Today’s the day! Months of speculation and weeks of leaks will finally be realized at the Samsung Unpacked July 2023 event, with the expected launch of new foldable phones, a series of tablets and a pair of wearables, at the very least.
Here you’ll find out about everything we’ve heard about the next-gen products in the lead-up to launch, as well as first-hand experiences of Unpacked as it happens, with TechRadar on the ground in Samsung’s homeland of South Korea, where the company is expected to unveil the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5, Galaxy Z Flip 5, the Galaxy Tab S9 series and the Galaxy Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic.
If you want to have the Unpacked live stream to consume alongside this live blog, simply open up our dedicated How to watch Samsung Unpacked feature in another tab.
The event formally kicks off today (July 26), at 20:00 local time (Seoul), which is 04:00 PT, 07:00 ET, 12:00 BST or 21:00 AEST, so stick around.
Welcome to Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2023
Samsung is gearing up for its second significant Unpacked event of the year in a matter of hours, and this time, the event’s taking place in its hometown, Seoul, South Korea.
The company is all set to unveil the latest additions to its acclaimed Samsung Galaxy family. TechRadar’s Lance Ulanoff and Axel Metz are right on the scene, ready to deliver real-time updates as the event unfolds. Stay tuned for the exciting announcements!
What we expect
We have a pretty good idea of what’s coming based on earlier reports and our previous experience. We’ve already got a good run down of what to expect from from Unpacked, but we’re also cool with recapping here.
Among the expected announcements, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 take center stage, continuing the innovative legacy of foldable smartphones that the Z Fold 4 and Flip 4 furthered. With improved software, sleeker bodies, and enhanced functionality, these new devices are likely to steal the show.
But that’s not all; Samsung’s product lineup extends beyond smartphones. The Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic are rumored to be on the horizon. These will compete with the Apple Watch and provide integration with the Samsung ecosystem, expected to be completed by the Galaxy Tab S9 family.
You probably saw at the top of this blog that the event will start at 4am PT / 7am ET / 12pm BST / 9pm AEST, which unusual in the world of global tech releases – but it’s 8pm in Seoul, South Korea, and that’s where the event is happening.
Why Seoul? Well, apart from Samsung being South Korean, Korea buys more folding phones than any other market, so it makes sense for the local hero and foldable phone leader to launch its big new folding phone there. A leaked press release claims that the adoption rate for foldable phones is 13.6% in South Korea, placing it well ahead of the rest of the world, where foldable phones are a single-digit phenomenon.
This late July launch is a departure for Samsung, which usually releases its foldable phones in late August. Of course, we may see an announcement today but with sales starting much later.
But it’s possible that Samsung just doesn’t feel it can wait any longer. The Google Pixel Fold and Motorola Razr Plus both hit the market in June, giving those amazing foldable phones plenty of time to worm their way into people’s minds before the next Samsung phones come to play.
Of course, long-term Samsung watchers will remember when August was for Galaxy Note releases rather than folding releases, but those days have passed [gazes wistfully into the middle distance].
Now, the classic Note is basically the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and the Galaxy Fold phones are the next level of note, giving you a bigger screen to write and draw on.
Can Samsung finally take foldables mainstream?
The big question for the fifth generation of Flip and Fold isn’t just what they’ll do and look like (though we’ll get to that, don’t worry), but whether Samsung can finally truly take the technology mainstream. As we mentioned before, they’re pretty popular in Korea, but less so elsewhere in the world – despite some pretty aggressive advertising campaigns (in the UK, where I am, Samsung has a big push going on to persuade people to switch to the Flip 4 from iPhone, even though the Flip 5 will be here imminently).
Are we getting to make or break time for folding devices globally? That’s what TechRadar Staff Writer Michael Allison explores in this piece.
Okay, let’s talk about what we expect from the actual products today.
1. Galaxy Z Fold 5
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 looks likely to get some year-over-year upgrades that are politely known as “incremental.”. The design will reportedly use an improved hinge that should let the two halves close shut, similar to the way the Motorola Razr Plus can close – that fill make it feel smarter and sleeker, no question. Otherwise, it should keep the same taller aspect ratio.
Inside, we’re expecting a new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, similar to what the Galaxy S23 uses. We haven’t heard whether the Galaxy Z Fold 5 will get any special tuning on the Snapdragon platform.
There should be a camera upgrade on the Galaxy Z Fold 5, but we’re not expecting this phone to take on our favorite camera phone of the moment, the Galaxy S23 Ultra. We’ve heard that there will be new sensors on board to improve image quality, but not serious zoom or any world-beating improvements.
2. Galaxy Z Flip 5
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 should also get the mobile platform upgrades and design improvements that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 sees, including a hinge design that can close completely shut. We’re expecting a bit more from Samsung’s flip foldable, though.
The cover display on the Galaxy Z Flip 5 will see a major improvement, becoming a much larger screen that is actually usable for apps and features, not just notifications. Of course, it is unlikely that Samsung is going to top Motorola’s big 3.6-inch Razr Plus cover display, but the Z Flip 5 should be a significant improvement over its predecessor, the Z Flip 4 – this might be the best year-on-year improvement of the devices today.
3. Galaxy Tab S9, Tab S9 Plus, Tab S9 Ultra
It’s also very likely that we’ll see a Galaxy Tab S9 family of tablets, including a possible papa bear Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra and mama bear Tab S9 Plus. The last Galaxy Tab S8 family was launched almost a year and a half ago in February, 2022. That older tablet is in need of an update.
The biggest news is that the base model Galaxy Tab S9 may use an OLED screen this year. In the past, the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus and Ultra models used OLED displays, while the Tab S8 base model used an LCD screen. This year could see all of the tablets using the high-contrast tech, which would make the more affordable model an excellent media tablet – especially if it has HDR support (though maybe Samsung will hold this back for the higher-end Tabs).
4. Galaxy Watch 6
The Galaxy Watch range looks likely to get two models: the simpler Galaxy Watch 6 and a Watch 6 Classic that brings a more traditional design to your wrist. We’re expecting a new processor with hopefully better battery life, more health features, and most significantly that Samsung will switch to wearOS for its smartwatch software, which could open up lots of new possibilities for these watches.
The one thing we’re not sure about (or maybe two)
The reason we know with certainty what Samsung is going to launch is thanks to our friendly neighborhood product leakers. In the days and weeks leading up to an event, as Samsung (or Apple, or Google…) prepares for the product launch, more and more details, photos, and actual products get shared widely. As the ship grows, it gets leaky.
We’ve seen supposed photos and renders of just about every product that we’ve mentioned for Samsung Unpacked, except for the Galaxy S23 FE phone. Of all the new products, the FE devices have the spottiest track record for product launches. In fact, rumors suggest that a scheduled Galaxy S22 FE device was cancelled fairly late into planning, and the S22 never saw a bargain Fan Edition phone.
It seems like a cheaper Galaxy S23 FE is more likely this year, or at least this generation, before the Galaxy S24 is launched early next year. We just haven’t seen any recent leaks, photos, or rumors about this device after we learned some disappointing news about its possible Exynos processor inside.
It’s possible Samsung doesn’t want to muddy the crystal clear waters of its flagship product launch with a bargain phone. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 will likely be the company’s most expensive smartphone. The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra will be the most expensive Android tablet for sure, if the Tab S8 Ultra is a guide.
This is a party for the stars and the spotlight. It may not be the right venue to invite the fans.
Those are the big four areas where we’re expecting launches from Samsung at Unpacked. We’re not expecting any laptops or VR headsets based on the current rumors, even though the company has form in both – and VR headsets have obviously become a hotter topic again after the Apple Vision Pro launch.
But the rumors have been that Samsung is taking its own plans there back to the drawing board after seeing what Vision Pro is capable of. Or maybe those rumors are just being spread by Apple execs.
Still, regardless of what Samsung isn’t planning, what it is planning is big enough for our US Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff, and Senior Staff Writer Axel Metz, to travel to Seoul to see. Their current state can be generously described as “a bit jet laggy”, but they’re there and ready to work. Actually it’s about 4pm there as I write this, so they might already be knocking off for some after-work drinks. As long as they come back by 8pm, that’s fine…
It’s possible we could learn about Samsung’s plans to incorporate AI into its One UI version of Android today. While there’s no real reason the phones need AI, every other company is doing it, so why shouldn’t Samsung?
There certainly are some interesting use cases for it in theory – fast email and text replies, productivity tools to summarise documents, a new digest in the morning, or a big upgrade to Bixby that can answer questions in depth. Whether those answers are accurate or not is another question, but there’s definitely scope for AI in phones.
BTS star and Stray Kids will be at Unpacked
It seems that phones won’t be the only big names at Samsung’s event – there’ll be some K-Pop stars there according to Korea JoongAng Daily.
The report says:
“BTS’s Suga and boy band Stray Kids will likely attend Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event on Wednesday, according to Samsung.
‘Suga and Stray Kids will be appearing at the Unpacked event. But they will likely only attend the event without special performances stages planned,’ a Samsung Electronics spokesperson told the Korea JoongAng Daily on Wednesday.”
Now, I find it a little surprising that the Samsung spokesperson says they will “likely” only attend and not perform, because if anyone would know, it would be the people planning the event. But perhaps negotiations are on-going…
As relatively minor as it might seem in the grand scheme of phone upgrades over the years, I think I’m most excited by the larger cover screen on the Galaxy Z Flip 5. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not that I expect this exterior screen to become massively more useful by becoming larger – you probably won’t start using it to WhatsApp people or anything – but it could probably do more, and add a lot more personality to the phone at the same time. Take a look at this picture of the new Motorola Razr.
I love the way the pattern on the screen complements the design of the phone, and having widgets such as music control gives you useful extra options without having to flip the phone open. It makes the cover screen on the Galaxy X Flip 4, below, look Stone Age in comparison.
I mentioned just before that AI could be something Samsung addresses during its event, though it may not have to… ChatGPT has now launched on Android in the US, and according to our colleagues over at Android Central, Google has hinted at generative AI coming in Android 14.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment with the rumored features on the Flip and Fold new models will be the cameras. It looks like we’re talking modest upgrades at most, even though the Galaxy S23 Ultra is notably way ahead on performance and options.
Now, there are very different designs involved in making a folding handset compared to a traditional one, so there are probably good engineering reasons – but it doesn’t change the fact that if you buy Samsung’s most expensive and advanced phone, you’d like to have its best camera tech too, right? It’ll be interesting to see how much of a dealbreaker this feels like when we can try it, given that we rate the S23 Ultra as the best camera phone on the market.
Bye bye buds
One product we’ve heard nothing about for this year’s even is earbuds. The Samsung Buds 2 Pro launched at the August Unpacked event in 2022, and we thought they were really hot stuff – here’s our Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review.
But there’s no word on new Samsung earbuds of any kind being announced at Unpacked 2023, and we have to assume they’d have leaked by now if they were coming.
It’s not that much of a surprise, because earbuds don’t usually get updated as often as phones – and that’s a good thing, really. The race to launch a new product every year even though the changes are minimal doesn’t really seem necessary at times, so having a chiller pace of life when it comes to earbuds is probably sensible. The Buds 2 Pro remain excellent – enjoy them! Especially because, as we just saw with our Sony WF-1000XM5 review, the new versions aren’t always tons better, and at this stage they tend to be more expensive that the last ones…
If you’re wondering how to watch Samsung Unpacked, you’ll be able to follow it all livestreamed on Samsung’s YouTube channel – or you can stick around here, where we’ll be liveblogging it from the event.
Our on-the-ground reporters in Seoul are currently doing the hard-hitting journalistic work of “having an early dinner”. It’s a tough job, etc.
At least it seems like Samsung won’t have to deal with Apple attempting to muscle in on the folding phones world yet. All the news points to there being zero chance of an Apple foldable this year, and maybe not for a couple of years yet.
That seems especially slow on Apple’s part, though it’s not like the company is exactly struggling for sales. But it would certainly raise the profile of folding phones overall if the single biggest name in phones joined the party – and I’m sure Samsung would love to run a whole ad campaign gloating about how much earlier it got there.
Just over 3 hours to go
There’s not long to go now – as a reminder, the big headline products today will be updates to the two products shown above. We’re expecting a new Fold and a new Flip, but also multiple new Galaxy Tabs, and a couple of smartwatches.
I mentioned that we’re expecting the new phones to use the latest Snapdragon chips, but there are rumors that Samsung would like to start using its own Exynos chips in more countries (via Android Police).
Ironically, the Galaxy S23 is where Samsung really made a break from using Exynos at all – it used to use it in global models, but used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon in the US for boring and annoying patent reasons. With the S23, it went all-Snapdragon, which felt like a moment of huge change… and yet, already it sounds like the company wants to undo it.
But that seems like it’s going to be more likely something for the S24 engineers to work out – we’re sure the Fold and Flip to stick with Snapdragon.
We know Foldables are expected to headline the presentation tomorrow (just look at that teaser image), with new entries in the Galaxy Z Fold and Flip lines. As such, plenty of leakers are reporting new and improved folding mechanisms to increase durability and make sure the folding action looks and feels seamless.
Specifically for the Z Fold 4, reports suggest it could introduce a new waterdrop hinge design, allowing the two halves to sit completely flush when unfolded, straight as an arrow.
However when it comes to looks, the Z Fold 5’s design is expected to be rather similar to the Z Fold 4’s. If you’ve seen the Fold 4 (above), you’ve apparently seen the 5, according to reports and renders.
Let’s talk watches for a minute. Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 looks set to pack a whole host of new features already announced by Samsung, including new health tools such as an Food and Drug Administration-approved Irregular Heart Rhythm Notification feature – an accreditation even Apple has yet to get, and one already announced by Samsung.
Blood pressure monitoring, a rumored new optical heart rate sensor, skin temperature monitoring, high heart rate notifications… this is going to be one of the most comprehensive, and accredited, health watches on the planet if the word on the street is accurate.
We’re also expecting all the usual fitness bells and whistles including really good sleep tech (last year’s Sleep Animals feature, which assigns you personalized guidance based on sleep habits, was a real hit) and comprehensive workout and GPS features. More on them in a minute.
Last year’s Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 arrived with a Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, which boasted a redesigned case, raised bezel, larger screen and more GPS/outdoor-focused features.
There has been a little bit of a debate around the net as to whether the Watch 6 will arrive accompanied by a Pro model or, like the Watch 4 before it, a Classic model. The Watch 4 Classic was a larger version of the Watch 4 with a rotating stainless steel bezel, which not only provided a new way to cycle through the options on the device but gave it a timeless, analog-style look with the right watch face.
The rumor mill seems to have settled on the fact that a Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is coming and a Pro is not, thanks to reports from tipsters such as Ice Universe. You can check out our Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 rumor page for more information, while we wait for it all to kick off.
Samsung’s watches have some great GPS credentials rivaling even Garmin, with access to a comprehensive series of satellite networks such as GLONASS and BEIDOU. Last year’s Watch 5 Pro introduced the Track Back feature, which offers you directions during difficult hikes to get you back to the start of your route.
We’re hoping that appears on both Watch models this time to avoid having to pull a Joey (see above), along with a bigger battery to squeeze more juice out of your watch’s power-hogging GPS mode.
If you want to see how that rotating bezel on the Watch 6 Classic is going to look in action, read out Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic review to get an idea of what to expect.
Not only does it look great, but it’s another way to navigate through your options on the watch too.
Back to phones for a minute, and the Galaxy Z Flip 5 may well be the standout this year. The foldable smartphone is expected to feature a 3.4-inch cover screen, a significant improvement from its predecessor’s 1.9-inch cover screen.
Notably, reports suggest the Galaxy Z Flip 5 will also boast that new gapless hinge we talked about earlier, enhancing its durability and user experience.
It’s unlikely to be cheap, though: the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is expected to start at $1,799 / £1,649 / AU$2,499 while the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is rumored to come with an approximate price tag of $1,200 / £1,200 / AU$1,800. You can check out our list of everything we want to see on the Z Flip 5 here.
In case you’ve just joined us: Samsung Unpacked will commence in just two hours’ time, and we’re covering the action both remotely and (in the case of US editor-in-chief Lance Ulanoff and phones writer Axel Metz) in Seoul.
Want to see all the reveals as they happen? You can check out our how to watch Samsung Unpacked guide.
If you are just tuning in, or waking up, a recap: Samsung is set to unveil both the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 at 12pm GMT today, 8pm Korea time.
Z Fold 5: what new colors will be available?
There’s no doubt that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is going to be one of the stars of Unpacked. And while its design is expected to be similar to its predecessor, there could well be tweaked color options.
According to rumors, the Z Fold 5 is going to be available in beige, black, light blue, dark blue and platinum. That said, those last two may be exclusive to specific stores, most likely Samsung’s own ones. So if you’re thinking of buying one and like the sound of those last two colors, it might be wise to start forming your battleplan.
Will we see the Samsung Galaxy Ring?
This is one to file under ‘possible, but unlikely’. Last week we heard rumors that Samsung’s long-rumored Oura Ring rival had taken another small step towards reality, but it was a baby step – with Samsung apparently making early prototypes.
That doesn’t sound like the Galaxy Ring, as promising as it is, will launch anytime soon. Could Samsung give us a sneak peek at Unpacked anyway? Maybe, but this isn’t an Apple Vision Pro that needs developer support – an announcement in 2024 looks more likely.
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