So far, 2019 is shaping up to be a critical year for Samsung. With its Galaxy flagship series marking the tenth anniversary, the South Korean consumer electronics giant is running smack into the same slowing smartphone market that hit Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone sales.
At the same time, it’s facing unprecedented competition from premium Android smartphone makers. China’s Huawei has already overtaken Apple as the world’s number one seller of smartphones, and it’s gunning for Samsung, with plans to become number one globally by 2020.
On Wednesday, Samsung held its first Unpacked event of 2019, unveiling some of its most important products for the year — including the Galaxy S10 and its futuristic Galaxy Fold smartphone with a folding display. Here’s everything you need to know about Samsung’s Unpacked 2019.
With the Galaxy S10, Samsung is aiming to make smartphones with notches — like everything Apple now makes — look obsolete. And it’s not just by keeping the smartphone jack …
The 6.1-inch Galaxy S10 features a so-called hole punch front camera design. No notch, its Infinity O-Display AMOLED screen encircles a cutout for the camera.
The company is also escalating the primary camera race by moving from the dual-camera setup found on most flagships today, to a three camera setup: standard, wide-angle and telephoto lenses, all made better with neural processing AI smarts and built-in Instagram mode.
Another big change? The rear fingerprint reader is gone, replaced by an advanced, ultrasonic fingerprint scanner that’s embedded beneath the screen — a first. Unlocking the smartphone means simply touching the display. But the back of this smartphone will gain another ability — wireless charging of accessories, such as the Galaxy Bud wireless earbuds (more on those shortly). Speaking of charging, it has a 3,400mAh battery. In another first, the Galaxy S10 is the first smartphone to support the new Wi-Fi 6 standard.
Processing power is provided by a Qualcomm (NASDAQ:COM) Snapdragon 855 processor, which should mean a performance bump compared to last year’s Galaxy S9. As you might expect, it will ship with Android 9 pie.
Pricing starts at $899.99 (for 128GB of storage). Galaxy S10 smartphones are available for pre-order starting Feb. 21.
As has become the custom, Samsung is offering a super-sized version of its flagship smartphone. The Galaxy S10+ has a 6.4-inch Infinity O-Display AMOLED screen and a higher capacity 4,100mAh battery that delivers 25% more battery life than the Galaxy S9+ did.
Expect to pay a $100 premium ($999.99) for the extra screen real estate, larger battery, a dual front camera (for more advanced portraits), and the option of a white or black ceramic back. You can also order up to 1TB of storage and up to 12GB of RAM — laptop like specs …
Everyone expects to see a giant-sized version of a company’s flagship smartphone. But what the heck is the Galaxy S10E?
This is Samsung’s equivalent of the iPhone XR. It’s a premium smartphone with many of the features of the Galaxy S10, but it skips some of the goodies like triple cameras and in-glass fingerprint reader to offer a more affordable price tag.
Instead, it has a dual-camera setup and a side button fingerprint reader. Its 5.8-inch display also makes it smaller and easier to hold than the other Galaxy S10 options.
The Galaxy S10E is priced from $749.99 and it is available for pre-order starting February 21.
Galaxy S10 5G
As if three variants weren’t enough, Samsung also showed off a fourth Galaxy S10: the S10 5G.
As its name suggests, this version includes support for next-generation 5G cellular networks. It also gets the biggest screen and biggest battery ever on a Galaxy device: a 6.7-inch display and a 4,500mAh battery. It also gets a third selfie camera for advanced AR functionality.
Timing and pricing have not been announced, but Samsung says the Galaxy S10 5G will be a Verizon (NYSE:VZ) exclusive at launch.
How do you pique consumer interest in smartphones, when flagship devices are now powerful enough to serve perfectly well for three or four years? Samsung thinks it has the answer in the Galaxy Fold. This premium device is built around Samsung’s 7.3-inch Infinity Flex folding display. Folded, it has a 4.6-inch front display, making it a compact smartphone; unfolded, it becomes a small tablet.
Specs are high end with a 7nm processor, 12 GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, six cameras and dual batteries. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) will even release custom Office app versions that take full advantage of its capabilities but Samsung says “app continuity” will make transitioning between phone and tablet mode seamless.
Buyers for the Galaxy Fold will need to be both deep-pocketed and patient. Samsung says the “luxury” folding smartphone will be available in four colors. Retail pricing starts at $ 1,980.00 and the Galaxy Fold will be available starting April 26.
Apple AirPods became the top-selling wireless earbuds of 2018 and the company is expected to release a second generation in 2019. Samsung is looking to steal some of Apple’s thunder – and scoop up some of those accessory dollars — with its own version: the Galaxy Buds.
These get Bluetooth 5 connectivity and 8GB of onboard storage — unlike the AirPods, a smartphone or smartwatch will not be needed to listen to music.
Also unlike the AirPods (which come in white or white), Galaxy Bud buyers will be able to choose between black, white and yellow. Battery life its rated at up to six hours of music playback, and they feature integrated Bixby voice support.
Samsung says the Galaxy Buds will be available starting March 8, but pricing was not announced.
Galaxy Watch Active
Samsung is also chasing Apple when it comes to smartwatch sales — although Samsung has been more successful (and more persistent) than most. Samsung also uses its own Tizen operating system rather than Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google division’s Wear OS.
Today the company unveiled the new Galaxy Watch Active. This minimalist smartwatch features a round face, a heart rate sensor, blood pressure monitoring (something the Apple Watch can’t yet do), and stress tracking.
It’s not just health-focused, but it also offers fitness capabilities with auto detection and tracking of six different activities including running and biking. Bixby voice control can be used to send messages or make calls.
The Galaxy Watch Active is available in Black, Sea Green, Silver and Rose Gold. Prices start at $199.99 and it will be available starting March 8.
Not content with tweaking Apple, Samsung is also continuing to push at Fitbit’s (NYSE:FIT) fitness tracker sales.
The new Galaxy Fit is a lightweight fitness tracker with a color AMOLED display, rubber strap, week-long battery life and both heart and sleep tracking. It can also receive smartphone alerts.
Like the Galaxy Watch Active, it is waterproof and can be worn while swimming. The Galaxy Fit arrives later this spring for $99, along with the Fit e —a lower price option that skips the color display— is expected to go for less than half that price. Look out Fitbit…
Samsung Experience Stores
Samsung is also aiming to follow a trail blazed by Apple in an effort to sell all these new devices directly to consumers.
The company is set to open three physical retail stores, in New York, Los Angeles and Houston. These “Samsung Experience” stores will let consumers see the latest 8K TVs while getting hands-on with new Galaxy S10 smartphones and other devices.
The stores will also reportedly offer walk-in repair services for Samsung products.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.