At its annual Unpacked event on Wednesday, Samsung unveiled its latest Galaxy S smartphones – and the company is betting that focusing on improvements to the camera will be enough to get consumers 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, look similar to last year’s models, but with new photo features, a longer lasting battery life (with faster charging speeds) and an exclusive chip.
But the standout feature is the new camera. The higher-end S23 Ultra features a new 200 MP adaptive pixel sensor for the first time that supports multiple levels of high-resolution processing at once, enabling what the company called “unprecedented resolution photo quality 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 shots in low light situations) and a new AI-powered image signal processing algorithm that enhances object details and color 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 contour housing has been removed, which Samsung said marks a new era of design. The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s display comes with a reduced curvature to create a larger and flatter surface intended to improve the visual experience. Its Enhanced comfort feature allows users to adjust color tones and contrast levels, and lessen eye strain at night. Its vision booster tool also got an update to further cut down on glare.
Ahead of the event, Jude Buckley, executive VP of the mobile business for Samsung Electronics America, told CNN its strategy continues to be staying at the forefront of camera innovation.
“We try to own a few things really uniquely, and the camera is one of the things that we have to stay well ahead of,” he said.
The launch comes at as Samsung and other tech companies confront broader economic uncertainty that could push consumers to rethink their spending. Global smartphone shipments fell by 18% in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to market research firm Canalys.
Earlier this week, Samsung reported that its quarterly profits had plunged to their lowest level in eight years as customers snapped up fewer smartphones and laptops. Its revenue also fell 8% from the prior year.
While the company is keeping prices the same as the prior year, it nonetheless must convince customers to shell out as much as four figures for its new phone lineup in a tough market.
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 Galaxy S23 starts at $799.99.
The new lineup, which is available for pre-order starting on Wednesday, comes in four matte colors: 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 PC Galaxy Book3 series: the high-end Galaxy Book3 Ultra ($2,399.99); the Book3 Pro 360 ($1899.99) – featuring a 2-in-1 convertible form factor with S Pen functionality; and the Galaxy Book3 Pro ($1449), a thin clamshell laptop.
While the new features in the S23 lineup may not be revolutionary, some may resonate with its loyal users and keep Samsung competitive in the market.
“The Galaxy S23 family demonstrates just how hard it is to tell a new story in today’s smartphone market,” said Leo Gebbie, principal analyst at CCS Insight. “The latest devices from Samsung are undoubtedly impressive but the emphasis on improvements to camera capabilities and battery life is nothing new. They underscore the difficulty that Samsung and other phone makers have in finding genuinely new ways to promote and sell their products.”
David McQueen, an research director at ABI Research, said manufacturers continue to dole out incremental updates, rather than waiting two years to release a new impactful device, because “the market moves so quickly now.”
“Companies need to be seen to be providing new devices with the latest technology, no matter how unnoticeable the upgrade, to survive,” he said.
Samsung agrees. Buckley told CNN that while some updates are bigger than others, it has to stay on top of the latest trends to remain competitive.
“Our heritage is technology, and we have a very fierce competitor who has done an amazing job over many, many years,” Buckley said, in an apparent reference to Apple. “And if your technology, if your value proposition is based in technology, you’ve always gotta be at the forefront. If you were the first to go to every two years, that’d be a painful two years.”