Samsung Galaxy Unpacked Hollywood, Look Out
The smartphone has been a major competitor in the digital camera market for several years. According to Statista, the worldwide revenue of digital cameras in 2022 was US$21.26 Billion, down from $29.03 Billion in 2014.
Samsung announced its new Galaxy S23 line at the Galaxy Unpacked event 2023 in San Francisco on Wednesday. It’s difficult to imagine how traditional digital cameras will ever recover based on the specs and features of this new smartphone line.
Samsung also had some surprises in store for the laptop market. Let’s focus on a few things that caught my eye.
S22 Ultra Steroids
The S23 Ultra may be merely an iterative upgrade to the S22 Ultra. However, its revised features are not to be sneezed at: a new Snapdragon processor, an upgraded 200-megapixel sensor for the primary camera, and only a modest change in the device’s design.
The S23 Ultra still comes with its S Pen, a stylus that is integrated into the device. Samsung has thankfully not increased prices in comparison to its flagship S22 Ultra. Samsung fans will be happy to learn that the S23 Ultra’s MSRP is $1199. However, it comes with twice as much storage compared to the model from last year. Don’t expect egg companies to follow Samsung’s pricing strategy.
The S23 Ultra’s high-resolution camera is still the biggest news, as it has been in the past few years. This device has a 200-megapixel camera, up from the 108-megapixel model of last year. Before you get too excited by the 200-megapixel photos (imagine the size of the files), consider that the S23 Ultra uses computational photography to stitch 16 pixels together in order to improve light. This produces a 12-megapixel photo.
You can adjust the settings on your phone to capture images up to 200 megapixels, but this is usually only required by professionals who need high-resolution images for wall displays. Samsung claims that its optical image stabilization on the main camera is much stronger, and automatically corrects for 3 degrees more vibration than the 1.5 degree correction in the S22 Ultra.
I was also interested in a few subtle tweaks that were made to the S23. The S23 Ultra has a “vision booster” tone mapping algorithm which enhances the display for viewing in bright environments. It can also adapt to different lighting conditions and improve battery performance.
What I also noticed at the event was Samsung’s continued positioning of their premium smartphones as an essential replacement for professional film and video production.
In a recorded video interview that was broadcast at the event, Ridley Scott spoke effusively about his use of high-end Samsung phones to capture nearly all of the footage for his latest film, the professional quality and the ability to take pictures in tight spaces, which is simply impossible with DSLR cameras.
This is a bit of a “me-too” situation, given that Stephen Spielberg shot a music clip with an iPhone last year.
Samsung (with Apple) will continue to embrace computational photography for their premium smartphones. It’s amazing to think about the impact of modern smartphones on young filmmakers, like Stephen Spielberg’s alter ego from “The Fablemans”, which was nominated for Best Picture this year at the Oscars.
Galaxy Unpacked 2023 did not include any announcements about new tablets, earbuds, or smartwatches, but new Samsung laptops received a lot of attention. Samsung’s laptop market share is modest in the United States, compared to its competitors Dell, HP and Lenovo. However, these new models may raise eyebrows.
Galaxy Book3 Ultra
Samsung’s Galaxy Book3 Ultra, a thin and attractively-designed laptop from Samsung, is a serious competitor to Apple’s MacBook Pro. This laptop’s 16″ AMOLED screen has a 3K resolution (2880×1800) and a refresh rate of 120Hz. It is one of the most vibrant and bright screens I have ever seen.
It’s ideal for gamers and content creators.
Samsung’s discrete graphics is a good choice, as it has Nvidia Broadcast with Eye Contact Correction. This is a feature that is very important for videoconferencing and podcast production. The unit is impressively compact, and I am curious to know how loud it runs. This was difficult to determine due to the noise levels in the demo room.
It’s a cheaper alternative to the comparable MacBook Pro at $2,199.
Galaxy Book3 Pro 360
A range of laptops with more moderate prices were also announced. Samsung’s Galaxy Book3 Pro 360 has a touchscreen, integrated style, and a 16″ AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate. This model uses Intel’s Core i5 and i7 13th Gen processors, and comes with standard Wi-Fi and optional 5G radio.
Galaxy Book3 Pro 360 is available in a variety of memory and storage configurations. The starting price for this device is $1,399.
Galaxy Book3 Pro
Samsung has announced its entry-level Galaxy Book3 Pro, which starts at $1,149. This model comes with either a 14” or a 16” AMOLED display, Intel 13th Gen Processors, and modest memory (8GB and 16GB), and storage configurations (1TB, 512GB and 256GB).
Apple will not begin to reveal its cards until the WWDC event, usually in June, and the iPhone 15 announcement in September.
Samsung is currently pushing the accelerator for the computational photography feature of its smartphones. It is interesting to note that no new designs of foldable smartphones were announced at Galaxy Unpacked. This indicates a limited market appeal due to the high price and unconvincing use models for these devices.
Samsung may not want to admit it, but Apple is needed to validate this space and jump in. Apple, according to industry rumors, may not release foldable tablet (or smartphone) models before 2024 or 2025.
Samsung’s emphasis on an integrated ecosystem is important to note. It goes beyond the hardware of the laptops that were launched yesterday. Apple has built an enormous business by convincing consumers to buy Apple-branded products that allow them to seamlessly transfer content and resume work between devices with a similar user experience .
Samsung’s Galaxy Book puts all of a user’s Galaxy apps and features into one place. This makes it easier for the user to manage their Samsung account.
Other PC vendors have tried to do this, but with mixed results. This is mainly due to the OEM differentiation dynamics and Windows’ open nature which does not easily facilitate a sharing experience. Samsung’s ability to pull this off remains to be seen.
The fact that iPhone users — approximately half of all smartphone owners — do not have access to the Windows legacy ecosystem in terms of text messaging is also a problem. It is because I cannot access iMessage from a Windows device that I have remained in the Apple ecosystem. Windows devices are often cheaper and more feature-rich than comparable Apple products. I suspect that I am not the only person stuck in this mess.
Samsung, due to its long-standing presence in the smartphone market, is one of few companies who can provide an alternative ecosystem to Apple. Samsung is still catching up to Apple in some ways, but it has presented a credible alternative for consumers. It’s always good for them when they are able to make smart choices that suit their needs.