Samsung made a splash this summer by unveiling several new devices, as it doubles down on foldable smartphones and wearables going forward.
The devices themselves aren’t especially surprising, considering all the leaks up to this point, but with the cat out of the proverbial bag, we now know what we can expect from them. Of the handful of new products, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the most premium, and the one that stands out the most, though the Galaxy Z Flip 3 may be the one that finds its way into more people’s hands. It will depend on which direction people want to flip for most.
Then you have two new Galaxy Watches, with a slight naming change to differentiate between the two distinct designs between them. And lastly, you have the Galaxy Buds 2, which effectively put the Galaxy Buds+ out of commission and become Samsung’s latest pair of wireless earbuds.
Being Samsung’s third attempt, the Galaxy Z Fold isn’t all that novel, though perspective does matter. We don’t know the numbers because Samsung has never revealed them, but it’s fair to say that few were interested or able to afford either of the first two iterations. This third iteration will start at $2,269 for the variant with 256GB of storage. If you want 512GB, you’ll have to fork over $2,409.
For the most part, this Fold looks a fair bit like the previous one. It has gotten a tad bit thinner, slimmer, shorter and lighter, which is great for a device that doesn’t always feel wieldy. The 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED display is the same resolution as the previous model, save for the 120Hz refresh rate that will make it feel smoother.
That larger display also benefits from better software, particularly when it comes to multitasking. Instead of the awkward method Samsung used before, you now have an app menu on the side where you just drag and drop apps into the screen. I tried it a few times and it felt far more seamless to me.
So does the 6.2-inch Super AMOLED when folding the phone. The refresh rate applies there, too, but it’s the improved resolution and S Pen support that makes it far more usable as well. There is an S Pen “Fold Edition” that will exclusively work with this phone. Or you can opt for the S Pen Pro, which is compatible with a wider range of Galaxy devices, including phones, tablets and laptops.
Don’t expect anything too dramatic on the camera side, as there are no new features. It’s just the unique form factor that offers something different in how you take photos, especially selfies.
This phone will likely be the one that makes more of an impact for consumers because of what it costs. Starting at $1,259, it makes it more affordable than the previous version was, and yet, the tech is clearly better this time around. The most obvious addition is the 1.9-inch Cover Screen AMOLED on the front when the phone is clamped. That extra screen real estate means it’s easier to see content and engage with it. Incoming messages, music playback controls, audio recording and framing selfies are among the various features associated with that screen.
Flip the phone open and the 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED — now smoother and protected with Gorilla Glass Victus — looks nice and vibrant. It has a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother navigation, and the phone itself has IPX8 water resistance for more rugged durability. Not sure how well it might survive a fall onto hard surfaces, though. The inner screen has protection, but that outer screen is still exposed.
Samsung still needs to work on getting more app developers to support the Flex mode, where putting the phone at a 90-degree angle allows you to interact with it in a different way. Despite a slimmer and thinner design, many other things are similar to other Samsung phones. The dual camera setup in the rear has the same image sensors as the Fold 3. Internal storage remains at 256GB and RAM does the same at 8GB.
Colours change, though. You have phantom black, cream, green and lavender to choose from for the variants confirmed for Canada. There’s a chance white and pink might come as Samsung store exclusives.
Samsung isn’t so much abandoning its own Tizen platform, as much as it is embracing Google’s Wear OS to breathe new life into it. The overall interface still looks the same, except the underlying software is Google’s, and that means app integration should get better, even if you’re not using a Samsung smartphone.
You have two new models to choose from. The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is now the standard Samsung smartwatch with the physical rotating bezel. The Galaxy Watch 4 used to be the “Active” line, with a touch-based bezel and extra water resistance. Both models will have working SpO2 blood oxygen sensors, plus other sensory activity features.
That falls under Body Composition, a new set of tools you can access by placing two fingers to the watch. They can measure skeletal muscle, fat mass, body fat, body mass index (BMI) and body water, among other things. Parsing all that data leads to an overall score you can associate with weight loss, building muscle or boosting your metabolism. It all sounds interesting, but only proper testing and time will prove whether there’s real value there. Samsung claims 98% accuracy, so we’ll see.
Unfortunately, the electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood pressure monitor features won’t work in Canada. At least not until Health Canada approves them, which is taking a really long time. There have been three iterations of the Galaxy Watch promising such features, pending approval, so I’ll believe it when I see it.
The Galaxy Buds 2 essentially replace the Galaxy Buds+, and do so by incorporating some of the features Samsung applied to the Galaxy Buds Pro and Buds Live. That means active noise cancellation, ambient mode, better audio playback and potentially more. The Galaxy Wearable app continues to be the primary support with some custom features.
Colour options abound, with olive, lavender and grey joining the traditional white pair so common with Samsung’s earbuds. Interestingly, Samsung chose to make the charging case for all of them white on the outside, so you only really see the colour differences once you open them.
Samsung did confirm they will support automatic connections between Galaxy devices. Watch a movie on a tablet, and then pick up a call on a phone, all seamlessly with little effort. The earbuds come at a reasonable $180, though I expect that price to drop before the end of the year.
You can pick up any one of these new products starting August 27. There may also be bundles or incentive-laden deals that combine the Galaxy Watch 4 or Buds 2 with one of the new phones.
Mike and John share their thoughts after the Unpacked Event in this video: