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Hometech newsSamsung rolls out thinner foldable phones, tablet and watch upgrades

Samsung rolls out thinner foldable phones, tablet and watch upgrades

SEOUL – Samsung Electronics introduced the fifth generation of its foldable smartphones on Wednesday, seeking to counter a sluggish market for devices and upcoming rival products from Apple.

The new Galaxy Z Flip 5, a 6.7-inch smartphone that folds down into a square shape, now has an external display covering the majority of one side, making it more useful when closed. It is marginally thinner with a new hinge, but makes few other hardware advances.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5, the flagship unit in the range, also benefits from the improved hinge that has helped make it thinner and lighter.

The two devices retain their pricing, at US$999 (S$1,326) for the Flip and US$1,799 for the book-like Fold, and go on sale Aug 11, the company said in a statement.

Their debut marked Samsung’s first Unpacked product event at home in South Korea, and was accompanied by a plethora of other devices: two new Galaxy Watch 6 models, as well as three new Galaxy Tab S9 tablets.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker has set itself the goal of building an Apple-like ecosystem of complementary devices.

“Samsung’s foldable smartphones and wearable devices are the only bright spot in terms of profitability, as demand for low-to-mid end smartphones is pretty bad,” said Mr Greg Roh, head of technology research at HMC Investment & Securities.

Both new foldables are built around Qualcomm’s 4-nanometre Snapdragon processors, with some added enhancements exclusively for Samsung’s Galaxy line.

Qualcomm has the lion’s share of flagship Android devices, and its chips have pushed Samsung’s in-house Exynos processors out of its own devices.

The Suwon-based company’s latest handsets come ahead of Apple’s next product launch, which will include a major iPhone 15 upgrade in September, as well as new Apple Watches.

Apple is moving to more advanced 3-nanometre processors with its next smartphone lineup and plans major upgrades to its iPad Pro tablet in 2024, including the addition of OLED displays.

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Focus on foldables

The latest Fold has the same battery capacity as the previous generation and same main camera specifications, though Samsung said it has made improvements to low-light photography. It has also slimmed down its S-Pen stylus.

The minor update to the phone comes as consumers are holding onto their cash in a tough economic environment, and the Fold remains one of the most expensive phones on the market.

Samsung pioneered the foldables category in 2019, but now faces an increasingly crowded market as Alphabet’s Google has joined the likes of Xiaomi, Huawei Technologies and Oppo in launching a rival offering. The Google Pixel Fold matches Samsung’s pricing and is available in a limited number of countries.

Still, Samsung maintains a close partnership with Google around Android, as well as the red-hot field of artificial intelligence.

“There is a lot of intelligence, AI at play already in many parts of our devices,” Samsung executive vice-president Patrick Chomet told Bloomberg News. “We are working with Google on the partnership for a long time.”

Foldables have grown to about 5 per cent of the overall smartphone market, up from 0.3 per cent four years ago, according to Counterpoint Research. They are expected to reach 55 million units annually within two years and are particularly popular in Asia.

“Foldables from Chinese vendors will increasingly put pressure on Samsung, but right now many of them are taking their time to venture overseas,” said IDC analyst Bryan Ma. “The few that have made it out of the country, like the Oppo Find N2 Flip, are oftentimes greeted warmly by distribution channels as a welcome alternative to Samsung.”

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The company also announced updates to its 11-inch, 12.4-inch and 14.6-inch tablets, called the Tab S9, Tab S9+ and S9 Ultra. All three models are now IP68-rated for water resistance and look little changed from their predecessors.

The cheapest tablet moves to an OLED display for improved colours and gains an in-display fingerprint sensor instead of one on the power button.

Samsung also added to its smartwatch lineup. The Watch 6, starting at US$300, comes in the same 40mm and 44mm sizes as the Watch 5, but the screens themselves are slightly larger and higher resolution. They also gain notably larger batteries, faster processors, more memory and improved multitasking. New health features across all of the new watches include improvements to heart rate and sleep tracking. BLOOMBERG

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