Why would Samsung launch its flagship devices so far away from home and so close to the base of its rival. But in the end the idea was clear. It was at this very Bill Graham auditorium in San Francisco, over four decades ago, that Steve Jobs showed the world the Apple II which went on to change personal computing. That was 1977. In 2019, Samsung hopes its latest, the Galaxy Fold, will change how the world uses smartphones.
The Galaxy Fold might look like a thick, slightly archaic, smartphone on first sight. But it opens up into a 7.3-inch tablet which the company claims will be able to offer seamless flow of content from one screen to another with a foldable screen where you don’t see the fold or the hinge underneath.
In the 10th year of the Galaxy Series, Samsung has clearly learnt from the experiences of its 2 billion customers. So app continuity, which will let the user move from an app on the smaller screen up front to a more immersive experience of the same inside, will be at the core of this product. Also, is the only phone on which you can do three-app multi-tasking, also a good indicator of the kind of power this device packs. The phone will also house six cameras — three rear cameras, two inside on the tablet side are one on the front of the folded device.
All unprecedented, but this could well become the standard. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is priced at $1,980, a new high for any mass production phone. When the phone becomes available for sale in April, it will be sold as a luxury device — a phone that everyone aspires to, but very few will actually buy.
Meanwhile, Samsung also upgraded its flagship S series with four new phones this year. Along with the S10 and S10+ which are upgrades to the lineup, there is a powered up S10 5G version with a larger screen, battery and better camera as well as a watered down version of the flagship with lower-specced screen and camera in what seems to be part of an Apple iPhone XR-like strategy to shore up numbers in the flagship segment.
The S10 series will stand out for its Quad HD+ curved dynamic AMOLED display which also houses an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner and an Infinity-O camera inside the glass. The S10 devices will have triple rear camera setups, including a 16MP ultrawide camera. The cheaper S10e does not have either this display or the same camera specs.
Prices starts at $899.99 for Galaxy S10, $999.99 for Galaxy S10+ and $749.99 for Galaxy S10e. The devices will start selling in select markets from March 8. The 5G version will have limited rollout only in countries that support it.
Frank Gillett, VP at Forrester Research said Samsung has added many improvements to its flagship S10 lineup, and expanded it to offer three sizes and prices. “The numerous improvements to display, camera, and performance should just keep Samsung in its leadership position for Android phones, outside of China,” he said, adding that the company will however need to deliver on the promised 5G and folding phones in order to maintain leadership.
(The author is in San Francisco on the invite of Samsung India)