Samsung upgrades folding smartphone to help rev up sales

The Galaxy Note20 Ultra – the latest offering from Samsung as it tries to regain ground against Huawei. (AFP pic)

SEOUL: Samsung on Wednesday unveiled an upgraded version of its folding smartphone along with other devices aiming to jump-start sales in a market hit hard by the global pandemic.

The consumer electronics colossus unveiled its latest line-up at a streamed “Galaxy Unpacked” event, aiming directly at remote work and education trends supercharged around the world by the pandemic.

“Our mission is to give you new ways to communicate; new ways to get your job done,” said Samsung Electronics mobile communications president T M Roh.

“Maybe even to help you play hard when you should be working hard.”

Samsung also unveiled two versions of its oversized smartphone, the Galaxy Note20 and Galaxy Note20 Ultra, upgraded tablets called Tab S7 and S7+, a new Galaxy Watch3 smartwatch and its ergonomic wireless earbuds called Galaxy Buds Live.

“Never before have we relied on technology like we are today. It’s how we are staying connected as we navigate the extraordinary challenges faced around the world,” said Roh.

“Technology must make life easier, not more complex. That’s why we have introduced five new power devices. Alone, these devices are powerful tools to help you maximize work and play.”

Samsung maintained that folding phones and compatibility with super-fast 5G networks are the “pillars” of its mobile device future.

Samsung in the second quarter saw smartphone sales slip 29 percent compared with a year ago, according to research firm IDC, as the firm lost the top position to China’s Huawei in a slumping global market.

Total smartphone sales were down 16 percent in the quarter, as consumers pulled back in the face of a pandemic-induced economic crisis.

The new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 smartphone was unveiled at a livestreamed event. (AFP pic)

Sweeping the fold

The Galaxy Z Fold2 was one of several new devices announced at a live-streamed event by the South Korean electronics giant, which recently lost the top position in the smartphone market to China-based Huawei.

The second-generation Fold serves as a premium smartphone while close, then opens to provide a more tablet-like sized screen for immersive viewing, the presentation showed.

Samsung executives said they upgraded the hinge, including adding a “sweeper” to remove pocket debris, to avoid problems experienced with the first Fold phone.

Fold2 was “completely re-engineered for greater durability,” according to Samsung.

Pricing and availability for the new-generation folding phone was not disclosed, with more details promised for early in September.

The upgraded folding device offers “the power and screen size of a tablet,” with a cover screen of 15.7 cm and a main screen of 19.3 cm. Pricing and availability will be announced in September.

The Galaxy Note20 will be available later this month in the US starting at US$999.99.

This handout photo courtesy of Samsung, shows the wireless Samsung Galaxy Buds. (AFP pic)

Connecting to Xbox

Samsung and Microsoft teamed up to sync the Xbox cloud gaming service to the South Korean company’s mobile devices.

“Our vision for gaming is to empower every player in the world to play the games you want, with the people you want, across all your devices,” said Xbox team head Phil Spencer.

“Our partnership with Samsung is an important step forward for gaming.”

The Samsung launch follows the release of budget-priced smartphones from Apple and Google starting under $400 offering an alternative to the high-end devices.

Apple’s flagship iPhone 12 is expected to launch later this year.

Samsung also took aim at Apple’s popular smartwatch and wireless earbuds with updated offerings of its own.

Health features such as electrocardiograms are being added in a new Galaxy Watch3 to be available starting Thursday with a starting price of US$400.

Galaxy Buds Live will also launch this week, priced at US$170.