Samsung launches two new folding smartphones to fend off competition from rivals

The Samsung Galaxy Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

Samsung on Wednesday launched two new folding smartphones that are thinner and lighter than earlier models, as well as a tablet and two new smartwatches.

The South Korean electronics giant said its new phones, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Galaxy Fold 5, come with more rigid hinges and brighter displays — but offered mainly incremental upgrades over last year’s models.

CNBC takes a look at some of the new features.

Galaxy Z Flip 5

The star of the show in Samsung’s new folding phone portfolio is its new Galaxy Z Flip 5.

The Flip 5 is a clamshell-style folding handset that, when shut, takes a square shape that fits more comfortably into your pocket. Flip it open, and it becomes a regular, rectangular smartphone.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5’s standout feature is a much larger cover display.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

It’s water- and dust-resistant, and has a three-stop, “zero gap” hinge to adjust the device’s angle. It’s a lot slimmer than its predecessor, with the hinge gap now barely noticeable when you fold it shut.

But the standout feature of the phone is a much larger cover display, which you can use to select a range of widgets, including your calendar and clock — and it allows for enhanced selfie-taking.

The screen on the front cover of the phone has a new “flex” window that allows users to expand its 1.9-inch display to a 3.4-inch one, so that you can customize it to more easily access notifications and widgets.

Though the hinge is tighter and the phone itself feels sturdier than previous iterations, there’s still a noticeable line that runs down the middle where the phone’s hinge is located.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5. Foldables, or phones that bend in half, remain a niche part of the smartphone market. But they’re growing fast.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

Foldables, or phones that bend in half, remain a niche part of the smartphone market. But they’re growing fast.

Samsung faces competition in this category from a slew of rival phonemakers, mainly Chinese firms, that are challenging the company with their own folding devices.

In February, Chinese vendor Oppo launched the Find N2 Flip. And Honor, the spinoff brand from Huawei, launched its Magic Vs for international markets.

Motorola plans to bring out a new version of its foldable Razr device later this year. Lenovo owns Motorola.

Still, Samsung remains the market leader. The firm launched its first foldable handset in 2019. In 2022, it commanded an 80% share of global foldable shipments, according to Canalys.

The market expects foldable phone shipments to double to 30 million in 2023. But foldables accounted for just 1.1% of the total smartphone market last year, according to IDC data.

Still, that gives the industry ample room to grow. And, as people who’ve held on to their phones for longer near their chance to upgrade or trade their old phone in, they’re more likely to buy the top-of-the-range smartphones rather than older, less advanced ones.

“Currently, I think foldables will remain a lucrative niche with good margins and premium positions,” Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, told CNBC via email.

“They resonate well with consumers that want to stand out from the crowd and have something different from the homogeneous mono-bloc black rectangle.”

The Flip 5, which is available for pre-order, starts at a price of $999.99. 

Galaxy Fold 5

The Samsung Galaxy Fold 5.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

Samsung also announced a new version of its Galaxy Fold phone lineup, the Fold 5.

The advances on the Galaxy Fold 5 are less noticeable than those on the new Galaxy Z Flip, with Samsung mainly offering more incremental updates.

The Fold 5 has a 6.2-inch display that can be folded out to reveal a bigger 7.6-inch main screen akin to that of a tablet. The main display is much brighter than the last, too, emitting 1750 nits, the industry measure for brightness.

It is 2.4mm less thick than its predecessor, according to Samsung. It also comes with an under-display camera so that you barely notice it when using your phone to message people or watch movies. It’s also compatible with the company’s S Pen.

The Galaxy Fold 5 starts at $1.799.99.

Foldables may be a niche part of the market, but they offer a number of benefits over the standard black slabs we’ve all become accustomed to — not least because of the ability to have more than one app displayed on a screen.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

Foldables may be a niche part of the market, but they offer a number of benefits over the standard black slabs we’ve all become accustomed to — not least because of the ability to have more than one app displayed on a screen.

For instance, when using the Galaxy Fold 5, you can fold the device out to a tablet-like slab and display one app on one half, and another app on the other.

Google entered the market earlier this year, launching the Pixel Fold, its first folding phone.

That the launch was from one of the largest U.S. tech companies — and the owner of Android — lent some credibility to the market.

Still, Paolo Pescatore, co-founder of PP Foresight, said that all eyes remain firmly on what Apple will do in foldables. “In essence, Apple does not need to do anything right now,” he told CNBC.

“No doubt Apple is looking and working hard behind the scenes to bring novel devices to market. When it does, it will invigorate this segment and kickstart consumer demand for foldables.”

Samsung is doubling down on foldables even as the smartphone market more broadly is contracting. Global smartphone sales declined 11% year over year in the second quarter of 2023 amid gloomy demand, according to analyst firm Canalys.

But the market is showing some early signs of recovery.

“The smartphone market is sending early signals of recovery after six consecutive quarters of decline since 2022,” said Le Xuan Chiew, analyst at Canalys, in a report last week. 

“Smartphone inventory has begun to clear up as smartphone vendors prioritized cutting inventory of old models to make room for new launches.”

Galaxy Tab S9

(From left) The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, Galaxy Fold 5, Galaxy Watch 6, and Galaxy Tab S9.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

Samsung also launched its newest tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9. It comes in three versions: an 11-inch Tab S9, a 12.4-inch Tab S9+, and a 14.6-inch Tab S9 Ultra.

The Tab S9 has a 120-hertz display for smoother scrolling and can be viewed more easily outdoors, Samsung said.

It comes with an S Pen straight out of the box. There’s also a “creator edition” available for the S Pen that supports changeable tips for drawing and writing.

Samsung said the tablet comes with enhanced speakers that allow for more cinematic audio.

It can also act more like a desktop computer, with the ability to mirror apps found on Windows PCs.

The Tab S9 starts at $799.99.

Galaxy Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic

Finally, Samsung also announced two new smartwatches, the Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic.

The Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic are made of aluminum, have larger displays, slimmer bezels, faster processors, and better battery life than their predecessors, according to Samsung.

They come with a number of health and fitness tracking features, including the ability to monitor stages of sleep, heart rate, body composition, and offer tips on weight loss.

The Watch 6 starts at $299.99 for a 40mm version, and $329.99 for a version with a 44m watch face.

The Watch 6 Classic starts at $399.99 and $429.99 for 43mm and 47mm watch face versions, respectively.

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Source – Middle east monitor