At its latest “Unpacked” event this week, Samsung launched five new products across three different categories. These include two foldables, two smartwatches, and a TWS. The new foldables, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 and Z Flip4, bring improved design and hardware along with enhanced software experience. Samsung also announced a new TWS, the Galaxy Buds2 Pro, with high-res streaming and 360-degree audio support. There are two new smartwatches too, the Galaxy Watch5 and Watch5 Pro, both of which bring improved durability, thanks to new materials, advanced health, sleep tracking, and other features.
We were at the product launch event where we got a chance to try out the new devices for some time. Below is our analysis and first impressions from the Samsung Unpacked announcements.
Unfolding new foldables: Galaxy Z Fold4, Galaxy Z Flip4
Samsung was one of the first OEMs to launch a commercial folding smartphone across the globe in 2019 and continues to lead the category with a 62% share in H1 2022. With the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 and Z Flip4 here, and competitors such as Xiaomi, HONOR, OPPO, Huawei, and vivo launching foldables limited to Chinese markets, we expect Samsung’s share to jump to 80% in H2 2022. Overall, we expect foldable shipments to reach 16 million units globally by the end of 2022.
Commenting on Samsung widening its foldables lead, Research Vice President at Counterpoint Neil Shah said, “With its fourth generation of foldables, Samsung is widening its lead across both hardware and software. The models have better camera sensors, redesigned hinges with fewer components and optimized display sizes. Multitasking capabilities, especially in one-handed use, are much improved. Samsung is potentially repeating history here by owning the foldable segment as it did with its Note devices segment for almost a decade, although Chinese vendors are alert to the threat.”
Despite all the macroeconomic headwinds, component shortages and new, improved hardware, Samsung has impressed with the pricing. The Z Flip4 starts at $999 and the Z Fold4 starts at $1,799, which are the same as their predecessors. Talking about the new smartphones, they both look identical to their predecessors, but there are some meaningful upgrades going under the hood.
Hinge: The hinge is now slimmer on both smartphones while ensuring the same durability. The crease is now less visible too than before. By using new materials and making the hinge thinner, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 is now also slightly lighter at 263g, compared to the 271g Galaxy Z Fold3 (review). And you can feel it too when you hold the device. The durability of the folding mechanism in both smartphones is rated for over 200,000 folds.
In the Galaxy Z Flip4, a slimmer and thinner hinge makes room for a bigger battery, which is now upgraded to 3,700mAh, compared to 3,300mAh in the Galaxy Z Flip3. But that’s not all, it can now fast-charge at 25W, up from 15W in the previous generation. Samsung claims that the battery can charge from 0-50% in 30 minutes. This is one area where Samsung is still behind its competitors, but faster charging is good news for its users.
Display: The main folding screens now employ an even stronger ultra-thin glass (UTG), with Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus+ protection, making them more durable than before. Now while the maximum screen refresh rate is still 120Hz for both the Fold4 and Flip4, it can now intelligently adapt between 1Hz and 120Hz, depending on the screen content. It will help in saving a significant amount of battery when static content is on the screen. The Galaxy Z Fold4 screen now has a peak brightness of 1300nits, up by 100nits over the predecessor. In the case of the Flip, it can now attain a peak brightness of 900nits.
Cameras: The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 gets a flagship primary camera of 50MP resolution with OIS, f/1.8 aperture, and a pixel size of 1.0µm. The sensor can capture more light, better for improved low-light photography. Samsung has also upgraded the telephoto camera, which now features a 10MP lens with an f/2.4 aperture and around 67mm focal length for 3X optical zoom. The Galaxy Z Fold3 had a 12MP telephoto camera, but a 52mm focal length only allowed for 2X optical zoom. The ultrawide camera setup remains the same at 12MP with a field of view of 123 degrees. Talking about the cover screen selfie and folding screen under-display cameras, there aren’t any changes there.
Coming to the Galaxy Z Flip4, the primary camera sees a slight upgrade. While the resolution remains the same at 12MP, the improved sensor and bigger pixel size of 1.8µm can capture more light, resulting in better low-light photography. The other cameras remain the same as on the Galaxy Z Flip3. There are some software tweaks that Samsung has done to the flex mode, where you can now capture selfies without opening your phone and the preview appears on the cover screen. Users can also partially prop the screen at 90 degrees and use it as a tripod, or even hold it as a camcorder to click photos or record videos.
Chipset: Both the foldables are powered by the new Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SoC fabricated on TSMC’s 4nm process. Unlike the earlier launch events where the processor brand would hardly get a mention, this time was different with Qualcomm at the front and center, and a mention in the launch presentation and in-person briefings as well. More accolades leveraging Snapdragon’s ISP and AI capabilities to offer the ultimate camera experience, a big win for Qualcomm.
Software: One of the key use cases of the foldables is where they unlock desktop-like multitasking capabilities by taking full advantage of the big folding screen. However, ease of use and quick access to multitasking features was one of the biggest pain points for the users. Samsung is addressing these pain points and setting a benchmark with a bunch of handy features that will make multitasking a breeze.
New gestures include a two-finger swipe for multi-window multitasking, and a corner swipe to quickly scale an app from full screen to a small pop-up floating window. When you are inside an app, there will now be a taskbar at the bottom with your favorite and recent apps, allowing for quickly switching between them. You can also drag and drop photos more from one app to the other (provided they are compatible). These gestures are a little different on the Flip4, where users will have to swipe with two fingers from the bottom to start split-screen multitasking, but these gestures are super smooth and intuitive.
One improvement on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 is that it will run on Android 12L OS, which is a customized and optimized operating system for foldables. We had very little time to play around with the smartphones to talk about how this improves usability, but we will include that in our analysis after using the smartphone for a longer period.
Smartwatches with improved health tracking: Galaxy Watch5, Watch5 Pro
Samsung announced two new smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch5 and Galaxy Watch5 Pro, both of which run on Wear OS powered by Samsung and One UI Watch interface on top. Key improvements this year are improved health tracking and new materials with better durability. The Galaxy Watch5 starts at $279, whereas the Galaxy Watch5 Pro starts at $449.
Key specs: The Galaxy Watch5 will be available in two dial sizes – 40mm and 44mm, whereas the Galaxy Watch5 Pro will be offered in only one dial size – 45mm. Both smartwatches are powered by an Exynos W920 dual-core SoC clocked at 1.8GHz, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of onboard storage.
They feature a circular Super AMOLED screen with Sapphire Crystal glass protection on top. One of the key changes with the smartwatches this time around is that they don’t come with an iconic physical rotating bezel. Instead, they have a digital bezel to scroll through and interact with your watch. Talking about new materials, the Watch5 Pro is made from stronger titanium, whereas the Watch 5 is made from aluminum to improve its durability. The Watch5 Pro also gets a magnetic D-buckle strap, which is a nice addition and goes well with both casual and corporate look.
Health, fitness and sleep: Samsung spent a lot of time talking about the meaningful innovations it is bringing with the new smartwatches along with improved health and fitness features. The new devices now come with advanced bio-active sensors where the glass is now more curved. Samsung says that as the glass curvature can now contact the skin better, it helps improve the accuracy even more.
The new smartwatches now have software algo enhancements to track skeletal muscle targets, fat targets, body composition, and more. Lack of sound and quality sleep is a major problem for many of us, and Samsung has bundled advanced sleep monitoring with REM stages, sleep coaching, and health monitoring features. There is also a new temperature sensor in the new watches, which is a good addition considering the current COVID-19 scenario.
Commenting on Samsung addressing increased interest in well-being after the pandemic, Associate Director Jan Stryjak said, “Samsung’s new holistic approach to health is intriguing, and sees it taking on the likes of Apple and Garmin. Supplementing endless data and stats, which can be confusing, with an intelligent coaching function using improved sensor design, should expand Samsung’s addressable market for consumers beyond basic fitness, especially for those who, post-pandemic, are more concerned about their well-being than ever.”
More battery, faster charging: The Watch5 40mm model comes with a 284mAh battery, whereas the 44mm model comes with a slightly bigger 410mAh battery. The Watch5 Pro, on the other hand, features a massive 590mAh battery with a claimed life of 20 hours with GPS usage, which is impressive considering it is meant for outdoor sports users. Samsung has also improved the charging speeds where users can get 45% battery in just 30 minutes, a good improvement over the previous generation.
Galaxy Watch5 Pro with improved navigation: Meant for outdoor users who are into activities like hiking, trekking and cycling, the Galaxy Watch5 Pro has some interesting features. Users can record and upload route files and also share the same with their friends who use a Galaxy Watch. There are also turn-by-turn GPS navigation, track back and return safely features, ensuring that you will never be lost outdoors.
Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro: High-res audio support and more
The last product Samsung announced is the Galaxy Buds2 Pro TWS earbuds, priced at $229. One of the key highlight features of the new hearables is the support for 24-bit lossless Hi-Fi sound with Samsung’s proprietary Seamless Codec. There is also support for an immersive theatre-like experience with 360-degree audio and head tracking powered by Dolby. The TWS features a 5.3mm tweeter and 10mm woofer, all while keeping a compact form factor with a 15% lower size than the Galaxy Buds Pro.
Commenting on the huge improvements Samsung has made with the Buds2 Pro, Associate Director Liz Lee said, “The Buds2 Pro is a huge step up from its predecessor. It is more expensive, but the improvements outweigh the slightly higher price. 24-bit Hi-Fi sound, 360-degree spatial audio and IANC (Intelligent Active Noise Cancellation) in a more compact design, and the ergonomic fit are very impressive indeed.”
Design-wise, the earbuds snugly fit into the ear, and they have a nice rubberized, matte finish. There is IPX7 rating for water and sweat resistance too. Samsung says that the IANC is now 1.4X more improved than the previous generation. The buds also allow seamless connectivity between Samsung ecosystem devices with auto-switch, and with Smarthings Find to locate them in case you misplace them.
The Galaxy Buds2 Pro can offer a total battery life (with case) of up to 18 hours with ANC on, and up to 29 hours with ANC off. Each earbud has a 61mAh battery, whereas the case has a 515mAh battery. There is also a quick charging feature where five minutes of charging can offer one hour of music playtime. The case also includes Qi-certified wireless charging.
- The Galaxy Z Fold4 now comes with flagship cameras, an improved hinge design with less visible crease, leading to a thinner and lighter design than the previous generation, and refined software for a PC-like multitasking experience.
- The Galaxy Z Flip4 also comes with a smaller hinge, making way for a bigger battery with fast charging, improved usability with more features on the cover screen, an improved primary camera, and more. It is also lighter and thinner for one-handed use.
- The Galaxy Buds2 Pro brings support for 24-bit high-res audio, improved ANC, and 360-degree audio for an immersive listening experience.
- The Galaxy Watch5 comes with better health, fitness and sleep tracking capabilities, a virtual bezel for intuitive interaction, faster charging, and more.
- The Galaxy Watch5 Pro comes with a titanium body for better durability, a massive long-lasting battery for continued usage with GPS on, turn-by-turn navigation, and features like recording and uploading of pre-defined routes, expanding its addressable market to include sports and outdoor enthusiasts.