek” and “modern,” Samsung showed off its new Galaxy Watch Active, Galaxy Fit and Galaxy Buds.
Galaxy Watch Active was developed to be the stylish option for people interested in living healthier, but not willing to strap a mini laptop to their wrists to do it. Indeed, it’s probably one of the best-looking smartwatches Samsung has ever created. It comes with features for tracking fitness, sleep, stress and other quantifiable health factors.
Galaxy Fit is the jock — a fitness band that tracks activities like running, biking and swimming. According to the company, it also boasts “enhanced sleep analysis” and stress management.
Like other wireless earphones, the wee Galaxy Buds untether users from tying themselves to their devices with a cable. While it’s environment-aware safety feature is welcome, it would have been intriguing had Samsung instead launched smart buds capable of other features, such as augmented hearing or additional health monitoring. Perhaps in the next generation of devices.
At least its ability to get a quick battery pick-me-up directly from the S10 phone, as well as from its charge case, is a nifty way of extending its five-to-six-hour battery life.
For now, the Galaxy Watch Active will be available in the U.S. on March 8 and cost $199.99, but pre-orders will open as soon as Feb. 21. To tempt customers, the company is offering a promotion of a free wireless charging pad for people who reserve early. And the Galaxy Buds will retail for $129.99 and also be available on March 8. Galaxy S10 and S10+ pre-orders qualify for a free set of buds for a limited time.