Everything Samsung Announced at Galaxy Unpacked (July 2023): Galaxy Z Flip5, Fold5, Watch6, Tab S9 Series

Everything Samsung Announced at Galaxy Unpacked (July 2023): Galaxy Z Flip5, Fold5, Watch6, Tab S9 Series
Written by Techbot

It seems like it was just yesterday when Samsung announced its first-ever folding smartphone, and here we are at its fifth generation. At its biannual Galaxy Unpacked event—taking place for the first time in Samsung’s home city of Seoul, South Korea—the company took the wraps off of several new products. The new Galaxy Z Flip5 and Z Fold5 are its latest folding smartphones, the Galaxy Watch6 and Watch6 Classic smartwatches succeed last year’s Watch5 series, and as usual, there are three new flagship tablets in the Galaxy Tab S9 series.    

The hardware hasn’t been dramatically updated. Many of the upgrades this year (like most years of late) are iterative. Here’s everything you need to know.

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New Flip and Fold

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

The fifth-generation Galaxy Z Flip5 is arguably the one device that has seen the biggest change over last year’s Galaxy Z Flip4. This is Samsung’s clamshell-style flip phone—when folded, it’s about the size of a compact mirror; open it up and it resembles a normal, rectangular smartphone. New here is the upgraded 3.4-inch front screen, which is significantly bigger than ever and more closely resembles what you’ll find on the new Razr+ flip phone from Motorola.

Samsung calls this exterior screen the Flex Window. You can scroll through various widgets—Calendar, SmartThings home control, the weather—to take advantage of the larger display, potentially reducing the need to open up the phone as much. You can use the smaller screen to reply to messages via Quick Reply, where a full-size keyboard appears within the notification. The exterior screen can also serve as a preview, so your photo subject can see how they look as you tap the shutter to take their picture. 

Photograph: Samsung

Just as notable is the new Flex Hinge, which is present on the Galaxy Z Fold5 as well. This new hinge design allows both of Samsung’s folding phones to close completely without leaving an awkward gap between the screens, just like the hinge on the Google Pixel Fold. Samsung says the hinge has fewer moving parts than the old design, making it less prone to mechanical issues over time. Speaking of, all the glass on the phones is Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus 2, and the phones retain their IPX8 water-resistance rating. There’s still no official rating for dust resistance, but Samsung says the hardware has “proven to be quite durable.” The company also claims it has doubled the amount of recycled materials used in the phones’ construction since last year.

The Galaxy Z Fold5, the folding phone that opens like a book, has more modest changes. It still features a narrow screen on the exterior, something I now don’t like as much as the wider aspect ratio on the Pixel Fold. Samsung’s skinnier screen just makes apps look a bit squished. Samsung says the Fold5 is thinner than the previous model, and the inner screen can now get up to 30 percent brighter than its predecessor for better visibility in sunny conditions. The S Pen Fold Edition stylus—the digital pen for sketching and taking notes on the screen, still a separate purchase—is now slimmer and purportedly more comfortable to use. 

The software updates are notable too. Samsung says it has improved the task bar to show more recent apps, and drag-and-drop should now work with multiple fingers: Press a photo in Samsung’s Gallery with one finger and use another finger to open Samsung’s notes app, then drag the image into it. These software tweaks will presumably make their way to some older Galaxy Fold models, though Samsung did not confirm this. 

Photograph: Samsung

Everything else is the standard-fare upgrades on these phones. The Flip5 now comes with 256 GB of internal storage instead of 128. Both phones are powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset like the one in the Galaxy S23 series. As for the cameras, there are minor changes to the hardware, but Samsung says the phones’ image-processing engine now reduces noise, offers more accurate skin tones, and performs better overall in low light. 

The Galaxy Z Flip5 is $1,000 and the Galaxy Z Fold5 costs $1,800, and both can be preordered now. They’ll officially go on sale August 11. If you preorder, you can get a free storage upgrade. For example, if you choose the 256-GB Flip5, you’ll be upgraded to the 512-GB model.

Three New Tablets

Photograph: Samsung

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S9 series consists of three tablets: the Galaxy Tab S9, Tab S9+, and Tab S9 Ultra. The S9 is the smallest with an 11-inch screen, the Tab S9+ follows with a 12.4-inch display, and the Ultra remains a behemoth with its 14.5-inch screen. 

The biggest change is that they all have the same Dynamic AMOLED 2X display panel, which delivers inkier blacks and better contrast. (Last year’s Tab S8 was the only one of the lot that stuck to an LCD panel.) Samsung says it has also ported its Vision Booster technology from its phones—it detects ambient lighting conditions and optimizes the screen to best suit the environment you’re in, much like Apple’s True Tone. 

The speakers are now 20 percent larger, there’s IP68 water and dust resistance, and, like the new folding phones, they’re powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset. Samsung still includes the S Pen stylus with every slate, and now you can magnetically stick the stylus in any direction on the back of the tablet for storage and wireless charging. Previously, you had to place the pen with the tip facing a specific direction. The stylus is also rated IP68 so you don’t have to fret if you drop it in the toilet bowl. (OK, fret a little; that’s disgusting.) 

DeX mode has gotten a few improvements, including an interactive task bar. This is the mode that simulates a desktop-like interface on the tablet when you connect a keyboard. Too bad a Samsung keyboard case remains an additional purchase that balloons the cost of these already spendy tablets even further.

Seriously, they’re all expensive. The Galaxy Tab S9 is $800, the Tab S9+ is $1,000, and the Tab S9 Ultra is $1,200. Only the Tab S9+ gives you the option to add LTE connectivity. (This model costs $1,150.) Like the folding phones, these slates are up for preorder and go on sale on August 11. If you preorder, you can take advantage of the same free storage upgrade Samsung is offering on the phones. Samsung’s keyboard covers for the tablets are also discounted during the preorder period.

New Smartwatches

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

That leaves us with the watches. There are technically two models: the Galaxy Watch6 and the Galaxy Watch6 Classic. Each of these comes in two different sizes. You can choose the Watch6 in 44- or 40-mm case sizes; the Watch6 Classic comes in 43- or 47-mm sizes. Unlike last year, there’s no Watch6 Pro model.

Longtime Galaxy Watch fans will be happy to see Samsung has brought back the mechanical rotating bezel. This spinning ring around the case of the Watch6 Classic allows you to cycle through elements of the interface without having to swipe the screen with your grubby fingers. It’s just as satisfying as before, almost like spinning a combination lock to get into your high school locker.

Samsung says the screens on these smartwatches are the largest ever on a Galaxy Watch by 20 percent, with improved brightness for better visibility as well. These are also the first watches to run Google’s Wear OS 4, which will make its way to more devices by the end of the year. The user experience is smoother, too, now that it’s powered by a new Exynos W930 chipset.  

Watch6 Classic

Photograph: Samsung

Samsung highlighted improvements to sleep tracking, which now offers an in-depth analysis of your sleep score to better help you understand exactly what the data is telling you. It has also partnered with the National Sleep Foundation to send out more “individualized Sleep Messages” that give you more feedback every morning, and a new Sleep Consistency tool shows you how consistent your sleep and wake times are, along with a Sleep Animal Symbol to represent your sleep type, something Google and Fitbit introduced on the Pixel Watch. This is all paired with an enhanced Sleep Coaching system, which gives you more actions to take to get better rest.

As for fitness, there are new personalized heart rate zones you can utilize for your workouts, a Custom Workout tool to track your own routine, and now irregular heart rhythm notifications. The Watch6 series can also track skin temperature (ahem, like the Apple Watch Series 8), and Samsung claims this can provide useful insights for anyone tracking their period. 

Both watches are available for preorder now and go on sale on August 11. The Watch6 starts at $300 for the 40-mm model and $330 for the 44-mm version. The Watch6 Classic is $400 for the 43-mm model and $430 for the larger 47-mm size.

Iterative Year

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

These are all, from my limited time handling the hardware, fine upgrades over their predecessors. There’s not much to get excited about, save for the larger screen on the Flip5, which makes it genuinely more usable in its folded state. However, I’d have liked to see Samsung make headway in bringing the cost down for its folding phones so they’re more accessible in their fifth generation. They’re still too expensive for most people. 

The tablets are also expensive, especially since you have to shell out for a separate keyboard cover. Unlike Apple and its iPad Air or base iPad, Samsung doesn’t have any fanfare for its budget slates (they exist); I’d have liked to see the company tote out a sub-$500 tablet here and get people excited about it. Maybe another time. 

For the watches, I’m mostly looking at battery life. The combination of Wear OS 4 and more efficient chipset should mean a longer-lasting battery, but Samsung’s claim of up to 40 hours of operation (with the always-on display mode turned off), is lower than what it claimed with last year’s Watch5 series. None of these new watches have anything close to the beefy battery that was in the Watch5 Pro, so I’m expecting to be disappointed. We’ll be gearing up to test all the new hardware over the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

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