It’s not just the hardware; the software matters, too.
As a long-time tech industry observer, if I had a dime for every time I heard that phrase, I’d be a rich man. But at yesterday’s Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2020 event, Samsung and its partner Microsoft showed conclusively why it’s still as important a thought as ever.
On the hardware side, most of the early reports on the new product launch event focused on the impressive Note20 family of phones, as well as the Tab S7 tablet, Galaxy Watch 3 smartwatch, and intriguingly shaped Galaxy Buds Live earbuds, all of which were featured in their copper-like Mystic Bronze color.
As for me, it was all about the next generation of their original foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Z Fold 2. As a longtime user and huge fan of the first (well, technically, revised “second” version) Galaxy Fold, I had eagerly read the rumors about the potential unveiling of this next iteration and really wanted to see if they addressed all the concerns regarding the first version.
While the final proof will be in the pudding, so to speak, it certainly looked like Samsung not only addressed concerns, but managed the task with aplomb. The new full-size 6.2-inch front screen, foldable glass-covered enlarged 7.6-inch middle screen running at a 120Hz refresh rate, tiny hole-punch camera, integrated 5G modem, and enhanced adjustable hinge design creates what appears to be not only a direct hit on those concerns, but also a device with just about everything a foldable phone user could want. I can’t wait to try one out.
Samsung unveiled a new foldable phone, the Galaxy Z Flip. The new phone can unfold from a small square upward into a traditional smartphone form, and will go on sale Feb. 14 starting at $1,380. (Feb. 11)
Unfortunately, we’ll all have to wait a bit longer, as the company really only teased the device at Unpacked but promised a full unveiling of all the details (as well as pre-orders) for Sept. 1. That date will also likely confirm the one thing that Samsung couldn’t fix for this second-generation device: the price.
The specifics are still to come, but all signs suggest that Galaxy Z Fold 2 will be priced close to the nearly $2,000 list price of its predecessor. Clearly, it’s not a phone for everyone, particularly in a pandemic-ravaged economy. However, if you want the capabilities of a 5G smartphone and tablet rolled into a single slick device that you can fit into your pocket, there is literally no other choice like it.
What software does a Samsung, Microsoft pairing produce?
On the software side, the partnership between Samsung and Microsoft (first unveiled at last year’s Note10 launch event) has clearly blossomed, both on the productivity and gaming side. At this year’s event, the two companies showed greatly enhanced integration between Windows 10 PCs, the Microsoft 365 productivity suite, and Samsung’s whole range of new Android-based smartphones.
In addition, a new connection between Samsung phones and Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service will bring Xbox games to Note20 and Galaxy Z Fold 2 owners starting on Sept. 15. (They will also offer a special gaming bundle for the Note20, which includes a gaming controller that can hold your phone and a several months-long subscription to the cloud-based gaming service.)
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: New features to include hand gestures, fall detection to compete with Apple Watch
The smartphone-to-PC integration that the two companies announced is particularly intriguing, because it allows the combined usage of Windows 10 PCs and Android smartphones that appears to be as smooth and slick (and, in several ways, even more advanced) than Apple can do across iPhones, iPads and Macs.
What’s even more impressive, however, is that these capabilities are being done by two different companies across multiple unique device operating systems.
Not only can you see and respond to texts and notifications from your new Samsung phone on Windows PCs with the Microsoft Your Phone app, the new integrations also let you run Android apps (initially one, but eventually several simultaneously) directly on your PC. So, if you want to check your social media or any other app you regularly use on your phone while working at your PC, you can easily do so.
Microsoft Office integration
The companies also announced integration and syncing of Samsung Notes with OneNote, coordination of to-do lists across Outlook and Teams back to Samsung Reminder apps on your phone, and even check Outlook email on a Galaxy Watch3. In addition, though it’s technically a Samsung-specific capability, the event also featured a demo highlighting the ability to run a Windows desktop experience wirelessly from your Samsung phone on a nearby supported big-screen TV with Samsung’s Dex.
All told, it’s a pretty impressive level of integration and co-engineering across the two companies that reflects how people are and will continue to want to use their different devices.
If we think about where technology is headed, it’s pretty clear we’re going to be in a world where people have various devices with different screen sizes and types, running multiple operating systems, but all of which need to work together as a system to let us work and play as easily as possible. The Unpacked event and demos illustrated that’s where Samsung and Microsoft are both headed, so it’s going to be very interesting to watch how this powerful combination moves the tech market forward.
USA TODAY columnist Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. His clients are major technology firms including Microsoft, HP, Dell, Samsung and Intel. You can follow him on Twitter: @bobodtech.
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