Yes, Samsung, the foldable phone’s exciting, but don’t forget about the Galaxy S10

Samsung's overwhelming February unveils are too much to take in

Galaxy S9 Plus
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Block out February 20 in your diary, right now. Not just an hour or so, but at least half the day for Samsung’s Unpacked 2019 event. Scribble “busy!!!” over the date in red marker on every calendar in the house, and add a ‘Do not disturb’ note to all your online calendars too. Why are such extreme measures necessary?  If you’re a smartphone, technology, or Samsung fan, it’s going to be such a jam-packed day, and you won’t want to miss a moment.

The thing is, we’re expecting so much news and so many new products from Samsung’s first major event of the year, you’ll likely need all this extra time just to take it all in. While we’re all for new and exciting products, on February 20 we’re potentially going to be mainlining so much new Samsung tech, the risk of an overdose is severe.

How much new tech?

What to expect at Unpacked 2019? The Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and most likely the Samsung S10 E (a new entry-level S series phone) will certainly be there, and that’s usually where it would end, outside of maybe a new smartwatch or VR headset. That has been the formula for the majority of Galaxy S-series Unpacked events. The Galaxy S10 is Samsung’s iPhone challenger for the year, it’s the phone most people know Samsung for, the one most will have previously rushed out to buy, and its importance to the company cannot be understated.

That should be enough for one event, right? Wrong. We’re fairly sure a 5G version of the Galaxy S10 is coming, and it makes sense to show the phone off at the same event, regardless of whether you can buy it — or more importantly, use it — yet. That’s four new smartphones, plus lots of 5G benefits talk, garnished with videos of a rosy, low-latency, high-speed future with the 5G S10 in your hand.

Not busy enough for Samsung, because rumors say it’ll also show the long-rumored, highly-anticipated foldable smartphone it has teased since we were all much younger. If it does, then it seems like a spectacularly bad idea. Not only do we all have finite attention spans, but Samsung wants to sell a few Galaxy S10’s this year too, doesn’t it?

The foldable conundrum

samsung foldable smartphone news version 1542212020 galaxy x render
Render of upcoming Samsung Galaxy X smartphone Let's Go Digital

The Samsung foldable smartphone needs, no, deserves, its own unveiling. It shouldn’t be sharing stage time with the Galaxy S10. Actually, that’s not right. The Galaxy S10 shouldn’t be sharing stage time with the foldable phone. Think about it. The foldable smartphone — Samsung’s or otherwise — has been hyped up to the very end, and everyone wants to get a look to see if it’s a great idea, or a stupid one. It’s this uncertainty of if it’ll be a car crash or not that holds our attention.

Samsung cannot win with the timing of any unveiling at Unpacked either. Do it before the Galaxy S10 and no-one will pay attention to what’s supposed to be the main attraction. Do it after, and the S10 will be forgotten sooner than if everyone was overcome with amnesia immediately after the event. It just doesn’t belong there. Even if all we get is another brief look, or promotional video. It will absolutely become the talking point.

We know the foldable smartphone is going to launch before mid-2019. That’s months away. There’s no rush, right? Wrong. If you’re Samsung then it can leap up and down shouting “First!” in Huawei, Oppo, LG, and Xiaomi’s face for the remainder of 2019. Old habits die hard. Samsung loves its world-first tags. From promoting the Galaxy S2 as the world’s first smartphone with a dual-core processor, to the more recent Galaxy A9 being the first with a quad-lens rear camera. It adores arbitrarily one-upping the competition.

In the world of foldable smartphones, the competition is serious. Huawei, another fan of trophy-collecting, apparently has a 5G foldable smartphone waiting for us at Mobile World Congress just a week after Samsung’s Unpacked event. Officially revealing the foldable smartphone on February 20 allows Samsung to still be first, and at the same time irritate Huawei, which is growing at such a rapid rate it’s a threat to Samsung’s core business.

What Galaxy S10?

The Galaxy S9 was not a big seller. Analysts said it was the worst-selling Galaxy phone since the Galaxy S3. Pre-orders for the more expensive Galaxy Note 9 apparently overtook the S9 too, proving how little people cared about it, or could be bothered to upgrade from the Galaxy S8. Surely Samsung is hoping for greater things with the Galaxy S10? In its most recent earnings release, the Galaxy S10 is mentioned by name and the company states the “new flagship model smartphones are expected to prop up sales and business performance in the coming months.”

Why, if that level of expectation is on them, bury them beneath a whole heap of hype? The foldable smartphone, regardless of how amazing it is, is likely to be twice the price of the cheapest Galaxy S10 and that’s not the template for a global best-seller. It’s one for rich early adopters. In the same press release, Samsung says it wants to, “lead trends in the market by launching foldable and 5G devices in efforts to ensure sustainable growth.”

We want this too. We just don’t need to see everything on the same day, and if Samsung chooses to show the foldable smartphone, talk about 5G phones, and reveal a whole family of Galaxy S10 devices, everyone will get very confused about what to talk about, what to buy, and when. Apple suffered when it did the same with the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X, all shown on the same day in 2017. Demand for the iPhone 8 was relatively low as people pondered the iPhone X, which came more than a month after the iPhone 8, before deciding it was really expensive.

If people wait to buy Samsung’s foldable smartphone — which we doubt will be available immediately after February 20 — their choices will double (at least) within a week. Samsung risks some people not buying any of its phones through confusion, trepidation, and fear-of-missing-out. Falling sales numbers and Huawei’s growth show this would not be a good thing.

Is there a solution?

what to expect samsung galaxy unpacked 17 2016
Samsung

Yes. Give us the Galaxy S10 and talk a bit about 5G on February 20, then wait to reveal the foldable smartphone in style. Have some damn confidence. You’re Samsung. The rubbish plastic Galaxy S5, burning Galaxy Note 7s, and the lackluster-but-capable Galaxy S9 didn’t sink you because people anticipate and deify Samsung phones. They will wait to see what you’ve got, especially when we’re talking about such a new type of device, where being first isn’t necessarily a good thing. Please see the interesting, but clearly not ready for the mainstream, Royale Flexpai for proof.

How about just making it a year of Samsung phones? The Galaxy S10 this month, the Galaxy Note 10 in October, and the foldable smartphone somewhere in the middle. Talk about dominating 2019. Even if the foldable phone is ready now (and that’s not certain), why relegate the Galaxy S10, which you say has to prop up sales, to the third paragraph in stories, and to the back of people’s minds? Better to eat your cake now, then have it again in May or June, and again later in the year.

We’ve been teased with your foldable phone for years, so a few more months of waiting won’t make any difference. But it may affect how much attention is paid to the Galaxy S10, which is shaping up to be very interesting. Don’t let it get overshadowed. Whatever Samsung decides to do, February 20 is going to be a day you won’t want to miss. We’ll be at the event with all the news, and hopefully be saying, “We’ll just have to wait a while longer for the Samsung foldable phone.”

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