The smartphone market has grown a bit stale, with few significant innovations in recent years. Most new phones are simply iterative improvements on existing models, with incremental improvements in performance, camera quality, battery life etc.
However, the foldable category is a notable exception, offering a new and exciting form factor that has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with our smartphones. Or so we thought.
Samsung took an early lead in foldables and has been coasting on its early mover advantage. Apple is yet to join the space and so outside of China, Samsung has the lion’s share of the market. This has proved to be terrible for the consumer.
Apparently, Samsung needs Apple to push them to innovate. Without Apple, there is no envelope pushing from Samsung. Case in point:
Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5
Last year we all sighed when we saw the Fold 4 and Flip 4. They were pretty much unchanged from the Fold 3 and Flip 3.
We thought, surely, in 2023 we would see a fresh new pair of smartphones to reinvigorate our excitement for the still-young foldable phone category. Oh, how wrong we were.
Samsung hosted its second Unpacked event of the year and launched a number of devices, including the Galaxy Flip 5 and Fold 5 foldable smartphones.
The Fold 5 and Flip 5 do not improve much on last year’s models. They get new processors, obviously, using the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Samsung SoC that’s in the S23. It is a powerful chip but not revolutionary when one is coming from a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in last year’s models.
The hinges have been improved and now the devices close completely, without a gap. That makes the phones thinner when shut, which is something, I guess.
They are lighter as well, on account of the improvements to the hinges but I doubt any minds will be blown by the fact that the Fold 5 is 10g lighter than the Fold 4.
Aside from the above, there really isn’t much to talk about. Camera hardware is unchanged, as are the batteries, down to even the charge speeds. Of course, we can expect slightly better battery life because of the more efficient processor but it’s still disappointing.
The Flip 4 has one meaningful change, the outer display (cover screen) is all grown up now. It grew from 1.9 inches to 3.4 inches. This means you can do more without opening the phone now if you so desire.
You’ll find that many apps don’t work well on that tiny cover screen but you should get a decent experience with Samsung’s software tricks, they have a few useful ‘widgets’ for that screen.
That’s it really. A new processor, a smaller hinge allowing for the phones to close without a gap and a bigger cover screen for the Flip 5. It’s hard to get excited about such iterative upgrades.
Samsung is acting as if foldables have matured. They are refining what they have as opposed to tinkering with the formula. They could be right but I find it hard to believe foldables have reached maturity, I think it’s a lack of competition that’s leading to this.
Now that the Pixel Fold is out and Xiaomi, Huawei and other Chinese companies keep pumping foldables, we could be in for a fight but if we are being honest, only Apple will push Samsung to innovate again. So, here I am hoping for an Apple Fold.
Galaxy Watch 6
Iteration is the name of the game and the watches are not that much better than last year’s models. They increased battery sizes and chucked in faster processors and called it a day.
There are a few software features coming though but as you can imagine, they mostly have to do with health tracking and so if you’re not too particular about that, you won’t have any use for them. Samsung was particularly proud of the new HR zone tools that should help in building your overall performance levels up.
As always, Samsung released two smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch 6 and the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic. The 6 looks almost identical to last year’s model. The 6 Classic is the interesting one. See, in 2021 the Watch 4 Classic came out and it had a wonderful rotating bezel that made it a joy to navigate the watch.
In 2022, Samsung inexplicably dropped the rotating bezel. Fans were not happy and it appears Samsung saw the error in their ways and brought it back on the 6 Classic.
Find out more about the Galaxy Watch 6 here.
Galaxy Tab S9
It’s more of the same with the tablets as well. We get new processors, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and a few other improvements. If you have a Samsung tablet from the past few years or so you won’t be impressed that much by the S9.
There are 3 tablets to pick from, an 11 incher, one with a 12.4-inch display and the ridiculous Tab S9 Ultra with a 14.6-inch screen.
Are you excited?
If you have an old phone/tablet/watch and are looking to upgrade, the devices above are some pretty good options. They are just not interesting for anyone with more recent devices. Don’t let that dissuade you.
If that’s you, know that these devices will go on sale on the 11th of August but you will trickle down to Zimbabwe a little later than that unless you buy online.