As the vendor unveiled its S20 range and new foldable, we got the analysts’ take on the line-up
Samsung officially announced the release of its latest flagship range the S20 and the foldable Galaxy Z Flip at its Galaxy Unpacked event in San Francisco on February 11.
The vendor revealed that the S20 would also have two other versions, the S20+ and S20 Ultra – with the models priced at £799, £999 and £1,199 respectively. The phones will be available in the UK from March 13.
All three phones are 5G-compatible and can be pre-ordered from each of the country’s mobile operators, as well as MVNOs Sky Mobile and BT Mobile.
The Korean vendor’s unveiling of the Z Flip also gave the audience a look at the world’s first foldable glass smartphone – a direct rival to the Motorola Razr.
The phone, which is not 5G-compatible like the flagship devices, was released on February 14 and retails at £1,300.
Samsung has previously held similar events just before the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, whose cancellation analysts believe the company will feel relatively relaxed about. Samsung’s stock is likely to be less impacted than that of some of its Chinese rivals, with most of its devices manufactured in Vietnam.
Mobile News gathered the views from observers and analysts to see how the new device range compares to its predecessors and competition.
CCS Insight chief of research Ben Wood:
Samsung is continuing its metronomic updates to its Galaxy flagship devices with the S20 family.
The challenge, which it faces together with all other smartphone makers, is how to stand out from the endless stream of similar-looking black touchscreen rectangles.
The support for 5G across all three variants of the S20 line-up is a key element, ensuring customers are getting a future-proof purchase – and the camera certainly stands out, particularly on the Ultra.
With some aspects of the camera on the S20 range, such as the zoom capabilities, the vendor is merely in catch-up mode with some of its Chinese rivals, which have been using stacked-periscope zoom modules for a while.
However, little touches such as single-take mode, the smoothness of the zoom as you multiply the magnification, and the window-in-window viewfinder when you take pictures at 30x zoom and more, are innovations for which Samsung should be applauded.
The vendor has a unique window of opportunity with these new products. Arch-rival Huawei is still encumbered by being on the US Entity List and Apple lacks a 5G variant of the iPhone. Samsung can position the Galaxy S20 family as the ultimate Android smartphones that also deliver a future-proof purchase, given the support for 5G, 8K video and an advanced camera.
Samsung learned some tough lessons with the first iteration of the Galaxy Fold, but subsequently created a product that has defied the critics, proved more robust than expected and sold hundreds of thousands of units.
The Galaxy Z Flip builds on that experience, and it is immediately apparent that Samsung has gone to the next level in terms of hinge design and the finesse of the product – in particular, the folding glass that protects the display.
The Galaxy Z Flip is a different beast to the Galaxy Fold: this time, it’s a true folding smartphone rather than a smartphone with a mini-tablet hidden inside. I think this will be hugely appealing given how big flagship phones have become – so I’m pretty confident the Flip is destined to be a hit in the foldable niche despite its price.
Comparisons are doubtless going to be immediately drawn between the Galaxy Z Flip and Motorola’s Razr reboot. It’s hard to argue with the nostalgic appeal of the Razr, given the strong heritage of the brand and the industrial design – but in terms of technology maturity, Samsung certainly has the edge, having already delivered two iterations of the Galaxy Fold.
And although Motorola beat Samsung to the punch with the Razr reboot, we believe Samsung has the scale to take the concept beyond an extremely expensive niche, despite the high price tag the Galaxy Z Flip unsurprisingly commands.
uSwitch head of commercial for broadband and mobiles Ernest Doku:
Samsung has thrown everything, including the kitchen sink and a pail of water, at the S20 camera as it bids to become a picture powerhouse. This family of phones really is all about the camera.
The basic model has three cameras – a 12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide and 64MP telephoto lens.
In place of the standard wide lens, the Ultra boasts a monstrous 108MP camera that will dramatically improve low-light performance, and a function called ‘space zoom’, which combines the phone’s 10x optical and 10x digital zoom to create the equivalent of a whopping 100x zoom.
The S20 enjoys a 4,000mAh battery, up 18 per cent from the S10, while the Ultra has 5,000mAh capacity – Samsung’s biggest phone power unit yet.
On the video front, the S20 allows you to record in 8K, an ultra-high resolution that will give it bragging rights over the iPhone’s video capability.
Price-wise, the S20 range is on a par with the iPhone 11, giving smartphone lovers a difficult choice when they come to pick their next device.
Samsung’s flagship models have long been burdened by the expectation of being an ‘iPhone killer’.
However, this time the Korean manufacturer appears to have ignored that rivalry, pulling out all the stops to make arguably the best range of Android devices for a new decade.
GfK global director Imran Choudhary:
The S20 range is moving in a positive direction, where it is expanding and moving into the super-premium range in terms of specs. This release solidified the vendor’s premium position in the market and its intent to expand in that area.
We know consumers are holding onto their devices for longer, so the fact that the S20 range is 5G-compatible gives the vendor a chance to drive forward with 5G in the coming years.
This also gives Samsung an advantage because the range has an excellent battery life and camera quality, meaning it appeals to a wider audience. And, for example, the ability to record in 8K will undoubtedly make it a default choice among content creators.
There’s something in it for everyone, which I think was key to Samsung during the manufacturing stage of these devices. Whether it’s the 108MP camera or the single-take mode, I do think Samsung has marketed these phones extremely well.
With regard to the Z Flip, we’ve seen the folding format start to make leaps and bounds from where it comes from. It has a hefty price tag attached, but the innovation in that direction is most welcome and the vendor is committed to giving consumers more variety.
So I think it does appeal to audiences, with a premium also to be had on utilising a device that’s different from what everybody else has.
In addition, the fact that Samsung has had a lot more time to test the device compared with the Fold bodes well for customers. Consumers will flock to stores as they look to get a chance to play around with the device – and if it can deliver on the durability, it will be successful.
PP Foresight analyst Paolo Pescatore:
Samsung has a huge start over rivals in 5G, with a broad range of devices. There has been no better time for the vendor to increase its market share, given Huawei’s current woes and Apple being yet to release a 5G iPhone.
Support for sub-6Ghz mmWave technology and dynamic spectrum sharing ensure that its 5G devices will appeal globally. This is paramount, as mmWave is being positioned as the ‘best’ of 5G, a topic that will emerge as a strong theme throughout 2020 as telcos roll out networks.
All eyes are now on Apple’s launch of its widely rumoured 5G device later in the year and whether it will support sub-6GHz and mmWave technology.
Samsung’s latest foray into foldable devices underlines its desire to own this space. Also, it will hope the new device fares much better than its first foray, with the Galaxy Fold, which was fraught with issues.
While these innovative new designs are nice to have, they’re not must-have sought-after features among users.
Furthermore, they are prohibitively expensive. But new form factors will provide the content industry with exciting new ways to connect and engage with users.
CompareMyMobile mobile comms expert Rob Baillie:
Samsung has laid down the gauntlet with its latest flagship, sending a clear ‘top this’ message to Apple. The S20 places itself ahead of the iPhone 12 in terms of numerical value and, from what we can see and speculate, in the specs department too.
The screen sizes of the large devices in the range put the iPhone 11 to shame, with that device’s largest current offering only extending to a relatively meagre 6.5 inches. The S20 will also be the second flagship Galaxy to have 5G capabilities – while, conversely, Apple has yet to bring a single 5G phone to the market.
Samsung has often been known as a market leader when it comes to the camera quality of its handsets, but in recent times its innovation has fallen behind the likes of Huawei and Google.
The S20, however, looks set to revive its status as a camera giant, with features like the 100x optical zoom and 108MP camera sensor placing it once again at the front of the pack.
Not only is the camera of extraordinary quality, the 8K video recording means that the handset is as much a handheld editing suite as it is a phone.
Ostensibly, camera and screen size aside, there is little to differentiate between the three separate phones and, given the fairly substantial difference in price, the cheapest of the options is probably the most appealing.
As for Samsung’s second attempt to enter the folding handset market, one has to wonder whether the co-launch with the S20 was engineered precisely to hide the questionable design of the Z Flip.
The phone certainly seems to be a triumph of form over function, with the gimmicky, throwback style masking the fact that the handset doesn’t do an awful lot special – and certainly not for the eye-watering price. That said, it does look very swish.