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(LEAD) Galaxy Unpacked Seoul brings next-gen, lighter foldables with new hinge

Samsung Electronics Co. unveiled its fifth generation of foldable smartphones Wednesday, in the latest move in the premium segment where the South Korean tech firm is a trailblazer but that is now becoming increasingly crowded with more players.At the…

Samsung Electronics Co. unveiled its fifth generation of foldable smartphones Wednesday, in the latest move in the premium segment where the South Korean tech firm is a trailblazer but that is now becoming increasingly crowded with more players.

At the summer edition of the Galaxy Unpacked, Samsung showed off the Galaxy Z Fold 5 that opens and closes like a book and the clamshell Galaxy Z Flip 5. The Galaxy Watch 6 and the Galaxy Tab S9 were also among the headliners.

The biggest change to the next-generation foldables was the new waterdrop-shaped hinge that allows the phones to close up completely. The previous versions had a small gap near the hinge when folded shut, which made phones feel bulkier, and invited complaints from users.

Except for the upgraded hinge, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 has similar specs to the previous model launched last year. It comes with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, 12GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage. It has the 6.2-inch external display and a 7.6-inch inner display, the same as the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

But it became slimmer and lighter, great improvements for those who hesitated to buy one due to its bulky size. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 weighs 253 grams, versus the previous models' 263 grams. It is 6.1 millimeters thick when open and 13.4 mm when closed. The previous model was 6.3 mm and 14.2-15.8 mm, respectively.

"Every day, more people choose our foldables because they offer an experience people want that they can't get on any other device," Roh Tae-moon, president and head of Samsung Electronics' mobile division, said at the event.

"The Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Galaxy Z Fold 5 are the latest devices that prove our commitment to meeting the needs of our customers through innovative technology," he said.

As for the clamshell Galaxy Z Flip 5, it is by far the only Samsung Galaxy phone that has a significant design change this year: the outer display became twice as large compared with its predecessor, thereby allowing users to be able to do more without flipping open the phone.

Samsung aims to raise the portion of foldable phones, which were first introduced in 2019, to half of its total smartphone sales by 2025, and to make them another pillar of the company alongside the Galaxy S flagship series and a key category in the premium segment.

According to market researcher Canalys, Samsung accounted for approximately 77 percent of foldable phone shipments worldwide last year.

Foldable phone shipments are expected to reach 21.4 million units this year, up more than 50 percent from a year ago, as consumers start to embrace the new form factor, the International Data Corp. said. By 2027, the figure could reach 48.1 million, it estimated, driven by "a healthy demand for this growing form factor."

Google launched its first foldable phone in May, emerging as a serious competitor of Samsung.

The phone, Pixel Fold, is heavier than the Galaxy Z Fold 5 but is slightly slimmer at 12.1 millimeters thick. Samsung's phone has better camera functions, while the Pixel Fold has a 4,821mAh battery capacity, slightly larger than Samsung's 4,400mAh.

The two use different processors, with the former on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, while the latter on Google's own Tensor G2.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 does not include an S Pen slot, but there is the S Pen Fold Edition that supports the S Pen functions.

It is the first time for Samsung to hold the biannual event on its home turf. Samsung chose Seoul as the city is "a place where traditional culture and futuristic visions intersect to inspire global trends and game-changing innovation."

Around 2,000 people from around the world, including journalists, employees of Samsung partner companies, celebrities and influencers, fully packed a hall of the Convention and Exhibition Center in southern Seoul.

Suga of BTS, American actor Sydney Sweeney and Wonyoung of K-pop girl group IVE experienced or talked about the new Galaxy foldable phones during the event that was also livestreamed online. The latter two took selfies together during the show, which Samsung said will appear on the company's website to download for free.

Previously, Samsung held the event in Europe or the United States in February and August to introduce the latest flagship Galaxy devices to its global audience.

In February, Samsung held the event in San Francisco to introduce three models of the Galaxy S23 series -- Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23 Plus and a luxury model Galaxy S23 Ultra -- and Galaxy Book3 laptops, among others.

Preorders for the new foldables will start next Tuesday and run for a week. The official launch date is set for Aug. 11 in South Korea, with prices starting at 1.39 million won (US$1,089) for the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and 2.09 million won for the Galaxy Z Fold 5.

Source: Yonhap News Agency