Samsung refreshed its foldable flagship smartphones Wednesday, announcing a major hardware upgrade for the budget version even as design improvements have helped it make the devices thinner when folded. At its first Unpacked Event in Seoul, the Korean tech giant showcased a thinner Galaxy Z Fold5, a Galaxy Z Flip5 with a larger Flex Window screen on the front, new Galaxy Tab S9 series that can work even underwater and a Galaxy Watch6 series with better health features.
Even as TM Roh, President and Head of Mobile eXperience Business at Samsung Electronics, said more people choose Samsung foldables because they “offer an experience people want that they can’t get on any other device”, this segment has been picking up steam with more companies launching second and third generation devices and others waiting in the wings to announce their first models. As per research firm Canalys, Samsung had a 68% share of the foldables market in Q1 2023, though these were just 4% of the company’s portfolio in the same period. Foldables are just 1% of the overall smartphone market, but Canalys estimates that by 2025 the segment will grow by 34% CAGR to 35 million units.
Samsung is clearly using its head start and learnings of the past five years to its advantage by fine-tuning both the hardware and software. Its biggest contribution with the new devices might look minor but have a significant impact on the overall design and usability of the foldables. Samsung’s new Flex Hinge design, which is built around a teardrop concept where the screen folds, helps it to make both the new Flip and Fold devices thinner by at least 2mm when folded. This is significant from a pocketability perspective which is often cited as a putt-off for some users when they are considering foldables, along with the price.
The Flip5 also ushers in a larger 3.4-inch front screen which gives access to a lot more content and apps than before which will now let users do a lot without actually opening the phone. Samsung is clearly expecting that this will make the phone more popular along with its lower price tag and nudge the adoption of the foldable form factor.
With the Fold5, however, the design changes are limited to the slimmer chassis afforded by the new hinge. However, Samsung is hoping to push the envelope on usability with a new PC-like taskbar at the bottom of the screen that will help user exploit the large screen size of the Fold5 better. Both devices are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform.
Samsung seems to believe it has a bigger opportunity to push its tablets into the enterprise space and is doing that by making its Tab S9 series devices IP68 rated, which means they can be used even underwater. This will open up new demand from a lot of industries like construction as well as individual users who want to use tablets outdoors. The Vision Booster technology in these new tablets adapts the screen to the light and makes it easier to consume content wherever you are. But it is also working on making the tablet an integral part of the office, home office ecosystem by switching on multi-control, which makes it easier to move content across various Samsung devices.
The Galaxy Watch6 and Galaxy Watch6 Classic now have better sleep and health tracking as well as customised coaching for users. The design is sleeker with a slimmer bezel even as watches pack in more powerful processors.
Samsung is also taking its sustainability goals a lot more seriously now, and both the foldable devices feature more recycled glass and aluminium and post-consumer recycled plastics, sourced from discarded fishing nets, water barrels and PET bottles. “An area that we are really focusing on is using sustainable materials. So that includes recycled plastics, where the goal is to have 50% of the plastic parts in our products using recycled resins,” explained Inhee Chung, vice-president at Samsung’s corporate sustainability centre.
The author is in South Korea on the invite of Samsung India