What to expect from Samsung’s Unpacked event next week
For a company with as many moving parts as Samsung, secrets don’t stay secret for long — just look at the string of leaks before any high-profile Galaxy phone launch. With just a week left to go until Samsung’s latest (and online-only) Unpacked event, we already have a pretty firm grasp on what the company plans to show off. This year, though, it seems like Samsung just couldn’t help but indulge in a little pre-event show-and-tell.
First, TM Roh — who replaced DJ Koh as the head of Samsung’s smartphones back in January — confirmed in a blog post that five new “power devices” would be the stars of the show. (Here’s hoping Roh spends a little time during the stream explaining what makes a “power device” different from a regular one.) One week later, Samsung published a teaser video that, among other things, briefly cut to a sort-of family photo of devices that leaves very little to the imagination. Now that Unpacked is nearly upon us, we can’t think of a better way to while away the summer hours than by running through what those devices might bring to the table.
Galaxy Buds Live
Let’s start with the most straightforward of the bunch: Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live. Samsung is no stranger to true-wireless earbuds, but these are a little different from the company’s earlier attempts. For one, they’re the first Galaxy-branded buds to pack active noise cancelation, which was conspicuously absent from the Galaxy Buds+. They also, uh, look like beans.
These sleek, legume-like earbuds have touch-sensitive bodies so you can easily toggle through tracks, and WinFuture’s Roland Quandt reported earlier this year that they’ll also include a trio of onboard microphones that can be set to listen for your Bixby voice commands. Battery life is estimated to fall between 4.5 and 7.5 hours on a single charge — exactly how long these things will last depends on whether you’re using ANC and whether you’ve set those microphones to constantly listen for voice requests. (Noted leaker Ishan Agarwal has already started digging into the companion app, and it seems like turning those mics off just takes a few taps.)
The Galaxy Buds Live are shaping up to be worthy AirPods competitors, especially when you consider their rumored cost. At $170 with noise cancelation, they’re priced to move compared to Apple’s $250 AirPods Pro.
Galaxy Watch 3
Samsung has been getting a lot of mileage out of its fitness-focused Galaxy Watch Active 2, but it’s time the classic Galaxy Watch got a proper sequel. (Seriously, it’s been nearly two years.) Enter the Galaxy Watch 3, a device that some retailers around the world have already started selling, official announcements be damned.
The Watch 3 will come in two sizes: A 45mm version with a 1.4-inch screen for people who prefer hefty timepieces, and a more petite 41mm model with a 1.2-inch display. (The latter already got the full hands-on treatment on YouTube.)
Both versions will come in several finishes, but all of them will use Samsung’s classic rotating bezel for navigating home screens and menus. Frankly, this is the best thing that could’ve happened to these wearables: These physical controls are among the most clever interface choices Samsung has ever made, and the Galaxy Watch Active series felt less satisfying to use without them.
Both sizes are also rated IP68 for water and dust resistance and should come with 8GB of onboard storage. Beyond that, it doesn’t seem like much has changed internally since the release of Samsung’s last smartwatch. XDA‘s Max Weinbach noted on Twitter that the sensor layout on the Watch 3’s back is basically identical to the Watch Active 2, and suggests that Samsung might be reusing the rest of its components too. That dovetails nicely with another report from SamMobile, which claims that both versions of the Watch 3 use the same batteries as the Watch Active 2, so a two-day battery life is a strong possibility here.
The big draw here, though, is how the watches respond to your movement. You’ll apparently be able to clench and unclench your fist to answer phone calls, and wave your hand to dismiss incoming calls outright. More importantly, the Watch 3 is said to support fall detection: If you take a spill and don’t respond to a prompt within 60 seconds, the Watch 3 will send your location and a five-second audio recording to emergency contacts. Throw in a rumored heart monitoring feature thanks to the Watch 3’s ECG sensors and we might be getting a Galaxy Watch that does a better job than ever of safeguarding its owner.
Galaxy Tab S7
Few companies are still trying to make premium Android tablets a Thing, and Samsung easily sits at the top of the list. At Unpacked, we’re expecting to learn about two models, both of which use Snapdragon 865 Plus chipsets and come with at least 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage according to WinFuture.
The biggest difference between these tablets is screen size and quality. The smaller, 11-inch Tab S7 will use an LCD screen, while the 12.4-inch Tab S7+ uses one of Samsung’s classic — and beautiful — AMOLED panels. It’s a little disappointing to see Samsung back away from the best possible screen in its smaller tablet, but here’s hoping the difference in price makes the trade-off worth it.
Make no mistake, though: Neither of these screens are slouches. Both Tab S7 displays are expected to refresh at 120Hz, so flicking through documents and webpages should look much smoother than most other tablets. Writing on them might feel at least a little more natural thanks to this generation’s new S Pens — latency is reportedly as low as 9ms, which means every stroke will appear to flow from the stylus as immediately as ink does from a ballpoint.
Also new this year is a “wireless” DeX desktop feature that hasn’t been revealed in much detail yet, but it should benefit from an improved keyboard cover with full-size keys and a proper trackpad. On paper at least, Samsung may be ready to take on the iPad Pro this year, but Apple’s premium tablets almost certainly have the edge when it comes to pure horsepower.
Galaxy Note 20
While we’re on the subject of styluses, the star of this year’s summer Unpacked will almost certainly be the new Galaxy Note 20. We’re expecting to see two models this year: the 6.42-inch Note 20 and the nearly 6.9-inch Note 20 Plus… or Ultra. We’re not exactly sure what the big model will be called, but both labels have been applied interchangeably. Some of the details about these displays haven’t confirmed yet, either: The smaller Note 20’s screen may only run at 1080p and refresh at the standard 60Hz, while the larger model’s higher-res screen can ramp up to 120Hz without wiping out its battery thanks to a pricey low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (or LTPO) back panel.
Both phones are said to use Qualcomm’s top of the line Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset in the US and the Exynos 990 elsewhere, but the particulars are pretty different. The smaller model is said to pack 8GB of RAM and as little as 128GB of internal storage, which is (unfortunately) half of what last year’s Note 10 came with. The bigger model should come with 12GB of RAM, and we’re hearing there will either be 256 or 512GB of storage depending on how much you’re willing to pay. Ironically, the larger Note 20 is the only model expected to have a microSD card — Samsung was rumored to do something similar with the S20s before they launched, but that thankfully turned out untrue. Maybe we’ll get lucky this time, too.
From what we’ve seen, the designs haven’t changed dramatically — we’re still looking at very square phones, which I’m a big fan of. There are some notable changes to look for, though: An accidental Samsung leak confirms the back of each phone should have a massive, square camera bump, which is expected to house a trio of cameras that we understand was just moved over from the S20 series. As with the S20s, though, the new Notes’ camera configurations are surprisingly different from each other.
The Note 20 is expected to use a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera, flanked by a 64-megapixel telephoto camera and 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera. Meanwhile, the bigger model could use one of Samsung’s 108-megapixel ISOCELL sensors as its main camera, along with a 12-megapixel ultra-wide and telephoto cameras. If a slew of reports hold true, the big Note 20 will also use a slightly watered-down version of the Space Zoom feature Samsung introduced in the Galaxy S20s — the max zoom range is said to top out at 50x rather than 100x, which we’re perfectly happy with.
And then there’s the S Pen. As mentioned earlier, we’re looking at improved, low-latency S Pens this year — the delay from putting stylus to screen and seeing your strokes could be as low as 9 milliseconds. We’re also hearing that the S Pen can be used as a pointer too, which is, uh, great if you have to whip through a presentation on your phone? We’ll need to see this new stylus in action before we pass any judgment.
Galaxy Z Fold 2
Foldable news was unavoidable at an event like this one, and for a while, we thought Samsung might use Unpacked to reveal an updated version of the Galaxy Z Flip. It was a sound hypothesis right up until the moment Samsung announced that phone separately, and confirmed in the teaser image above that it planned to discuss the Galaxy Fold’s (poorly named) sequel. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 may be a mouthful, but all the leaks and rumors point to a device that should feel much less experimental than Samsung’s first foldable.
For one, the original Galaxy Fold’s small, limited outer display has been replaced with a much larger, notched “Infinity V” display. Early renders still have it looking pretty cramped, almost like that weird, tall Gem phone concept Essential was working on before the company collapsed, but it’s still a big improvement over the original. Rumor has it the flexible screen is bigger too, at around 7.7 inches diagonal with very slim bezels and another hole-punch for a second front-facing camera.
Even better, that large screen should refresh at a buttery-smooth 120Hz, just like Samsung’s new tablets. For now, though, there’s still considerable debate as to what material will cover this screen. Will it just be that flexy plastic layer or the same Ultra-Thin Glass used in the Galaxy Z Flip? We don’t know for sure, but there’s enough evidence out there to suggest there could be multiple models that would allow for both. Maybe we’re looking at pricey, premium versions with stainless steel or ceramic bodies with 5G support and ultra-thin glass screens, and lower cost, 4G-only models with all-plastic displays. Even if that multi-pronged approach is true — and we strongly suspect it is — we’d be surprised if Samsung revealed its hand completely next week.
Not everything here is shrouded in secrecy, though. Just like the rest of Samsung’s new phones, the Z Fold 2 will likely use a Snapdragon 865 Plus, along with 12GB of RAM and either 256GB or 512GB of storage. And despite some persistent rumors, it doesn’t look like we’re getting Galaxy Fold with an S Pen just yet. That leaked image shared by IceUniverse has no spot for one, and a report from Korea’s The Elec suggests that Samsung’s Ultra-Thin Glass isn’t built to withstand repeated pokes from a tiny stylus.
And that’s just about everything we expect Samsung to announce next week. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tune in regardless: The company and its partners will have pricing and availability to discuss, and if we’re lucky, these new devices will start showing up very soon. And as always, we’ll be covering Samsung’s summer Unpacked live when the show begins at 10 AM Eastern/7 AM Pacific on August 5th, so be sure to join us as we dissect the day’s news as it happens.