10 big things you missed from Samsung Unpacked 2023

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 next to each other on a white table.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

Samsung’s midyear Unpacked event has just concluded, and it featured the usual slate of big foldable and wearable announcements. As expected, we saw Samsung unveil the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Galaxy Z Fold 5, a new Galaxy Tab S9 lineup, and a pair of Galaxy Watch 6 models representing a comeback for the much-loved Galaxy Watch Classic style.

Needless to say, there was a lot to take in today, and some details can easily get glossed over in the midst of all the big tentpole product announcements. While Samsung’s new product lineup is undoubtedly exciting, the upgrades over last year’s models are more iterative — and in some cases even lateral — but Samsung still had a few surprises for us.

The Galaxy Z Flip 5 gets a nice storage boost

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 half-folded open.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

While the Galaxy Z Fold 4 started at 256GB last year, the Z Flip 4 only gave you half that, which was a bit disappointing considering its $1,000 price tag. Thankfully, Samsung has followed the lead it set with this year’s Galaxy S23 Plus and S23 Ultra and boosted the entry-level storage for the Flip to 256GB.

You still only get 8GB of RAM, and the elimination of the lowest storage tier doesn’t add another one at the top. The Galaxy Z Flip 5 now only comes in two capacities — 256GB and 512GB — and there’s no SD card expansion, so you’ll still want to choose carefully. However, while 128GB may have felt a bit cramped, the new base 256GB capacity should provide more comfortable headroom for most Flip owners.

The Flip’s Bespoke Edition is no more

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 bespoke edition colors in various combinations.
Samsung / Samsung

The Galaxy Z Flip is ostensibly Samsung’s “fun” foldable, and nowhere was this more apparent than in the plethora of colors and customizations available for the Galaxy Z Flip 4. Off the shelf, the Flip 4 came in fun colors like Bora Purple, Pink Gold, and even an eye-catching blue that was nicely saturated and vibrant without being overdone. Of course, there was also still Graphite for those who preferred a more unadorned look.

However, it was the Bespoke studio that really put the Galaxy Z Flip 4 in a class of its own when it came to creative design and style. This gave you over 70 color combinations to choose from so you could mix things up and make your foldable smartphone truly your own.

Sadly, that option doesn’t carry over to the Galaxy Z Flip 5, which is only available in single-tone colors. The good news is you get eight to choose from: mint, graphite, cream, and lavender for general availability, and exclusive gray, blue, green, and yellow for those ordering directly from Samsung’s website.

The Flip has a gorgeous new cover screen — with a catch

Different widgets for the cover screen on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

The original Galaxy Z Flip has always been a pretty amazing phone when it’s opened, but sadly, you had to open it more often than you should have. That’s because the tiny cover screen wasn’t particularly great for showing much more than the time and basic notifications. The 1.9-inch display in the Z Flip 3 was a nice boost, but it still fell short of the expansive full-screen cover found on Samsung’s more powerful and premium Z Fold lineup.

This year that all changes with a 3.4-inch 60Hz AMOLED panel on the outside that fills about as much of the cover as it can while still leaving room for the two cameras.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 next to the Motorola Razr Plus.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Sadly, as lovely as this new cover screen is — and it is pretty impressive — Samsung hasn’t entirely loosened the chains that bound earlier cover screens. In other words, you can see more information, but you’re still limited in the apps that can actually show that information to you.

This isn’t like the Z Fold 5, where the cover screen functions as a typical smartphone display. Out of the box, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 cover screen only supports Google Messages, Samsung Messages, WhatsApp, Google Maps, YouTube, and Netflix. There’s an official Samsung Good Lock app on the Galaxy Store that will let you run other apps you want on the cover screen via a separate “cover screen launcher,” so it sounds like not much has changed from the Galaxy Z Flip 4 in terms of what you can put on the cover screen. The good news is that at least you’ll be able to see more of whatever you place there.

Samsung’s foldables finally fold flat

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 folded shut.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Samsung has finally fixed one of the annoying disappointments that’s affected the Fold lineup since the beginning. Thanks to a new “Flex Hinge,” the ever-present odd and unsightly gap that appeared when closed is gone. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 finally fold flat.

Samsung may have solved this one just in time, too, as it seems Google beat it at this game with the hinge on the Google Pixel Fold. That may have had its flaws, but it made the gap on the Fold 4 stand out even more by comparison. It’s a small thing, but for anybody who has used a previous Fold, this alone could make an upgrade to the Fold 5 compelling. It also puts the Flip 5 in line with the Motorola Razr Plus, which also folds completely shut.

The new hinge design also felt a bit smoother in the limited time we had with both new foldables, but the durability of it remains the same as before: both devices are still rated for 200,000 folds per Samsung’s internal testing.

The crease remains the same

The main display on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Sadly, there’s still one aspect of physics and material design that foldable smartphones haven’t yet been able to overcome: creating a flexible OLED panel that doesn’t crease at the fold.

Samsung came right out and admitted that it hasn’t made any significant improvements to the crease on either the Fold 5 or Flip 5, suggesting that they’re about the same as before — and we’ve confirmed that from our own hands-on time.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 finally gets much brighter

Main display on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

This year, Samsung has pushed the screen on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 to a peak brightness of 1,750 nits. That’s nearly a 50% improvement over the Fold 4, which offered a more typical 1,200 nits of peak brightness.

This finally puts Samsung’s flagship foldable on par with its other flagship, the Galaxy S23 Ultra, with both models now delivering 1,200 nits in high brightness mode (HBM) and the same 1,750 nits of peak brightness. It also puts the Fold 5 back in the running against Google’s Pixel Fold, which offers the same HBM brightness, but falls a bit short at a 1,550-nits peak.

The result is you’ll have a much easier time using the Galaxy Z Fold 5 outside without squinting at the screen or having to shade it with your hands.

There’s a slimmer and more colorful S Pen

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 with the S Pen case.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 5, Samsung has introduced a new S Pen Fold Edition that it calls “its slimmest yet.”

To get the bad news out of the way first, you’ll still have to buy it separately, and there’s still no slot on the Fold 5 to store it. However, the good news is that Samsung has a solution with its new Slim S-pen Case, which gives you somewhere to stash the S Pen when you’re not using it, and since it’s slimmer, it won’t add nearly as much bulk as previous solutions did.

While the new S Pen is still only available in black when purchased on its own, some fun color choises are available if you opt for the Slim S-pen case, which includes the stylus. These include Icy Blue with a bright yellow S Pen, Sand with a dusty rose S Pen, and Graphite with the basic black S Pen.

The slimmer S Pen snaps into the case while adding as little bulk as possible and pops out with the push of a button when you want to use it. The new S Pen also gets an IP68 rating, which gives it certified dust resistance that the IPX8-rated Galaxy Z Fold 5 lacks.

Samsung’s 14.6-inch Ultra tablet is here to stay

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra sitting on a white shelf.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Shifting gears over to Samsung’s tablets, it looks like the company has fully embraced its massive tablet form factor with the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra this year.

There was a bit of uncertainty about whether the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra would be a one-off, particularly since Samsung chose to release it in only a single Graphite finish. However, this year it’s welcomed into the family with the same color finishes found on the Galaxy Tab S9 and Tab S9 Plus: graphite and beige.

While those aren’t the most exciting colors, the beige is warmer than last year’s silver and more neutral than Pink Gold, both of which have vanished from the lineup.

The Classic smartwatch returns with an even classier design

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic, in black and silver.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

This year brought a sigh of relief for all who feared the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic would spell the end of an era, as we saw the return of an even sleeker classic design with the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.

While the new model has grown a millimeter in size over its two-year-old predecessor, Samsung has made some nice design refinements, including shrinking the still-rotating bezel to make it blend in more. It also removed some of the metallic sheen of the earlier Galaxy Watch model.

This produces an overall package that looks even more understated and elegant, and it’s one of the few smartwatches on the market with a strong appeal for fans of simpler and more traditional designs. Sadly, your color options are still limited to black and silver, but that may not be as big of a problem as it sounds; they’re classic finishes for a classic design.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro lives on

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, side by side on a persons wrist.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic (left) and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Much like it did with the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic last year, Samsung is keeping the more rugged and outdoorsy Galaxy Watch 5 Pro on the market for those looking for something with a bit more of an adventurous flair.

Samsung also plans to improve it with an upcoming software update that we should see reasonably soon and is aimed at adding more trail navigation and hiking features. While that still feels like a slightly naked attempt to compete with what’s coming to the Apple Watch in this fall’s watchOS 10 release, they’ll still be welcome enhancements for those who want to use the Samsung wearable for wilderness adventures.

It will also be interesting to see if this marks the start of an alternating-year cycle for the Classic and Pro Galaxy Watch models, with odd-numbered Pro models and even-numbered Classics.

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