Samsung has announced two new foldable smartphones, two wearable devices and a number of accessories for them during its traditional second half of the year Unpacked event.
This year, unlike in years gone by, the Samsung Galaxy Note did not grace the event.
That means that for current Galaxy Note users, especially any that have been hanging on to their Galaxy Note 10 series hoping to upgrade this year, the option might be to go the foldable route or embrace the S series whose devices should’ve dropped in price by this time as they have been in the market for a while now.
Until its next round of ultra-high-end device announcements, expected to be early next year, Samsung’s latest hero devices are all foldable smartphones.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3
There is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3, which, doesn’t look much different from the Z Fold2 it succeeds but, indeed, features several progressive updates. Not only does it feature a more sturdy aluminium hinge (Samsung says that it is 10% more sturdy), it also becomes the first foldable device to pick up IPX8 rating for water resistance (users still have to be careful in dusty situations).
The Z Fold3 features a 7.6-inch Infinity Flex display (on the inside, what opens tablet-style) and a secondary 6.2-inch HD+ display, unchanged from the last generation. This time around, both feature a 120Hz refresh rate. The Z Fold2’s secondary display had a standard (60Hz) refresh rate. According to Samsung, the main display is at least 29% brighter.
A camera system similar to that on the Z Fold2 is also in place. The catch here is that in place of the 2 10-megapixel selfie sensors we had on the Z Fold2, on the Z Fold3 there is one that is a 4-megapixel sensor, instead. That 4-megapixel selfie sensor (on the main display) also happens to be an under-display sensor, visible to the naked eye if you are keen enough but not interfering with the flow of the display with a physical cutout (notch) to accommodate it. Yes, the notch is, finally, dying.
The Snapdragon 888 (also found on the other foldable) might be one of the biggest improvements on the device and it should be able to show in the performance, which should match pretty much what Samsung already offers at the premium smartphone level and even surpass it.
Other features that we have come to expect from Samsung’s premium devices like Wireless Power Share are also there.
There are two nano SIM slots on the device and provision for a single eSIM.
In the absence of the Galaxy Note series this year, Galaxy Note fans will be consoled that they can still pick up a foldable that ports over support for the hallowed S Pen, the stylus that has defined Samsung’s Galaxy Note series for a decade. This is both good news and bad news.
The good news is that there is support for the S Pen. The bad news, at least for those who have old Samsung styli lying around, is that the Z Fold3 only supports the newly-launched S Pen Pro or the S Pen Fold Edition. Old S Pens won’t work on the device. Oh, and these new S Pens, should one desire one, are sold separately. None is bundled with the device. And, they won’t work on the secondary (cover screen) display of the Z Fold3.
We may not have been told the exact reasons why the Z Fold3 is not backwards compatible with older S Pens but it is not news that the screens on the foldable are very sensitive and it makes sense to stick with those that are optimized for them (they have retractable tips so that no unnecessary pressure is applied) not only for the appropriate functions but to also avoid undesirable experiences like costly scratches.
The S Pen Pro was announced early in the year, during the unveiling of the Galaxy S21 series, but it is only now that we are getting to see it and it goes on sale in key markets at the end of this month, and, elsewhere (Kenya included), at the end of next month.
The S Pen Pro is what many are likely to want in a stylus: it can connect to multiple devices, it has Bluetooth connectivity, which means support for features that S Pen users have become accustomed to over the last few years like gesture controls as well as remote control functions like taking selfies, pausing and resuming media playback, etc.
The S Pen Fold Edition, on the other hand, is a basic stylus. The kind that one would’ve found on Galaxy Note devices a few years back. It is also shorter and thinner. The plus side is that as a result, it is cheaper (by about 50%) and users don’t have to plug it in for charging (the S Pen Pro has a USB C port for charging).
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3
Joining the Galaxy Z Flip3 in Kenya from the end of next month will be the third generation of its flip smartphone, the aptly named Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3.
The Z Flip series is still a foldable lineup like the Z Fold but the difference, as can be seen in the pictures in this article, is in how they both open.
Z Flip devices like the Z Flip3. The Flip lineup’s name is probably inspired by the flip phones of old (the darlings of the early 2000s), named so because of how they opened: just flip it open. The Fold, well, those devices just fold. Like your laundry. Or a file.
The Z Flip3’s name can also be misleading, as we never officially had a Z Flip 2. There was just the OG Z Flip and its 5G variant.
Differences between the two devices exist, even though not quite stark.
For instance, one of the things buyers will appreciate is the increase in colour options available for the Z Flip 3. The Z Flip 3 is also a little smaller both when folded up and when open making the former exercise even more pleasurable for those who fancy dropping it into their chest pockets.
The secondary display has also grown in size – to 1.9-inches. The placement of the dual camera lenses is also in tune with the looks of a traditional smartphone in the styling of the current Samsung devices when the Z Flip 3 is fully open.
The device’s main 6.7-inch Full HD+ display now features a high-refresh rate (120Hz), an upgrade from the standard refresh rate on the Galaxy Z Flip. It also has stereo speakers where its predecessor had mono speakers and banked almost entirely on its unique display to wow users.
Like with the Galaxy Z Fold3, there is also IPX8 water resistance certification.
After a while, the Galaxy Buds are back! The Galaxy Buds 2 pick up from where the first generation of Galaxy Buds left and immediately replace the Galaxy Buds Plus in the market. In the larger Samsung wearables family, they provide consumers with another choice in addition to the bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Buds Pro.
The Galaxy Buds 2 skip on the 360-degree spatial audio that defines the Galaxy Buds Pro but almost match the premier Samsung earbuds almost feature to feature while undercutting them in price.
The biggest pick for Samsung’s entry-level earbuds is the addition of active noise cancellation.
For the Galaxy Watch fans like yours truly, the new Galaxy Watch4, which comes in standard and “Classic” variations, mark a new chapter in Samsung’s smartwatch-making journey.
The Galaxy Watch4 marks the beginning of Samsung and Google’s collaboration that has seen the former drop its Tizen platform for the latter’s Wear OS platform while porting over the best of both platform’s features for a unified solution to Android’s long-running wearable woes.
Wear OS means access to a wider selection of apps from the Google Play Store. For longtime users of Samsung devices (watches and smartphones alike), there won’t be much in the way of changes in the user experience as Samsung is keeping its One UI overlay with One UI Watch 3 running on top of Wear OS 3.
Other than running on a new platform, the Galaxy Watch4 also features upgrades in the chipset used. There is an Exynos W920, an upgrade to the 2018 Exynos 9110 that powered the Galaxy Watch3 and pretty every Galaxy Watch from recent years.
A new chipset paired with the switch to a new platform has some of its advantages. For instance, Samsung says that the Galaxy Watch4 should offer at least 40 hours of usage. There is also a 20% jump in processor clock speed and up to 10 times better graphic performance. The new chipset also allows Samsung to sneak in a new biometric sensor that can measure body composition, even though the availability of such features will vary by region because of the required local regulatory compliance.
The Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch4 Classic are similar in terms of storage, memory, processor and software features.
Where they vary, however, is in the physical aspects and the changes that go with that. The Classic is bigger (comes in 42mm and 46mm variants), has a stainless steel case and keeps the rotating bezel while the standard Galaxy Watch4 (comes in 40mm and 44mm variants) has an aluminium case, keeps a comparatively smaller profile and makes use of software-based gestures like the Galaxy Watch Active smartwatches from years gone by in place of the rotating bezel. The end result of the Galaxy Watch4 Classic having a bigger profile is, well, a bigger battery. Where the bigger battery isn’t enough, Samsung says that a half-hour top-up should push either of the devices for another 10 hours.
Pricing and availability
The Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3 are up for pre-order from September 6th. They will become available from September 22nd.
The Galaxy Watch4 and the Galaxy Buds 2 will be available at the end of that month (i.e. September 30th).
The Z Fold3 costs Kshs 221,000 for the 512GB variant and Kshs 210,000 for the 256GB model.
The Galaxy Z Flip3 (5G) is going for Kshs 123,000.
Those who pre-order either of the two smartphones will get some complimentary gifts from Samsung including covers and wireless chargers.
The Galaxy Watch4 Classic, which is what we know will be available at first, is retailing at Kshs 32,000.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are going for Kshs 22,000.