At its annual Unpacked event on Wednesday, Samsung unveiled its latest Galaxy S smartphone — a focus on improving the camera that the company believes will be enough to get consumers to upgrade.
The new series, which includes the 6.8-inch Galaxy S23 Ultra, 6.6-inch Galaxy S23+ and 6.1-inch Galaxy S23, looks similar to last year’s models but comes with new Photo capabilities, longer battery life (faster charging), and a dedicated chip.
But the standout feature is the new camera. The higher-end S23 Ultra features for the first time a new 200 MP Adaptive Pixel sensor that simultaneously supports multiple levels of high-resolution processing, enabling what the company says is “unprecedented resolution photo quality never seen before on a smartphone camera.”
The new phones offer improved photo and video stabilization, photo and video Night Scene (which allows for photos taken in low-light conditions), and new AI image signal processing algorithms that enhance object detail and tone.
Samsung also introduced its first Super HDR selfie camera, jumping from 30 frames per second to 60 frames per second for better front-facing images and videos.
The cameras on the Galaxy S23+ and Galaxy S23 even have a subtle new look: the contoured housing has been removed, which Samsung says marks a new era of design. The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s display has reduced curvature, resulting in a larger, flatter surface designed to improve the viewing experience. Its Enhanced comfort feature allows users to adjust color tone and contrast levels and reduce eye strain at night. Its vision-enhancing tools have also been updated to further reduce glare.
Ahead of the event, Samsung Electronics America’s executive vice president of mobile business Jude Buckley told CNN that its strategy continues to be at the forefront of camera innovation.
“We’re trying to have something very unique, and the camera is one of those things that we have to stay ahead of,” he said.
The launch comes as Samsung and other tech companies face broader economic uncertainty that could prompt consumers to rethink their spending. Global smartphone shipments fell 18% in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to market research firm Canalys.
earlier this week, Samsung reported its weakest quarterly profit in eight years as customers snapped up fewer smartphones and laptops. Its revenue also fell 8% from the previous year.
While the company kept prices the same as last year, it still had to convince customers to pay up to four figures for its new line of phones in a tough market.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra, which features Samsung’s signature S Pen, starts at $1,199.99, while the Galaxy S23+ starts at $999.99 and the Galaxy S23 starts at $799.99.
The new collection, available for pre-order starting Wednesday, comes in four matte colours: black, cream, green and lavender. Additional colors such as Lime, Graphite, Sky Blue and Red are available directly on Samsung.com.
The company also showed off its latest line of flagship PCs, the Galaxy Book3: the high-end Galaxy Book3 Ultra ($2,399.99); the Book3 Pro 360 ($1,899.99), a 2-in-1 convertible form factor with S Pen functionality; and the Galaxy Book3 Pro ($1,449). $), a thin and light clamshell laptop.
While the new features in the S23 series may not be revolutionary, some of them may resonate with loyal users and keep Samsung competitive in the market.
“The Galaxy S23 series proves how difficult it is to tell a new story in today’s smartphone market,” said Leo Gebbie, principal analyst at CCS Insight. “Samsung’s latest devices are certainly impressive, but the emphasis is on camera features and battery life improvements. It’s nothing new. They highlight the difficulty Samsung and other phone makers are having in finding really new ways to market and sell their products.”
David McQueen, research director at ABI Research, said manufacturers continue to distribute incremental updates rather than wait two years to release new impactful devices because “the market is changing so quickly now.”
“No matter how unobtrusive the upgrade, a company needs to be seen as delivering new equipment with the latest technology to survive,” he said.
Samsung agrees. Barkley told CNN that while some updates are bigger than others, it has to stay on top of the latest trends to stay competitive.
“Our heritage is technology, and we have a very fierce competitor who has done really well over the years,” Buckley said, apparently referring to Apple. “If your technology, if your value proposition is based on technology, then you have to stay on the cutting edge. If you’re the first to go every two years, it’s going to be two painful years.”