Samsung unveiled a foldable phone, the Galaxy Z Flip, on Tuesday, its second attempt to sell its customers on phones with bendable screens and clamshell designs.
The new phone can unfold from a small square upward into a traditional smartphone form, and will go on sale Friday starting at $1,380. The company announced the phone at a product event in San Francisco.
Samsung’s first foldable phone, the Galaxy Fold, finally went on sale in September after delays and reports of screens breaking. The Fold, which carries a price tag of nearly $2,000, folds at a vertical crease rather than horizontally as a flip-phone design would. Motorola has also taken the flip-phone approach with its new $1,500 Razr phone.
The foldable phones represent manufacturers’ attempt to energize a market where sales have slowed. Many people are holding onto old phones longer, in part because new features on smartphones offer increasingly marginal benefits. But these foldable models come with higher prices and are expected to appeal initially mostly to tech enthusiasts and others at the forefront of technology.
“While there’s a lot of excitement around this new category, it is still early days, and they will evolve significantly,” said Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at PP Foresight. “While these innovative new designs are nice to have, they’re not must-have, sought-after features among users.”
The Z Flip can stay open at different angles for watching videos or taking photos. When the phone is closed, it will take selfies and display notifications in a small window on the cover. Unfolded, its screen measures 6.7 inches diagonally.
Samsung says it added fibers to the gap between the hinge and the phone to keep out dust and improve hinge function, addressing the shortcomings of the Galaxy Fold.
For everyone else, Samsung offers its S series. In a nod to the start of the 2020s, the South Korean company showed off the Galaxy S20, S20 Plus and S20 Ultra, skipping directly to the S20 from its previous S10 series.
The S20 phones are designed to take high-quality pictures in dark settings, Samsung product manager Mark Holloway said.
The phones can take both video and photos at the same time, using artificial intelligence to zero in on the best moments to capture the still images.
Samsung’s renewed focus on the camera follows other smartphone makers.
Apple’s iPhone 11, introduced last year, offers an additional lens for wider-angle shots and combined multiple shots with software to improve low-light images. Google’s Pixel phones also offer a similar low-light feature.
Samsung’s S phones already offer the wider angle and some features for low lighting. But the company says the new phones will focus on high-resolution photos and the ability to zoom in 30 to 100 times, depending on the model.
The S20 phones go on sale in the United States on March 6, and will range in price from $1,000 to $1,400. All S20 models will be compatible with next-generation cellular networks, known as 5G, although it’s still an early technology that people typically won’t need yet. The Z Flip will not work with 5G networks.
As people packed into San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts for Samsung’s event, they passed a team taking remote temperatures in the security line, probably a precaution to check for the coronavirus. Samsung also offered hand sanitizer stations and face masks inside the lobby during the event.
Rachel Lerman and Kelvin Chan are Associated Press writers.