August 10, 2018

Samsung Unpacked 2018: Everything You Need to Know

Samsung's annual Unpacked event unfolded today, where the Korean company unveils new and upcoming tech like smartphones and wearables. This year the company showed off the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, the Galaxy Home smart speaker, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch. Here's a quick round-up of everything announced at this year's event and what you can expect going forward.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung is expanding its Note line-up with the Galaxy Note 9, which features a similar build style to last year's Galaxy Note 8.

Specifications

* Size: 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm

* Weight: 201g (7.1oz)

* Display: 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen with 2,960 x 1440 resolution and 516 ppi

* SoC: 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 845 in the US, Samsung Exynos 9810 globally

* GPU: Adreno 630 for Snapdragon processors, ARM Mali-G72 MP18 for Exynos processors

* Memory: 6/8GB RAM

* Storage: 128GB/512GB with microSD support up to 512GB

* Cameras: Dual rear cameras with OIS one wide-angle and one telephoto, one front facing camera with f/1.7 aperture

* Battery: 4,000mAh non-removable battery with fast charging capabilities

* Ships with Android 8.1 Oreo

Samsung made sure to create a device that features tons of storage support, with the base model Galaxy Note 9 offering 128GB of storage, those obsessed with taking their media with them can get a device with a whopping 512GB of onboard storage.

Samsung's Galaxy Note series has always been known for its long battery life, and the Galaxy Note 9 is no exception. It's launching with a 4,000mAh battery, which is nearly 20% bigger than the battery included on the Galaxy Note 8.

Alongside the phone comes a new wireless charger called Duo, which is capable of fast charging two smartphones at the same time. Additionally, the new phablet will launch with a headphone jack and USB-C ports for connectivity, so Samsung isn't quite ready to follow Apple's entirely wireless future.

Galaxy Home & Bixby Improvements

Alongside the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung vice president Ji Soo Yi announced the company has been hard at work on making Bixby a better digital assistant. Samsung's first smart speaker featuring this assistant is called the Galaxy Home, and it's intended to compete directly with Google Home, HomePod, and Amazon's Echo devices.

The stage presentation for the event showcased being able to make restaurant reservations and call an Uber driver all with simple requests directly to the Bixby assistant. Galaxy Home comes with some neat music-focused improvements, too.

A feature called SoundSteer will allow Bixby to pinpoint your location in a room and direct the music towards you instead of filling the room with audio as a traditional speaker would. The Galaxy Home features eight microphones to detect the "Hey Bixby" hotword.

An on-stage demonstration also showcased some of the features that have been added to Bixby to make it more useful. The stage demo showcased Bixby making restaurant reservations at a French restaurant and automatically filling in the smartphone owner's information. To showcase Bixby's new natural language processing capabilities, the stage presenter told the assistant, "I need a ride to JFK." That phrase triggered the Uber hailing along with an ETA and pricing suggestions for the trip.

Another feature of Bixby is that requesting these services doesn't mean you need the app installed on your phone. Samsung has partnerships with companies like Yelp and Uber to ensure a seamless experience while using Bixby without a lot of backend setup.

As for pricing and availability of the Galaxy Home, Samsung isn't ready to talk just yet. All of Bixby's new capabilities will be included on the Galaxy Note 9 when it launches on August 24. The company says we'll learn more about the Galaxy Home series of devices at the Samsung Developer Conference in November.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

The Samsung Gear smartwatch series has been one of the most successful wearables to date, but Samsung is ready to move on. Today the company announced the Samsung Galaxy Watch, which runs the Tizen OS just like the Gear S2 and S3. Aside from debunking the Android Wear OS rumors, the Galaxy Watch is the most watch-like smart device on the market. It ticks every second just like a standard analog watch, which could be a divisive feature among wearable owners.

The Galaxy Watch will launch with two base models available for purchase. The first comes with Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, while the second features Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE connectivity. Those are the only two notable differences between the two smartwatches, aside from price.

The 42mm Galaxy Watch will be available in midnight black and rose gold for $375, while the 46mm model will be available in silver and starts at $400. Equipment installment plans will be available from all major carriers and Samsung's online store. The watch will launch in over 15 countries, but Samsung has not given a specific date just yet.

Samsung Wearables & Android Pie

Finally, a quick note for Samsung Gear wearable owners who might be considering upgrading their phones to the recently released Android 9.0 Pie release. Users on Reddit are reporting that the Samsung Gear app cannot connect to the wearable on devices running Android Pie. The app works fine and the device works fine, but they cannot communicate on the new OS. Attempting to connect the two causes the process to crash without completing.

This problem is an unfortunate gaffe that isn't timed well considering Samsung just unveiled the new Galaxy Watch at its Unpacked event, but hopefully, Samsung will have a fix for Gear wearable users soon. Plenty of angry users are already reporting the issue through Google Play Store ratings for the Gear app. In the meantime, it's recommended to hold off testing the latest Android update on your device if you make use of the Gear wearable in your daily life.

Overall, Samsung's Unpacked event was feature-filled this year, and it shows the South Korean company is looking to go toe-to-toe with giants like Google and Amazon when it comes to smart home devices.



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