At its annual Unpacked event on Wednesday, Samsung unveiled its latest Galaxy S smartphones — and the company is betting that a focus on camera improvements will be enough to get users to upgrade.
The new lineup, 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 with new photo features, longer battery life (with faster charging speeds) and an exceptional chip.
But the standout feature is the new camera. The higher-end S23 Ultra features a new 200MP adaptive pixel sensor for the first time that supports multiple levels of high-resolution processing at once, enabling what the company called “unprecedented image quality with a resolution never before seen on a smartphone camera “.
The new phones offer improved photo and video stabilization, Nightography for photos and videos (allowing the ability to capture photos in low-light situations), and a new AI-powered image signal processing algorithm that improves subject detail and color tone .
Samsung also introduced its first Super HDR selfie camera, jumping from 30fps to 60fps 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 in design. The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s display comes with reduced curvature to create a larger and flatter surface designed to enhance the visual experience. Its Enhanced Comfort feature allows users to adjust color tones and contrast levels and reduce eye strain at night. Its vision enhancer also received an update to further reduce glare.
Ahead of the event, Jude Buckley, executive vice president of mobile business for Samsung Electronics America, told CNN that their strategy continues to be at the forefront of camera innovation.
“We’re trying to have some really unique things, and the camera is one of the things 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 said its quarterly profits fell to their lowest level in eight years as customers bought fewer smartphones and laptops. Its revenue also fell 8% from the previous year.
Although the company is keeping prices the same as last year, it still has to convince customers to pay up to four figures for its new range of phones in a tough market.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra, which comes with Samsung’s signature S pen, will start at $1,199.99, while the Galaxy S23+ starts at $999.99 and the Galaxy S23 starts at $799.99.
The new range, which is available for pre-order from Wednesday, comes in four matte colours: black, cream, green and lavender. Other colors, such as Lime, Graphite, Sky Blue and Red, will be available for purchase directly on Samsung.com.
The company also showed off its latest flagship Galaxy Book3 PC series: the high-end Galaxy Book3 Ultra ($2,399.99); Book3 Pro 360 ($1,899.99) – featuring a 2-in-1 convertible form factor with S Pen functionality; and the Galaxy Book3 Pro ($1,449), a thin clamshell laptop.
While the new features in the S23 range may not be revolutionary, some may resonate with its loyal users and keep Samsung competitive in the market.
“The Galaxy S23 family demonstrates how difficult it is to tell a new story in today’s smartphone market,” said Leo Gebbi, principal analyst at CCS Insight. “Samsung’s latest devices are undoubtedly impressive, but the emphasis on improvements in camera capabilities and battery life is nothing new. They highlight the difficulty Samsung and other phone makers are having in finding truly new ways to promote and sell their products.
David McQueen, research director at ABI Research, said manufacturers are continuing to roll out incremental updates rather than waiting two years to release a new impactful device because “the market is moving so fast now”.
“Companies need to be seen to deliver new devices with the latest technology, no matter how subtle the upgrade, in order to survive,” he said.
Samsung agrees. Buckley told CNN that while some updates are bigger than others, he needs to keep up with the latest trends to stay competitive.
“Our legacy is technology, and we have a very fierce competitor that has done an incredible job for many, many years,” Buckley said, apparently referring to Apple. “And if your technology, if your value proposition is based on technology, you always have to be at the forefront. If you were the first to go every two years, it would be a painful two years.