After months of waiting, Samsung's Galaxy S20 series and Galaxy Z Flip are launching today. Expect three phones in the S20 lineup, including a Galaxy S20 Ultra with a whopping 100x Space Zoom.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy Z Flip will be Samsung's second foldable phone and a direct competitor to the Motorola Raz. Think flip phone that extends to 6.7 inches.
We could also see other devices debut, including a Galaxy Home Mini device that could control other devices in your abode. Here's what we know about Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked 2020 Event and how to watch.
How to watch the Samsung Unpacked 2020 event
Samsung's next product event takes place at San Francisco's Palace of the Fine Arts on Feb. 11. The event gets underway at 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST.
We'll be in San Francisco covering everything Samsung announces. But if you can't make it, the company will broadcast a livestream from its Galaxy Unpacked website and you can watch the Galaxy Unpacked live stream from the comfort of your home.
Galaxy S20, S20 Plus and S20 Ultra
Mark this one down in permanent ink: Samsung is going to show off the successor to the Galaxy S10 on Feb. 11. And thanks to the rumors surrounding Samsung's latest, we've got a pretty good idea of what to expect.
The new phones will apparently be called the Galaxy S20. (Not the Galaxy S11, you're wondering? Nope — new decade, new feature set, new numbering system. Or at least, that's reportedly Samsung's rationale for the jump from S10 to S20.) We're expecting three models, with a larger Galaxy S20 Plus and a premium Galaxy S20 Ultra joining the standard S20.
You'll see 5G models of all three phones — the Galaxy S20 Ultra will be available only as a 5G device — and much improved cameras will be the marquee feature of this group of phones. As the star of the lineup (and the priciest phone), the S20 Ultra is likely to feature a quad rear camera array highlighted by a 108-MP main shooter and a 48-MP telephoto lens capable of 10x optical zoom.
In fact, we know so much about the Galaxy S20 in advance of the new phones' debuts, you have to wonder just what Samsung will spend its stage time doing if it doesn't want to repeat S20 specs that people read about weeks ago. The hope among industry analysts — and our hope, too — is that Samsung dives into some of the software features of the Galaxy S20, explaining what's new and how you can integrate the phone into your life.
"While Samsung excels at hardware and hardware feature launches, more emphasis is needed for the content, services, applications and everything that’s not hardware that makes the device a superior experience," said Tuong Nguyen, a senior principal analyst with market research firm Gartner.
Ramon Llamas, research director for mobile devices and AR/VR at IDC, agrees. "It would help to see how Bixby can be invoked and for what use cases, especially considering how far along Alexa and Google Assistant are," he said. "But this also brings up the potential for more Smart Home applications and how they connect with the phone."
Given what we know about Samsung's upcoming phones, we've compared the Galaxy S20's rumored specs to last year's Galaxy S10 lineup, so that you can get a jump on what's different with this year's models heading into the Feb. 11 reveal. We've also gone into depth on the likely Galaxy S20 Plus vs Galaxy S20 Ultra differences.
Galaxy Z Flip
Now about another phone we're pretty sure will be joining the Galaxy S20 on stage this month — the Galaxy Z Flip. That's Samsung's next foldable phone, and Samsung removed all doubt about its existence during the 2020 Oscars telecast when it aired a Galaxy Z Flip teaser ad.
Here’s a full look at the Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip teaser, aired during the #Oscars. pic.twitter.com/k3OYM3NuwOFebruary 10, 2020
As you can see, the Galaxy Z Flip resembles an old-school flip phone, only with a foldable screen inside when you flip open the handset. Sounds a lot like the new Motorola Razr, doesn't it? That may be the idea. Samsung's Galaxy Fold got off to a rocky start last year with a delayed launch, while the only reason Motorola pushed back the Razr's debut was because too many people wanted to buy the phone.
Switching to a more tried-and-true format like a flip phone — while also announcing a device that costs a little bit less than the Fold's nearly $2,000 asking price — may give Samsung an opportunity to follow through on its ambitions on launching more foldable phones.
Could other foldables be on the way for Samsung? A room full of reporters and a livestream beaming out every announcement to the rest of the world seems like it would be a good opportunity for Samsung to spell out its foldable-phone plans. For instance, while the Galaxy Z Flip may be the company's next foldable, a true sequel to the Galaxy Fold could still be in the works.
Nguyen isn't so sure that Samsung will want to spend much time talking strategy. "I think it’s too early to meaningfully discuss what Samsung's — or any vendor — foldable strategy will be," Nguyen said. "This is a new form factor still trying to find its utility in the broader market. What I'm hoping to see is some more demos of potential use cases of a foldable device."
Galaxy Buds Plus
New phones need new accessories, especially if the Galaxy S20 models ship without a headphone jack, as is widely rumored. So it would be no surprise if Samsung rolls out an update to the wireless Galaxy Buds that it introduced last year.
In fact, the appearance of the Galaxy Buds Plus would be even less a surprise after a tweet last week from Evan Blass showing a leaked promotional ad that promised a free pair of earbuds when you preorder the Galaxy S20 Plus or S20 Ultra.
Galaxy Buds Plus rumors and leaked specs promise a longer battery and improved call quality — the latter fix would address one of our few complaints about the original Galaxy Buds. But the Galaxy Buds Plus will reportedly launch without active noise cancellation, a feature that Apple added to the AirPods Pro released last year.
Galaxy Watch 2
New smartwatches from Samsung have appeared around the last two Unpacked events — the Galaxy Watch Active debuted during the February 2019 Galaxy S10 launch, while the Galaxy Watch Active 2 arrived days before the Note 10's summer unveiling. Meanwhile, the original Galaxy Watch has gone without a sequel since its arrival in August 2018.
We're not expecting that to change at Unpacked, not because Samsung isn't enthusiastic about wearables — it makes the best smartwatches outside of Apple in our opinion — but because we haven't heard a peep out of the rumor mill regarding a new watch. Maybe Samsung could surprise us by coming out with a lighter version of its smartwatch with some badly needed software improvements. But we probably would have heard something about Samsung's smartwatch plans at this point if a launch was imminent.
Galaxy S10 Lite and Galaxy Note 10 Lite
You may have forgotten that Samsung's already unveiled new phones in 2020. The Galaxy S10 Lite and the Galaxy Note 10 Lite debuted just before CES in January, and Samsung's used the massive trade show to give people some hands-on time with the scaled-back versions of last year's flagships.
We know all about the features in both phones, enough to compare the S10 Lite with the Galaxy S10 and the Note 10 Lite with the Note 10. What we don't know is what either Lite phone will cost or where it will be available. Samsung could take the time on Feb. 11 to add a little more clarity to those plans, especially the Galaxy S10 Lite, which could wind up being a low-cost alternative to the Galaxy S20, especially if rumors of $900-and-up price tags for Samsung's upcoming phones prove to be true.
Then again, with five potential S20 models likely to be unveiled on Feb. 11 and other phones to discuss — more on those shortly — Samsung could decide that's more than enough phones for one two-hour presentation. In that scenario, the Galaxy S10 Lite and the Note 10 Lite prices and availability could be announced via press release, if they aren't already known in the days before the Feb. 11 event gets underway.
5G and Samsung products
You're not going to be able to watch many smartphone unveilings this year without hearing about 5G. All four U.S. carriers have launched their networks and are continuing to build out coverage. Qualcomm has released the Snapdragon 865, which is going to bring 5G to more flagship phones this year, while the Snapdragon 765 has an integrated 5G modem and should broaden the types of 5G phones that are available to include less pricey models.
We know 5G is going to be on the lips of Samsung at the Feb. 11 Unpacked event, just by virtue of the company unveiling the Galaxy S20 and its 5G variants. But maybe Samsung has plans for 5G beyond smartphones.
After all, the company has already confirmed that it's working on a 5G version of the Galaxy Tab S6 with an eye toward launching the tablet in its home market of South Korea during the first three months of this year. It's unclear if the Galaxy Tab S6 5G will be making a U.S. appearance, but this press event seems like a fine place to find out.
- Why the Galaxy S20 is just the spark that 5G needs
Analysts are split on what Samsung might have to say about 5G. "Unpacked isn’t usually a place for network announcements, but [it] will most likely reference the growth of 5G networks worldwide and how the company is poised to provide 5G-enabled products," Llamas said. But Gartner's Nguyen notes that the last two Unpacked events have underscored the importance and potential of 5G networks.
"It also helps the company demonstrate technology leadership by having the latest, next-gen mobile networking standard in its device portfolio," Nguyen added.
It's not a Samsung event preview until we talk about the Galaxy Home, the Bixby-powered smart speaker that Samsung first teased at the Galaxy Note 9 launch in 2018 and never brought to market. There have also been reports that Samsung is working on a smaller version, the Galaxy Home Mini, but that's never been released, either.
In January, Hyunsuk Kim, CEO of Samsung's consumer electronics business, told Bloomberg that the Galaxy Home Mini was going to ship in early 2020, so something could be ready to give. Or, considering the history of missed ship dates for any sort of Samsung smart speaker, this could be more of the same.
The question now isn't when will we see a Galaxy Home, Mini or otherwise, but whether it's too late for Samsung, given how ingrained rival speakers from Google and Amazon have become.
"One thing that really needs to launch is the Galaxy Home/Home Mini smart speakers," Llamas said. "They were announced a year and a half ago and have been in beta testing, but they haven't reached [the] market yet. Meanwhile, other speakers have come out, and Samsung has yet to dip its toe into the water."