Tech

Samsung is holding its big annual phone event in February — here's what to expect

Key Points
  • Samsung is hosting an event on Feb. 11 in San Francisco.
  • It's expected to announce several models of the Galaxy S11, its newest flagship phone, and a new version of its foldable Galaxy Fold.
  • The phones are expected to have improved cameras and 5G connectivity, among other features.
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 7: DJ Koh, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics.
Drew Angerer

Samsung announced on Saturday evening that it will hold its next phone announcement event on Feb. 11 in San Francisco.

Samsung typically announces its new Galaxy flagship phones in February, so the company is likely to unveil the successors to its family of Galaxy S10 phones that launched last year.

But this year will present an important test for Samsung, the world's largest seller of phones by volume. According to IDC's latest figures in November, Samsung's phone shipments rose 8.3% during Q3, when it sold 78.2 million phones. IDC attributed the growth to sales of its new Galaxy Note 10 devices, showing that there is a market for expensive and premium Android phones.

The Galaxy S11 could continue that momentum and will give Samsung a chance to sell millions of 5G phones before Apple.

Here's what to expect from the event.

Galaxy S11/Galaxy S20

The Galaxy S10 family.
CNBC

The focus of Samsung's announcement will probably be the new Galaxy S flagship phone. Some rumors have suggested it may be named the Galaxy S20 instead of the Galaxy S11 to represent the year 2020.

Last year, Samsung announced four models: the flagship Galaxy S10, the larger S10+, the more affordable S10e and the S10+ with 5G.

It's possible Samsung does something similar this year. In November, Evan Blass, known for accurately leaking details on upcoming phones, said Samsung will sell three models of the Galaxy S11 including the smallest with either a 6.2-inch or 6.4-inch screen, a midsize model with a 6.7-inch screen and a large model with a 6.9-inch screen.

"Smaller two will come in both 5G and LTE variants," Blass said on Twitter. "Only 5G for the largest." He said the phones will launch in late February.

The phones are expected to ship with new cameras. Another well-known phone leaker who goes by @OnLeaks on Twitter published renders that suggest the phone will have 5 different camera sensors on the back. It's unclear what these may be for, but Samsung and Apple have started to include more lenses for things such as ultra-wide angle and zoom. Additional lenses can also improve effects from so-called "Portrait" photos, which blur the background of the photo behind the subject, such as another person or a dog, giving the impression it was taken with a professional camera.

Also expect the latest, most colorful OLED screens from Samsung. Some phone makers including Google and OnePlus have launched screens with faster refresh rates that make scrolling much smoother, and Samsung may do the same. Fast charging and fast wireless charging, as well as standard IP68 water resistance, are also probably included, since Samsung has made those features standard over the past several years.

Galaxy Fold 2

Samsung showed off a new concept for a foldable phone at its developer conference on October 29, 2019.
Samsung

The website XDA-Developers recently discovered code inside a Samsung software upgrade that mentions a phone code-named the "bloom," which is largely believed to be the successor to the original Galaxy Fold. It could be called simply the Galaxy Fold 2.

Instead of opening and closing like a book along a vertical axis, XDA-Developers' Max Weinbach said in November, it will fold along a horizontal access, much like an older clamshell phone and similar in style to the new Moto Razr folding phone. This means you should expect a device that looks like a regular phone when it's open, but folds down to a smaller square-sized device.

Several pictures of the apparent design appeared on Chinese social network Weibo and were reshared by Ice Universe, another popular Twitter account with accurate information on phone launches. They show a small front display for notifications and a design that opens up into what appears to be a traditional phone. It looks almost identical to the design Samsung shared in October.

The first Galaxy Fold is still available and costs nearly $2,000. With a smaller screen and what appears to be a less premium design, Samsung has a chance to make this a more affordable folding phone.

5G

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
Benjamin Hall | CNBC

Samsung may be the first phone maker to launch 5G devices in the U.S. with support for all of the 5G networks rolling out right now. In early December, Qualcomm said every high-end Android phone in the U.S. will support 5G this year. Samsung traditionally uses Qualcomm chips in the U.S., which means the new phones will probably run on its new Snapdragon 865 chip.

There aren't any phones in the U.S. that currently support all of the 5G technologies being rolled out by U.S. carriers. They either support more widespread but slower 5G, or faster but limited range mmWave 5G. Samsung's phones seem likely to be the first to support both, which means you'll get the fastest speeds when available.

A report from Susquehanna on Monday suggested Apple's phones that support all of the latest 5G networks may not launch until December 2020 or January 2021, giving Samsung almost a year-long lead. But, the fastest 5G networks are very limited right now, so there's no need to upgrade solely for this reason right now.

Galaxy Buds+

Samsung Galaxy Buds
Magdalena Petrova | CNBC

Ice Universe says Samsung is also planning to launch new Galaxy Buds+ headphones to compete with Apple's AirPods and other buds. They'll succeed the original Galaxy Buds, with better battery life, sound quality and fast charging, but won't have noise reduction like Amazon Echo Buds or Apple AirPods Pro, Ice Universe said.

Last year's Galaxy Buds were pretty good, so any improvement will be welcome, but it seems like an oversight not to include noise cancellation technology, which helps remove background noise.

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Hands on with Samsung's new Galaxy Note 10 lineup