Samsung unveils Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Note 20 smartphones

Samsung Z Fold2

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The Galaxy Z Fold 2’s external screen now almost fills the side of the device

Samsung has faced one of the biggest criticisms of its original folding screen smartphone, giving the new version a much larger external display to use when closed.

The “cover screen” of the original Galaxy Fold was relatively small at 4.6 inches, which suggests that it was impractical to use.

In contrast, the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s external screen is 6.2-inch, the same as the best-selling Galaxy S20.

Even so, an expert said its high price would mean sales would remain limited.

But he noted that it could act as a “halo,” drawing attention to the company’s other phones, including its new Galaxy Note phones.

“Samsung solved the Fold’s biggest flaw. Its external display was extremely small, which made it as difficult to use as a one-handed smartphone,” commented Ben Wood of consultancy CCS Insight.

“With a larger external display you really get the best of both worlds in terms of being able to use it closed like a traditional phone and thus have the advantage of a mini-tablet when open.

“That said, it will likely be priced as a super premium product, so it will only have a niche market.”

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The previous edition of the Fold had a smaller external screen

The South Korean company needs a boost of attention.

The coronavirus pandemic caused the biggest drop in smartphone sales the industry has ever experienced in the second quarter of the year, but Samsung has been hit even harder than its rivals.

Samsung slips

Smartphone shipments in the second quarter

Those who can afford the Galaxy Z Fold 2 will also benefit from a larger internal display than before, measuring 7.6 inches compared to the original version’s 7.3 inches. The company said it was also given a “firmer snap” action when closed thanks to an improved hinge.

He did not disclose a price, but said further details will be announced on September 1.

Faster frame rate

In terms of sales, Samsung’s focus will be on its new Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra phones.

Both provide 5G connectivity, but otherwise represent a more modest revision than their predecessors compared to the change in the Fold.

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Note 20 smartphones allow users to zoom in on a subject up to 50 times

The Ultra offers the benefits of a larger screen – 6.9 inches versus 6.7 inches – which is also capable of displaying up to 120 frames per second, double that of the base model. Samsung suggests this should make it more attractive to gamers.

Other changes affect the stylus and include:

  • faster response times when using the S Pen, to make writing and drawing more natural
  • the addition of five S Pen off-screen gestures to control the device, including swiping left in the air to go back one page and shake to take a screenshot
  • handwriting recognition that automatically straightens scribbled text

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Note 20 phones straighten handwritten text

Other new features include the ability to stream video to a compatible TV while still allowing the phone to be used for other activities, similar to the AirPlay feature on Apple’s iPhone.

And files can now be transferred wirelessly by pointing one of the phones at another “ultra-broadband-enabled” device, similar to the way Apple’s AirDrop and Huawei’s Share OneHop work.

The Note 20 will start at £ 849 and the Note 20 Ultra at £ 1,179 when they go on sale on 21st August.

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Samsung also unveiled the Galaxy Buds Live wireless earbuds, the Galaxy Watch 3 smartwatch and two versions of the Galaxy Tab S7 tablet

Is it time to converge?

Samsung recently planned to forecast an increase in smartphone sales in the coming months “thanks to the launch of new flagship models”.

But it has a lot of ground to recover.

Its smartphones experienced a much stronger decline in demand than Huawei and other Android competitors in the last quarter, despite the Galaxy 20 family only being released in March.

And one expert said he didn’t expect the note to change that.

“Now there is talk of blockades for the second and third pandemics, which are causing financial uncertainty for people and their employers,” said Marta Pinto of market research firm IDC.

“These are great devices, but at this price point they’re a tough talk.”

Ms Pinto said the recent price cuts made to the Galaxy S20 range would make the new Notes more difficult to sell.

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The Note 20 can wirelessly stream video to a TV while the user goes about other activities

But he added that a factor in Samsung’s favor was that Apple had said it would release its next iPhones a few weeks after normal, giving Samsung a slightly longer window of opportunity to promote the 5G benefits of its phones.

Mr. Wood also had doubts about the attractiveness of the new phones, but said Samsung had little choice at this stage but to release them.

“It must be remembered that the Samsung product development cycle takes so long that it was entrusted to the Note 20 long before the pandemic arrived,” said Wood.

“But a broader question is whether there is still enough differentiation to justify the presence of two flagship ranges. The Galaxy S and Note phones now have similar screen sizes and the only key difference is the S Pen.

“I wonder if it would make sense to bring the two together, save money on a second launch and then focus on other parts of the portfolio like Samsung’s. [mid-range] A series.”

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Samsung launched its new gadgets via a video stream rather than in front of an audience due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Other new products included:

  • Galaxy Buds Live: Noise-canceling wireless earbuds designed to double as remote microphones for video recordings
  • Galaxy Watch 3: A smartwatch that can take blood pressure and heart electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, but only if local regulators give approval
  • Galaxy Tab 7 and Tab S7 +: 11-inch and 12.4-inch tablets that can also act as second screens for Samsung PCs

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