Smartphone makers are about to start telling us everything we need to know — or haven’t heard from rumor sites yet — about the handsets coming to retail shelves this fall. And Samsung gets to grab the microphone first.
But will smartphone shoppers care about what Samsung has to say? We’ll find out soon enough, as one of the electronics giant’s Unpacked events is looming on the calendar. Samsung takes over the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Wednesday, Aug. 7, where the company is all but certain to announce the Galaxy Note 10, the latest model in its supersized smartphone lineup.
The Note 10 figures to get the majority of the stage time at Unpacked, and there’s a lot riding on Samsung’s plans for its next phablet. But Samsung likely has more than one product announcement on the agenda for Aug. 7.
From smartphones to smartwatches with maybe a tablet thrown in for good measure, here’s everything that might be on tap for Samsung’s Aug. 7 Unpacked event.
Galaxy Note 10
You don’t have to keep up with the quickening pace of Note 10 rumors to know that a Samsung smartphone launch is imminent. All you need to do is look at a calendar.
Dating back to 2015’s Galaxy Note 5, Samsung has used the month of August to take the wraps off a new big-screened phone. That gives whatever phone Samsung does announce a full month before Apple’s fall iPhone unveiling grabs all the attention.
These days, though, Samsung’s not just competing with Apple when it comes to winning over smartphone users’ hearts and minds. The Galaxy Note is already getting some fairly stiff competition from within the halls of Samsung in the form of the Galaxy S10+ released earlier this year. That phone sports a 6.4-inch screen and pace-setting Snapdragon 855 mobile processor. (And if you pay up for the Galaxy S10 5G, you get an even bigger display at 6.7 inches.) So much for the Galaxy Note being the default choice for fans of big phones.
And that underscores a question Samsung’s being asked with greater urgency in the buildup to the Galaxy Note 10 launch: just how can this phone stand out when so many of its marquee features can be found in other devices?
“It comes down to this: What can Samsung introduce that’s different from what we’ve seen in previous years that makes me want to upgrade?” asked Ramon Llamas, research director for mobile devices at market research firm IDC. “We know you have the biggest screen. We know you have the [S Pen]. What else can you show me?”
Based on the rumors we’ve heard about the Note 10, Samsung will be showing off two phones — the 6.3-inch Note 10 and the 6.8-inch Note 10+. Expect a 5G version of at least the Note 10+. The larger of Samsung’s two new phones is expected to add a time-of-flight sensor to the three lenses on the back of the Note 10, and the main shooter on each Note model will feature three different aperture settings for better-quality photos depending on available lighting.
But improving picture quality is something most top-line phones attempt to do in each new version, Llamas pointed out. The challenge Samsung faces is coming up with “some sort of new feature or functionality that we haven’t seen before.”
“Let’s face it,” Llamas added “It’s extremely difficult to do that now.”
Samsung may be helped out by the fact that the Note 10 isn’t designed for every smartphone user. “It’s a very different kind of device that appeals to a specific segment of power Samsung, power Android users,” Llamas said. To that end, the phone maker could focus on new features that appeal to that core audience.
MORE: Galaxy Note 10 Rumors: Release Date, Price, Specs and More
And it sounds like Samsung may be doing just that with the Note 10. The new phone is expected to run on Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset, which is optimized for better performance in graphically demanding apps like games. The Note 10+ could also support super-fast 45-watt charging, though there’s some question as to whether Samsung would include an adapter for the faster charging technology with the larger phone. Samsung should also detail new features for the S Pen, the stylus that remains the Note’s marquee feature.
Will the Galaxy Note 10 Appear at Unpacked: It’s going to happen.
Galaxy Watch Active 2
When Samsung was showing off the new Galaxy S10 family during its February Unpacked event, it also introduced a new smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch Active, a slimmer version of its Galaxy Watch aimed at fitness-focused users. Is history going to repeat itself on Aug. 7?
From the cadence of Galaxy Watch Active 2 rumors, it certainly sounds that way. Reports are circulating that Samsung has a sequel to the Galaxy Watch Active in the works, with the new version looking to expand on the capabilities of the original. That includes something as simple as adding different sizes — a 44mm case will join the original 40mm model — to implementing advanced features like LTE connectivity and built-in ECG heart monitoring similar to the latest Apple Watch. (That latter feature isn’t likely to be available when the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is released, as Samsung needs to get FDA approval.)
It may seem odd that Samsung would produce a new Galaxy Watch Active six months after the first model debuted, but to Llamas it’s a sign that “Samsung is reacting to the feedback it’s gotten.” Take one rumored feature — the addition of a touch-powered bezel for easier navigation. That addresses complaints from users who missed the rotating bezel that’s been a staple of the Galaxy Watch but that Samsung dropped from the Active to keep the watch’s profile slender.
Will the Galaxy Watch Active 2 Appear at Unlocked: It’s about as certain as the phone.
Galaxy Tab S6
There’s still a market for tablets, though how large that is for ones that aren’t made by Apple and Amazon is up for some debate. It sounds like Samsung is getting ready to see just how much demand there is for non-iPad and non-Kindle tablets with another Galaxy Tab device.
In fact, Samsung seems so eager to trot out a new Galaxy Tab, that this model will reportedly jump straight from last year’s Galaxy Tab S4 to the Galaxy Tab S6. That move may be motivated by Samsung’s desire to avoid confusing a new flagship tablet with the already-released midrange Galaxy Tab S5e, but superstitious users will remember that the last time Samsung skipped a model number with one of its devices, it was to jump from the Note 5 to the Note 7, a phone that quite literally went down in flames.
The new tablet is expected to feature a Snapdragon 855 processor, an embedded fingerprint sensor under its 10.5-inch screen and a magnetic slot on its back for stashing the S Pen stylus.
Will the Galaxy Tab S6 Appear at Unpacked: If it does, don’t expect a lot of stage time.
When Samsung announced the Galaxy Fold this spring, it probably assumed the foldable smartphone would already be shipping by the time the next Unpacked event rolled around. That didn’t happen, with the Fold felled by problems with its design that prompted Samsung to delay the launch.
The launch is now scheduled for a limited number of countries in September, though Samsung hasn’t told us specifically where or when. With lots of tech reporters already on hand to see the Note 10, the company could drop in that information and move on. Then again, if it wanted the specter of the botched Galaxy Fold rollout to hang over the Note 10’s debut, it wouldn’t have announced the new September target two weeks before Unpacked.
It also doesn’t help that T-Mobile has dropped the Galaxy Fold from its lineup.
Will the Galaxy Fold Appear at Unlocked: Samsung may prefer to leave well enough alone.
Samsung has one other piece of unfinished business from previous launch events. Last year when unveiling the Galaxy Note 8, it also took the wraps off the Galaxy Home, a smart speaker in the vein of similar products from Amazon, Apple and Google. A lot’s happened in the ensuing year, but none of it involves the Galaxy Home ever shipping.
In June, Samsung CEO Kim Hyun-suk said that the speaker would finally see the light of day during the third quarter of 2019, which is right about now. Samsung could use the upcoming Unpacked event to finally put a Galaxy Home ship date on the calendar — or at least remind us all what the speaker actually does.
Will the Galaxy Home Appear at Unlocked: If it’s not, it’s never happening.