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Samsung's Latest Foldable Phone Steals the Show at Note20 Event

In addition to the Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra, Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Z Fold 2 phone, which improves on its predecessor in several ways.

Samsung’s newest foldable phone arguably stole the show as the company revealed its 2020 lineup of Galaxy Note phones.

During its online-only Galaxy Unpacked event, which was held on Wednesday morning, Samsung unveiled the 6.7-inch Galaxy Note20 and 6.9-inch Galaxy Note20 Ultra. It also showed off a pair of high-end, 5G-capable tablets (the Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+), a new smartwatch with a slew of health/fitness features (the Galaxy Watch3) and a new pair of wireless earbuds that support active noise cancellation (the Galaxy Buds Live).

And notably, 18 months after Samsung unveiled its original Galaxy Fold phone, Samsung took the wraps off a successor -- the 5G-capable Galaxy Z Fold 2 -- that improves on the original in several important ways.

Whereas the original Fold has a 4.6-inch outer display and a 7.3-inch main display that appears when unfolded, the Fold 2 has a 6.2-inch outer display and a 7.6-inch main display. And while the original Fold was powered by Qualcomm’s  (QCOM) - Get QUALCOMM Incorporated Report Snapdragon 855 processor, the Fold 2 packs the recently-announced Snapdragon 865 Plus.

The camera system, which features three rear cameras and one selfie camera apiece for the outer display and main display, has also been improved. The main display is now covered with glass rather than plastic, and supports a 120-hertz refresh rate rather than a 60-hertz refresh rate. And Samsung asserts the Fold 2 is thinner, delivers better battery life and sports a more durable hinge than its predecessor.

One thing that hasn’t yet been shared is the phone’s price, which (given that the original Fold was priced at $1,980) will likely be in the four figures. Samsung said that it will share more details about the Fold 2, whose launch will follow that of the smaller Galaxy Z Flip foldable phone, at an event on Sept. 1, while also sharing that Fold 2 pre-orders will start on that date.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Plus will be available on Aug. 21 and carry starting prices of $999 and $1,299, respectively. For comparison, the three phones within Samsung’s 2019 Galaxy Note lineup -- the Note 10, the Note 10 Plus and the Note 10 5G -- had starting prices of $949, $1,099 and $1,299, respectively.

The Galaxy Note20 Ultra and standard Note20. Source: Samsung.

The Galaxy Note20 Ultra and standard Note20. Source: Samsung.

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As usual, Samsung upgraded the processors and modems going into its Note phones. In North America, China, South Korea and Japan, the phones will contain the Snapdragon 865 Plus and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 5G modem. Elsewhere, they will contain Samsung’s Exynos 990 processor and Exynos 5123 5G modem.

Samsung also gave the standard Note20 a 4,300 mAh battery, a healthy improvement relative to the standard Note 10’s 3,500 mAh battery (the Note20 Ultra packs a 4,500 mAh battery). And it gave both phones edge-to-edge displays, an upgraded S Pen stylus featuring improved latency and four cameras (three on the back, one on the front).

However, unlike Apple  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report, whose flagship iPhones are essentially the same outside of display and battery sizes, Samsung chose to make the Note20 Ultra’s specs superior to those of the standard Note20 in several other ways as well.

Whereas the standard Note20’s display has a 2400x1080 resolution and a 60-hertz refresh rate, the Note20 Ultra’s display has a 3088x1440 resolution and a 120-hertz refresh rate. And whereas the Note20’s primary rear camera has a 12MP resolution, the Note20 Ultra’s has an 108MP resolution.

Also, the Note20 Ultra contains more RAM (12GB vs. 8GB). And unlike the standard Note20, it contains a microSD card slot, supports 5x optical zoom and (like Apple’s 2019 iPhones) packs an ultra wideband (UWB) radio that in time could support activities such as precise location-tracking and the unlocking of cars and hotel rooms.

Samsung is hoping the Note20 line will provide a healthy boost to its smartphone business at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues weighing on demand. Last week, Samsung reported its Mobile Communications segment’s revenue fell 18% annually in Q2 to 19.8 trillion won ($16.6 billion).

The company did add that smartphone demand has been gradually recovering since June and that (with the help of the Note20 launches) it expects smartphone sales to be up sequentially in Q3, with a greater mix of high-end phone sales. However, Samsung also cautioned that there’s still considerable uncertainty regarding near-term smartphone demand due to COVID-19, and that it expects to see “intense competition” during the second half of 2020, as rivals try to make up for weak first-half demand.

Apple, by comparison, reported its iPhone revenue was up 2% annually during its June quarter to $26.42 billion. The company noted that stimulus payments and April’s iPhone SE refresh gave a lift to sales.

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