Yesterday was an exciting day for tech as Futurum Research and Moor Insights & Strategy kick off the second day of The Six Five Summit, and Samsung kicks off the Samsung Unpacked event. Moor Insights & Strategy’s Senior Analyst Anshel Sag covered the Galaxy Unpacked 2020 announcements that you can read about here.
At last year's Samsung Unpacked event, Samsung announced one of the world's first foldable smartphones to be arguably the most disruptive technologies in 2019. Samsung also announced at the event the Galaxy Note10+ and what I would consider the most powerful business smartphone on the market. One of the more notable parts of the Unpacked event last year was that Samsung filmed all the events on the Galaxy Note10+. Although the Galaxy Unpacked event this year is sadly not in-person, I believe Samsung did a great job of producing a live event to show off its new products. Samsung followed the theme of 2020 with a video call live audience with emoji gestures that I thought was creative. Great job on the production Samsung.
Improvements to all facets of its smartphone devices
Every year Samsung releases the next generation of its Note line up I can almost predict what will be different from last year's device. It will have a bigger this a better that and some type of overkill feature that might or might not stick for next year. All of that said, innovation comes in increments, and the Note series would not be the phone I would recommend for power-hungry feature-rich users without these increments. In a way, they are a defining factor for the Note series.
The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are no different, and I would even say it solidifies the Note devices in this strategy. The Note Series is the only game in town for a premium smartphone with pen support. Samsung's strategy is to get current Note users to upgrade, and I think they did enough by upgrading every subsystem. The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra have a larger display over last year and now have a 120Hz refresh rate, allowing the S Pen to have a lower latency of 9ms. The camera system can shoot in 8K and 4k at 24fps or Full HD at 120fps to match the 120Hz refresh rate. The S Pen has improved note-taking features and experiences, and it has carried over to Samsung's partnership with Microsoft.
What makes the Samsung ecosystem even more appealing is its continued partnership with Microsoft. Samsung Notes syncs with OneNote, Samsung Reminders syncs with Microsoft ToDo, and these cross-platform synchronizations are accessible in productivity applications like Outlook and Calendars. Where this cross-platform play takes another step forward is on the Windows side of things. The Windows YourPhone app can now open and access Note20 apps directly from a user's Windows PC. I think this feature is a differentiating factor in the Samsung ecosystem that gives it an edge over other ecosystems like the Apple ecosystem. Although Apple does a great job of unifying its ecosystem, the ability for YourPhone to access Note 20 apps becomes a game-changer from productivity between devices.
Samsung's partnership with Microsoft extends even further into the Xbox gaming platform with the ability for Note20 users to play Xbox games from the cloud onto Samsung devices with Xbox Game Pass. This cloud gaming rivals other platforms like NVIDIA's GeForce Now and Google Stadia. It announced games like Destiny 2, Gears 5, and Minecraft Dungeons.
Most of these improvements of the Note 20 and 20+ carry over to the Galaxy Z Fold 2 as well. After being one of the first to use the Galaxy Fold last year, I am incredibly excited about these improvements as they came so quickly.
The Fold2 improved on nearly everything I thought it needed. The gap between the hinge is thinner and has the small brushes from the Clamshell Galaxy Z Flip from earlier in the year. Likewise, it adopts the thin glass technology from the Clamshell Galaxy Z Flip, which is an improvement over last year's Galaxy Fold display that had reported challenges out of the gate. The full front 6.2-inch display is an improvement over the tiny front display, and it is even a 120Hz display. I think Samsung realized the front display is not a secondary display, as some users don't want to open the device every time. It also has a larger battery and has 5G support.
I am excited to get my hands on the Galaxy Note 20, 20 Ultra, and the Z Fold2, and I think, like their predecessors, will be leaders in the business smartphone market. All three smartphones and the Galaxy tab S7 and S7+ are powered by Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 865+ processor. Qualcomm says it is designed to bring increased performance, battery life, and 5G, all of which I'm excited to test and review.
Enhancing the Samsung ecosystem
It's a two-horse race in premium tablets, Samsung and Apple. I believe the S7 and S7+ distinguish themselves over the iPad in a few features that make for deciding factors between the two. The Galaxy Tab S7 has a 2,560x1,600 resolution display, and the Tab S7+ has a 2,800x1,752 resolution display, both with a 120Hz refresh rate. It has an improved DeX experience, which goes past keyboard and mouse support for a tablet for an ultra-mobile desktop-like experience. It is also the slimmest tablet of its kind on the market. Although Samsung has been focusing on the budget-friendly tablet market share, I think the Tab S7 and S7+ will question the loyalty to some Apple iPad fans.
I really like how Samsung has taken some design cues from the Note series with creating two different sizes, one being more premium. I think it will address two different audiences for the Tab S7 and round out the competitive market between it and the iPad. There are many different sizes and price points for the iPad, and I think the Tab series has had some trouble in the past answering some of those. For example, Samsung did not have a Tab S5 but only released a budget-friendly Tab S5e.
I also think it was important for Samsung to carry the lower latency S Pen feature from the Note20 to the Tab S7 and S7+. With the S Pen being outside of the display, you could argue that Samsung is dragging the S Pen behind with the placement outside the device. However, I like that Samsung continued the theme of putting the S Pen on the back of the device rather than inside the device like previous Tab devices. It allows the device to have a larger S Pen and gives it more room for other technology like a larger battery.
I think Samsung also did a good job of showing the unity between devices in the Samsung ecosystem. Productivity seemed to smoothly and efficiently move between devices in the Samsung Cloud and the flagship feature S Pen. I don't think Samsung gets enough credit for unifying its ecosystem, and S Notes is a testimony to its productivity.
Samsung also improved its Galaxy Watch 3 with a larger bezel and more health features. Some of those health features the Apple Watch doesn't have, namely blood pressure. Samsung also talked about improved watch face choices, including a feature that allows you to take a picture of your outfit with your smartphone, and it suggests watch faces depending on your outfit. It has a 43mm and 41mm size and comes in multiple colors, including Samsung's new "mystic bronze."
Samsung has changed the look of its wireless earbuds with its Galaxy Buds Live. The new Buds Live are in a bean shape and fit the shape of your ear more comfortably for longer wear time and improved fit. I think these are the first consumer-grade earbuds that can give the Apple AirPods Pro a run for their money. Based on its design, I believe it will outperform the Pro acoustically alongside Samsung's first active noise canceling wireless earbuds.
Samsung brought a lot to the table with its new lineup of Galaxy devices. The Note 20 offerings are major improvements and give loyal Note users a reason not to skip this generation. Likewise, Samsung has brought a lot of improvements to its new Galaxy Fold2 with many I would not have expected for the next few years. I think its larger front screen, larger battery and slimmer design make it more practical for the laymen in terms of usability.
I think the Galaxy Tab S7 devices also bring a lot to the table to rival the Apple iPads. Samsung DeX, 120Hz display, and the Microsoft partnership are all great features that I think will make loyal Apple iPad fans question their loyalty. The Galaxy Watch 3 and the Galaxy Buds live also have significant improvements that Apple lacks in support, like blood pressure monitor, or lacks in innovation like improved earbud design. All of these feature-rich devices are tightly knit in the Samsung ecosystem. I am excited to get my hands on these devices and test them out myself.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.