14.6 C
New York
Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Everything Samsung Announced at Its Unpacked 2021 Event

Samsung really wants you to buy a foldable phone. At its second annual Galaxy Unpacked event, the company didn't show off a new version of its long-standing Galaxy Note series, which is what Samsung watchers may have expected to see. Instead, the the company debuted two new iterations of its folding phone designs. Say hello to the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3.

This virtual event also featured two new smartwatches—the Galaxy Watch4 and Galaxy Watch4 Classic—the first wearables running Wear OS 3, the Google-owned operating system that's being codeveloped with Samsung and Fitbit. And what's a Samsung event without a new pair of wireless earbuds? The company has been releasing earbuds at a steady clip since the Buds of 2019. After that came the Buds Plus, Buds Live, and Buds Pro. Today, we get the Buds2. That naming scheme doesn't quite add up, but at least the new wireless earbuds look nice.

Here's a breakdown of what these new gadgets are all about. They're all available for preorder now, and they go on sale August 27. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 and Flip3

Samsung currently sells two folding smartphone models: one that opens like a book called the Fold, and another that opens like a compact mirror called the Flip. The Fold is for anyone who wants a mini tablet in their pocket; the closed phone opens up to reveal a large 7.6-inch screen. In its folded state, a large touchscreen on the front allows you to use it as a normal phone. But the Flip is for anyone who has ever complained about how big phones are getting these days; it's the snazzy compact phone for you. 

Neither of the two devices unveiled Wednesday—the third iteration for each—reinvent the formula, but both phones have meaningful upgrades that make them more reliable as everyday gadgets. For example, the Fold3 and Flip3 finally have water-resistance ratings (IPX8), so they can take a dunk in the bath and still function fine. The main displays on both phones use a new protective film that's 80 percent more durable and scratch-resistant than the last versions, and the glass on the back and front is the latest Gorilla Glass Victus, which is 50 percent more durable than the Gorilla Glass 6 used in the prior versions. 

Even the aluminum frame and hinge are 10 percent stronger and lighter. And having a lighter phone is important, especially on foldable designs, which can be chunky and heavy. So the Fold3 shrinks a bit. It's 11 grams lighter and 0.8 mm thinner than the last Fold.

Both the Fold3 and Flip3 are powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 chip, which powers most flagship phones this year, including Samsung's Galaxy S21 series. That means there's robust 5G support in both devices too. 

The rest of the hardware improvements are small but welcome upgrades. For example, the Fold3's 6.2-inch AMOLED cover screen now has a 120-Hz refresh rate, matching the main display and making the outside screen friendlier for games and scrolling apps. Samsung has also added support for its S Pen stylus. A new S Pen Fold Edition ($50, sold separately) lets you quickly jot down notes with lower latency than ever before, or you can get the S Pen Pro's ($80) Bluetooth connectivity to write on multiple Galaxy devices, and even copy and paste between them. Unlike Note phones, there's no place to stow the stylus, so if that's something you want, you'll need to snag an S Pen case for the Fold3.

One thing that hasn't improved? The crease. It's the part where the flexible screen folds on both phones, and it's still very much visible. It's distracting and somewhat cheapens the look of the display. 

Samsung says more than 50 of its users' favorite apps have been better optimized for the larger display on the Fold3, and new software features like drag and drop, the ability to control the window size of almost any app, and a pinned taskbar-like app menu on the right make for a more enjoyable user experience. Flex mode also lets you get some additional use out of the phones when folded halfway—a video can play at the top screen while controls sit at the bottom. Samsung wasn't clear on exactly which apps are optimized for this feature, though. 

As for the Flip3, the screen on the front is now four times larger, so you can see notifications much more clearly and even access widgets like quick settings, Samsung Pay, and others. It comes in an array of fun colors (green is my favorite), and its main screen also gets its refresh rate bumped up to 120 Hz. 

The cameras are pretty much the same across the two phones: Both have 12-megapixel main cameras, 12-megapixel ultrawides, and 10-megapixel selfie cameras, all protected with Corning's new DX glass. The Flip3 gets the same Portrait mode that we've previously seen in Samsung's S21 range, but the Fold3 adds an additional 12-megapixel telephoto camera. And when you open it up like a book, there's a new 4-MP under-display camera. It's literally under the display, which Samsung claims is harder to see than typical hole-punch cameras that sit in the middle of the display. Unfortunately, I had no trouble seeing it; it's not hidden all that well.

The prices for both Samsung foldables have come down considerably, with the Fold3 going for $1,799 and the Flip3 starting at $1,000. If you preorder the Fold3, you'll get $200 in Samsung Credit for Samsung.com, and it's $150 if you snag the Flip3. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 and Watch4 Classic

Samsung is going in a new direction with its smartwatches. Rather than relying on its bespoke Tizen operating system and asking developers to create versions of their apps that only run on Samsung devices, it's embracing Google's Wear OS operating system. The company codeveloped the software alongside Fitbit, the Google-owned wearable maker. That means Samsung watch fans gain access to more useful apps, such as Google Maps. And, given the popularity of Samsung's smartwatches, the move could potentially encourage more developers to build apps for Wear OS, something Google has always struggled with.

The new Galaxy Watch4 and Watch4 Classic have user interfaces that look and feel very much like previous Samsung smartwatches, but there are many changes under the hood and some subtle tweaks that make them easier to use. For example, tapping the button on the side of the watch lets you access recently-opened apps. Both watches are powered by a 5-nanometer Samsung processor, and they have higher-resolution screens, 16 gigs of storage, up to 40 hours of battery life, and wireless fast charging.

More importantly, Samsung's BioActive smartwatch sensor has been redesigned to sit closer to the skin, thereby improving the health tracking abilities of the watches. The sensor can still measure electrocardiograms, blood pressure, and VO2 Max readings, but it's faster at automatically recognizing workouts. It also offers more accurate calorie counts, and it now includes bioelectric impedance analysis, which lets you see granular body composition data such as skeletal muscle, body fat, and fat mass.

Samsung says sleep tracking on its watches has improved too. The watches work with Samsung's Galaxy phones for snore detection (using the phone's mics to pick up the sound of you sawing logs) while collecting blood oxygen data via the watch's sensor once per minute for more detailed sleep analysis.

The base Galaxy Watch4 replaces Samsung's previous Active line. The new watch doesn't have a mechanical bezel, but rather a digital one. (You can slide your finger around the edge of the screen to scroll through the interface.) I think it's better looking than the Classic, and it has a tantalizing price: It starts at $250 for the Bluetooth version but adding LTE connectivity costs $50 more. It comes in 40- or 44-mm sizes. 

The Watch4 Classic is $100 more, but it's made of stainless steel, has a mechanical rotating bezel for navigating through apps, and is larger overall with 42- and 46-mm sizes. It's $400 if you want it with LTE.

Samsung Galaxy Buds2

Samsung has a long history of making some of the best wireless earbuds, and history seems to be repeating with the new Galaxy Buds2. The wirefree buds employ a sleek new design that’s about 15 percent smaller and 20 percent lighter than the previous Buds Plus. However, the new design also has some audio upgrades. The Buds2 have active noise-canceling tech, which the older Buds Plus lacked. They also have a nicer-sounding dual-driver array similar to what's found in Samsung's Buds Pro.

With three sizes of ear tips and four different colors to choose from, the Buds2 will probably fit most people's noggins and style requirements. They have an AirPods-matching five hours of battery life with active noise canceling on, 7.5 hours with it off, and come with a Qi wireless charging case, so you’ll never have to find a USB-C cable to juice them up. The Buds2 also have a boatload of competitors at the $150 mark, including Apple and Jabra. However, very few wirefree buds at this price can match them on specs. There's certainly a lot to like on paper, but WIRED's very own audio guru Parker Hall has a pair in his possession already, so look for a full review soon. 

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more.

Related Articles

Latest Articles