Samsung has been working overtime. The company unveiled a lot at its “Unpacked” event in San Francisco. There were five smartphones, a wearable, and ear buds unveiled—all launching between early March and September. It is early and we were only able to handle the devices a few minutes. From this quick assessment, we give three grades to the new devices: Some are not-ready-for-mass appeal. There was some hardware which seems behind competitors. And, there was some beautiful hardware which looks best-in-class.
The event kicked off with the Galaxy Fold, a device which sports a 4.6” cover display which opens up into a 7.3” tablet. Samsung has been working on the device for seven years. The display has new materials which include a new polymer layer which is 50% thinner than their typical AMOLED displays. This keeps the device from being bloated and yet remain flexible and durable. The hinge has interlocking gears, improvements which will make it more durable than foldables in the market.
There are other engineering feats. There is a split battery to support the folding of the device. Combined, it is a whopping 4380mAh battery. There has also been a considerable collaboration between Samsung, the Google Android team, and third-party app developers to render applications correctly across the cover and main displays.
- Let’s begin with the price tag: $1980 full retail immediately makes this a super niche device
- Four rear cameras and two front facing cameras
- Main display: 7.3” QXGA + Dynamic AMOLED (4.2:3)
- Cover display: 4.6” HD + Super AMOLED (21:9)
- Cover camera: 10MP, F2.2 aperture
- Rear triple camera: 16MP F2.2; 12MP wide-angle; 12MP telephoto camera
- Front cameras: 10MP ‘selfie camera’ and 8MP depth camera
- Apps Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Early assessment: This is a leading device which has the feel that early capacitive touch devices had – it is the future, but early versions will be clunky and compromised. Kudos to Samsung for launching the device as the fluidness of the tablet mode is nice and better than versions we saw at CES 2019. The device appears to be severely ‘girthy’ and compromised. The $1980 price tag secures its place as a niche device.
S10, S10+, S10e steal the show:
The trio of Galaxy S10 variants are beautifully crafted and feel much smaller in hand than one would believe staring at the display dimensions on a spec sheet. The key selling points will be the new infinity O display, camera capabilities, the embedded (under glass) ultrasonic fingerprint unlock, and wireless power share.
The main deltas of the new S10 variants:
S10e: $749 full retail, 5.8” display, two rear cameras, fingerprint unlock on side button, 3100mAh
S10: $899 full retail, 6.1” display, three rear cameras, under glass fingerprint unlock, 3500mAh
S10+: $999 full retail, 6.4” display, three rear cameras, under glass fingerprint unlock, 4100mAh
Early assessment: The trio of GS10 devices are refined and beautiful. The 19:9 dynamic AMOLED displays are stunning. The notch is gone – the camera module is integrated into the display, which has a small hole which does not interrupt the high refresh rates of the dynamic AMOLED.
The deltas within the three devices are limited. One could argue the pricing delta is also limited. In an EIP world, that is $5-$6 per month. In the end, it appears that if a user is content with a compact 5.8” display, they will be happy with the S10e. If a user wants the largest possible display, the S10+ is the device. The S10 may be the odd model out.
The flagship fleet are all powered by either the Snapdragon 855 by Qualcomm or the home-grown Samsung Exynos, depending on the market. The Qualcomm tech / under display ultrasonic fingerprint unlock demo was impressive. WiFi 6 will also be a welcome addition to users. Incremental improvements in the camera include depth sensing improvements, AI and a telephoto camera and an ultra-wide-angle camera (123 degrees). AI is often an over-used descriptor. In these models, it means enhancements such as auto straighten, understanding the setting (recognizing to optimize a sunset shot versus an in-home shot), and color optimization.
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G: Another Compromised Version One
The device has the brag of ‘hyper fast’ speeds which will enable fast downloads and game streaming. Early usage shows 2GBPS downloads and 150MBPS uploads. Some variants will support mmWave and sub6. Some will only support mmWave.
The device sports a whopping 6.7” quad HD+ curved dynamic AMOLED display with a 19:9 aspect ratio. It is under 8mm thick but needs 162mm x 77m to fit the additional 5G modem and antennas. With the discrete components and dual LTE and 5G connectivity, battery drain will be a concern. The 4500mAh battery will help.
Samsung states they have tested the 5G connection while traveling in automobiles over 100mph. Realistic AR experiences are touted. These brags need to be tested in the wild.
Early assessment: This device was not readily available to hold and assess. No pricing was announced. This will be another of the device’s compromises. This looks to be for early adopters only. There will probably not be many ‘future proofing’ buyers because of the price and girth of the device. Its doubtful the forth camera will differentiate the device.
The Galaxy Fold and S10 5G appeared to be relegated to teasers at the event — foreshadowing of Samsung tech for the next decade. Samsung has sold two billion Galaxies over the past ten years and the company aspires to better that over the next decade.
Wearables and Galaxy Buds:
The Galaxy Buds offer adaptive dual microphones, understands noise levels with the ability to pick up users’ voice, and Bixby controls. Competitive but there are a plethora of options out there. At $129, there are higher and lower priced options. The ability to charge the Buds by placing them in their case on the back of one of the S10 variants is a positive.
The biggest disappointments of the day were the Galaxy Watch Active and Galaxy Fit. The devices must be tested for at least a couple of weeks, but there did not appear to be anything new from the wearable launches. In fact, the watch will be trailing Apple and others without ECG heart analysis. The watch had a simplistic and plastic feel while being worn.