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Weekender: Galaxy Unpacked 2021 preview
Samsung's hosting another Unpacked event next Wednesday, and there's plenty to expect from new foldable phones to the first Wear OS 3 watch.
Greetings, dear reader. Today’s newsletter is the first edition of Wiretapped Weekender. It’s like a newspaper column, but for tech enthusiasts. I’m still toying around with the format, as you can imagine.
I’ve got big plans for this version of Wiretapped that I have yet to announce, so expect an update from me in another week or so.
This week will be a big week for Samsung. It’s hosting yet another Galaxy Unpacked event (virtually, of course) where it’ll unveil a slew of new hardware products. Namely, we’re getting new foldable phones, smartwatches, and headphones.
Samsung is usually the company to kick off the annual end-of-year gadget season, and this year looks to be no different. After Samsung’s done, it’ll be Apple’s turn in September with the new iPhones. Then, in October, new Pixels from Google. There will also likely be a bunch of stuff throw in the mix like new laptops, tablets, and smart home appliances. It’s all in an effort to get as many new products out there as possible before the holiday shopping season.
What to Expect
With this Unpacked, Samsung will be leaning into more important aspects of its business as it focuses on moving forward with new technologies. We’ll see two new foldable smartphones in the form of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3. There will also be a new smartwatch that will be the first to feature Wear OS 3, an operating system that’s the result of a merger between Wear OS and Tizen OS for watches. We’ll also likely see new Galaxy Buds that will serve as Samsung’s new baseline wireless earbuds and compete with Apple’s redesigned AirPods which are expected next month.
Galaxy Z Fold 3
The most expensive and, in effect, interesting product Samsung will announce is the Galaxy Z Fold 3. It’s the third generation of the foldable that started it all for the company, and it’s expected to come with a suite of improvements.
One of the most fascinating details about the Z Fold 3 isn’t what processor it’ll run, what it’ll look like, or how it’ll fold. Rather, it’s the fact it’ll include support for the S Pen. We’ve seen Galaxy devices without a Note moniker in their name support the S Pen before (namely the S21 Ultra from earlier this year), but this will be the first foldable one. Obviously, such a large canvas as what’s on the inside of the Z Fold 3 should make for a sweet writing companion on the go.
Then again, you’ll need somewhere to store it. Rumor has it Samsung will ship a case for the Z Fold 3 that’ll come with an S Pen slot. That means you’ll have to buy the case and the S Pen separately if you want to replicate a Galaxy Note setup. Whether that’s worth it will be up to you.
Another big change is what Samsung will use to cover the folding screen. Rumors indicate Samsung will ship a stronger version of its Ultra Thin Glass so it’s durable enough to stand drawing with the S Pen’s fine tip. As Samsung’s UTG exists today, you’d likely wind up with loads of scratches on your screen if you used an S Pen. It’s not clear how much stronger the glass will be, but let’s just hope it’s enough.
Samsung will obviously go all-out with the specs on the Z Fold 3, including two 120Hz AMOLED displays, a Snapdragon 888 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 512GB of storage, and a battery somewhere around 4,400mAh. The cameras will also be improved and fall more in line with the quality you get from the S21 series. There were also some rumors that the selfie camera would be underneath the foldable screen for an uninterrupted viewing experience, but I’m not sure how legit those reports are.
One of the features I’m most looking forward to is an IP rating. I live near the water, so you can imagine protecting my phone from H2O is important to me. It looks like both of Samsung’s foldable phones this year will come with some form of water resistance. It’s unclear how the company achieves this given the amount of moveable parts inside the phones, but we should know more soon.
The Z Fold 3 will also apparently be slightly cheaper. Current estimates have the device at around $1,600 which would be a meaningful drop from the $1,900+ price points of past Z Folds.
Galaxy Z Flip 3
Then there’s the Galaxy Z Flip 3. This device will see a lot more outward-facing changes compared to the Z Flip 5G, starting with a much larger top screen which will increase in size from 1.1-inches to 1.9-inches. This will add much more functionality to the top screen and let you interact with other aspects of the phone’s software like notifications.
The cameras will also get a tweaked design and offer better optics with two new 12MP sensors. Opening the Z Flip 3, you’ll likely find a 6.7-inch 120Hz AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass Victus protection. Under the hood, Samsung is expected to include a Snapdragon 888, 8GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage.
The battery inside the Z Flip 3 is expected to remain 3,300mAh and offer wireless charging. The phone will also come with a more angular design with flat sides. Various colors will be offered as well.
As for pricing, Samsung’s expected to make the Z Flip 3 cheaper as well. Rumors point to a starting price of between $1,100 and $1,300 which isn’t bad compared to what foldables cost just a year and a half ago.
Galaxy Watch 4
The Galaxy Watch 4, while not being a smartphone, will be an incredibly important product for Samsung as it and Google build out the market reach of Wear OS 3. The Watch 4 will be the first wearable to ship with the new software onboard, so expect some impressions and early thoughts in next Sunday’s edition of Wiretapped.
Samsung is expected to ship two different versions of this watch: a standard Galaxy Watch 4 and a premium Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, complete with a stainless steel body. Neither model will come with a rotating bezel, and they’ll ship in 40mm and 44mm sizes.
Rumors suggest Samsung will use one of its own Exynos processors to power the Watch 4 and include AMOLED screens on every model. 5ATM water resistance will also be included as well as MIL-STD 810G certification.
As far as fitness features go, the Galaxy Watch 4 is said to come with a bioelectrical impedance analysis sensor (or BIA sensor for short) which will help measure body fat percentage. You’ll also get a heart rate monitor, a pulse oximeter, blood oxygen monitoring, and EKG support.
Right now, it looks like the Watch 4 will cost somewhere around $300 which will help position it to compete against the Apple Watch. Whether Samsung and Google can deliver on that software remains to be seen, so stay tuned.
Galaxy Buds 2
Finally, Samsung’s expected to ship a new pair of Galaxy Buds. Dubbed the Galaxy Buds 2, these headphones will offer a tweaked design compared to the original Galaxy Buds, active noise cancellation, and up to five hours of battery life on a full charge with an extra 20 hours in the case. Wireless charging and IPX7 water resistance is also expected.
Pricing is rumored to land around $99 to compete with the likes of Gogle’s Pixel buds A-Series, AirPods, and (as of lately) the Nothing Ear (1)s.
Where’s the Galaxy Note?
That’s a great question.
It’s been interesting to go a full summer without one solid Galaxy Note leak, but that’s for a reason you might not be expecting: the Note is dead, at least for 2021. Samsung confirmed it wouldn’t be shipping a new Galaxy Note this year to focus on foldables and bringing Note features to other devices, namely S Pen support on the Z Fold 3.
It’s unclear if Samsung will ship a new Galaxy Note smartphone next year, but if things go well enough with optional S Pen support on the company’s highest-end devices, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.
Samsung might have a few surprises up its sleeve for this event, although it’s unclear what they might be. If they do wind up taking my breath away about something, I’ll let you know.
When/where can I watch?
Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event kicks off on Wednesday, August 11th at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT. You can watch it live on the company’s YouTube channel.