Samsung on Wednesday announced a bunch of new products, including phones, tablets, a watch and new earbuds. This is typical timing for Samsung, which usually likes to get its best new products out in August before the fall when Apple typically launches its new iPhone and Apple Watch.
Samsung was the largest phone seller in the world until earlier this month, when Canalys analysis said Huawei overtook it by market share. Samsung and Apple dominate sales in the U.S. But these new devices are high-end phones for people willing to spend $999 to $1,299, not mass-market budget phones that help Samsung achieve its huge market share around the world. Still, Samsung's Note phones are the nicest crop of devices for the year and will compete directly with Apple's upcoming iPhone 12 phones.
And it's clear Samsung is going directly after Apple. Apple typically uses its September event to announce its new phones and new Apple Watch, among other things. And Samsung is doing that earlier.
Here's what you need to know about what Samsung announced.
Samsung's Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra phones are the highlight announcements. The Note phones come with Samsung's stylus, known as the "S Pen," and typically pack the highest-end hardware Samsung can cram in a device. Like last year, there's a more affordable Galaxy Note 20 that starts at $999 and a higher-end Galaxy Note 20 Ultra with a slightly larger and sharper screen, a bigger battery and smoother performance that starts at $1,299.
Both phones include 5G connectivity but, as we've reported in the past, there's still not much of a need to rush out and get a 5G phone right now, since most carriers only offer 5G connections in limited areas. Still, if you're planning to keep your phone for 3 to 4 years, it's good future-proofing so you'll get faster speeds down the line after wireless carriers have built out their 5G networks.
Samsung put a big focus on the cameras on both phones, with support for recording in really high 8K resolution, recording from multiple microphones at the same time for clearer audio and improved pictures. But the cameras are slightly different between the models. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has an ultra-wide lens for capturing more of a landscape in each shot, a high resolution 108-megapixel camera for increased detail and a zoom lens that provides up to 50x zoom. The Galaxy Note 20 has a 64-megapixel camera in place of the 108-megapixel on the Ultra and supports up to 30x zoom.
And, like in year's past, there's improvements to the S Pen stylus, which slips into the corner of the phone. Gestures now let you control the phone from across the room, so you can close apps, open recent apps, capture the screen and take pictures. It also has improved handwriting recognition, new support for syncing notes across your phone, tablets and computers, and easier annotation in PDF documents.
The Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra will be available for pre-order on Aug. 6 at 12:01 a.m. ET and will ship by Aug. 21.
Samsung also announced the Galaxy Z Fold 2. It's the successor to the original Galaxy Fold, which has screen issues just before launch and was delayed months before it finally came to market. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 has a large 6.2-inch screen on the front. When open, it has a large 7.6-inch foldable display that looks a bit more like a tablet. Samsung didn't discuss pricing but said it will launch in September.
Samsung also announced a bunch of other stuff, including two tablets meant to compete with Apple's iPad Pro line, including a 12.4-inch Galaxy Tab S7 Plus and an 11-inch Galaxy Tab S7. Both pack 5G connectivity, Google's Android operating system, sharp screens and ship with an included stylus that sticks to the back to recharge. The 11-inch model will start at $649, while the larger Tab S7 Plus will start at $849.
Samsung's new Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy Buds Live headphones were also announced. The Galaxy Watch is similar to past models with a rotating bezel that you can use to select apps. Like the Apple Watch, it can detect when you're working out and automatically log your exercise for you, in case you forget to start it on the device. It can detect blood pressure, too, but only in Samsung's home country of South Korea since it hasn't received FDA approval in the U.S.
The Galaxy Buds Live are similar to Apple's AirPods Pro. They're tiny earbuds that charge in their case, but look like little beans that fit right into your ears. They feature noise cancellation, which should help block out background noise while you're working or walking around town, and you can dial it back if you need to hear what's going on around you. They'll cost $169, which is a big discount from the $249 Apple charges for AirPods Pro.