The year of 5G is upon us, according to Samsung.
On Tuesday, the electronics giant unveiled its Galaxy S20 flagship phones and other devices at Unpacked, an annual product event held this year in San Francisco. Samsung placed 5G capabilities and camera features front and center at the showcase, as well as a next-generation foldable phone called the Z Flip.
The Galaxy S20 phones have two main advancements compared to last year's model, the S10: All three versions are 5G compatible, and all three have improved camera features, such as 8K recording and enhanced zoom capabilities that go as high as 100x. The base model, Galaxy S20 5G, costs $999; the highest-end Ultra version costs $1399, and the mid-tier S20+ costs $1199. The main variations between the three are in sizing and camera features -- the Ultra model has a higher-megapixel camera and enhanced sensors, among other features.
"Samsung has always leaned into 'bigger and better' and I believe the Galaxy S20 5G represents this, in particular, the Ultra version," said Patrick Moorhead, president at Moor Insights & Strategy. "I believe the S20 will create a new 'super-cycle' for Samsung and sell better than the last three Galaxy models."
At Unpacked, Samsung executives outlined what experiences consumers can expect with 5G phones -- and why, in the words of Drew Blackard, Samsung's head of U.S. product management, 2020 "is the year of Galaxy 5G."
The benefits of 5G include speedier streaming and gaming and improved video interactions like voice calls, according to Samsung. The company highlighted several partnerships that will help bring those use cases to consumers: One, with Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report, will unlock bonus streaming content on Samsung phones. Another, with Microsoft's (MSFT) - Get Report Xbox, will deliver premium cloud-based game streaming, though details were light. A third, with Google (GOOGL) - Get Report, will more tightly integrate Duo, Google's voice chat product, into Galaxy S20 phones; buyers of S20 phones will also receive YouTube Premium built in.
But S20 wasn't the only phone unveiled at Unpacked.
Samsung kicked off the showcase with the Z Flip, its latest foldable phone. The Z Flip, using ultra-thin glass and a tiny hinge system, unfolds into a full display, but also has a dual-display mode that can split the display into two -- useful for propping up the phone to take photos, or for watching a video while typing, for example. When closed, it shows the time, texts, and various notifications. The $1380 Z Flip does not come with 5G, however.
"I like that Samsung didn't skimp on technical specifications like the Moto Razr did with its lower-end CPU and GPU and am OK with the lack of 5G ,as I just don't think it would fit and would drain too much battery," Moorhead added. "Samsung is targeting a different audience, which is smart. I believe the Flip will be a market success assuming there aren't any reliability gotchas."
Samsung's first folding phone, the Galaxy Fold, was widely considered a flop after buyers ultimately reported problems with the screen and other usability issues.
In addition to the phones, Samsung also showed off a new version of Galaxy Buds, called Galaxy Buds+, which include microphone and speaker enhancements and an improved battery life. Those will sell for $149.
With the S20 and Z Flip, Samsung continues its normal course of offering enhanced smartphone features with a premium price point to match. Although the cheapest S20 will sell for $999 at full price, Samsung also said in a press release that it's offering various rebates and trade-in options for buyers. It also lowered the prices of the Galaxy S10 lineup, and late last year announced a budget-friendly S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite.
Samsung's chief rival, Apple , is due to reveal new 5G phones of its own this year.
Apple is expected by many analysts to offer a greater range of sizing options and price points for its 2020 phone lineup, including more modest price increases for the highest-end models.
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