Galaxy Unpacked 2023: Hollywood, Look Out
It’s no secret that the smartphone has dramatically cannibalized the traditional digital camera space over the past several years. According to Statista, worldwide revenue for digital cameras was US$21.26 billion in 2022, down from a high of $29.03 billion in 2014.
At Wednesday’s Galaxy Unpacked 2023 event in San Francisco, Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy S23 series. Judging by the specs and new features in this new smartphone lineup, it’s hard to fathom how the traditional digital camera space will ever recover.
In addition, Samsung had a few things up its sleeves to announce in the laptop space. Let’s highlight a few items that caught my attention.
S22 Ultra on Steroids
While it could be said that the new S23 Ultra is simply an iterative update to the existing S22 Ultra, the revised features are nothing to sneeze at: an updated Snapdragon processor, a new 200-megapixel primary camera sensor, and a relatively modest change to the device’s body.
The S23 Ultra retains an integrated stylus, its S Pen. Mercifully, Samsung chose not to increase prices compared to the existing flagship S22 Ultra. Samsung’s devotees will be pleased to see that the starting MSRP of the S23 Ultra is $1,199, but it now comes with 256GB of storage, twice the amount compared to last year’s model. Unfortunately, don’t expect the egg industry to emulate Samsung’s pricing strategy.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra specifications (Image Credit: Samsung)
As it has been for the past several years, the big news is the premium high-res camera on the S23 Ultra. The device jumps from 108 megapixels in last year’s model to a whopping 200 megapixels this year. However, before one gets too excited about capturing 200-megapixel images with it (just imagine the file size), the S23 Ultra’s computational photography capability stitches 16 pixels together to enhance light and produces a much more pragmatic 12-megapixel image.
Of course, you can change the phone’s settings to take a 200-megapixel image, but these sizes are usually needed only by professional content creators needing high-resolution wall-size images. Much more helpful is Samsung’s claim that the main camera’s optical image stabilization is significantly stouter, automatically correcting for 3 degrees of vibration versus the current 1.5 in the S22 Ultra.
A few other subtle “under the hood” tweaks to the S23 Ultra caught my attention. The S23 Ultra incorporates a “vision booster” tone mapping algorithm that not only enhances the screen for viewing in very bright light environments but can also adapt to a wide array of lighting conditions, allowing the device to improve its battery performance.
What also stood out to me during the event was Samsung continued positioning of its premium smartphones as a fundamental replacement for professional video and film production.
To that end, famed movie director Ridley Scott, in a recorded interview broadcast during the event, effusively spoke about how he uses high-end Samsung smartphones to shoot nearly all the footage in his latest movie, professional-grade video quality, and the ability to shoot in small spaces that are simply not possible with larger legacy DSLR cameras.
Director Ridley Scott discusses how he uses Samsung smartphones to shoot movie footage. (Image Credit: Samsung)
Of course, this is something of a “me too” aspect, considering that Stephen Spielberg used an iPhone to shoot a music video last year.
Nevertheless, Samsung’s (with Apple in tow) embrace of computational photography in their premium smartphones is here to stay. Like Stephen Spielberg’s young alter ego in “The Fablemans” — which is nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars — it’s breathtaking to contemplate the modern smartphone’s impact on young filmmakers.
New Galaxy Laptops
Image Credit: Author
While Galaxy Unpacked 2023 was vacant of any new tablet, earbud, or smartwatch announcement, new Samsung laptops got significant attention. Samsung has a modest laptop market share in the United States compared to competitors like Dell, HP, and Lenovo, but these new models could raise some eyebrows.
Galaxy Book3 Ultra
Thin and attractively designed, Samsung’s new Galaxy Book3 Ultra is a credible challenge to the vaunted Apple MacBook Pro. With a 16″ AMOLED display with a 3K resolution of 2880×1800 and a 120Hz refresh rate, this laptop has one of the brightest and most vivid screens I’ve seen.
Sporting a top-shelf Intel 13th Gen Core i7 or Core i9 processor with the latest Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics, it’s perfect for gaming and professional content producers.
Galaxy Book3 Ultra (Image Credit: Samsung)
I like Samsung’s choice of discrete graphics since it supports Nvidia Broadcast capability with Eye Contact correction, which is sorely needed for podcast production and videoconferencing. With such horsepower in a compact and impressively slim form factor, I’ll be interested to see how loud the unit runs, which was impossible to assess given the ambient noise in the demo area of the event.
With a starting price of $2,199, it’s an intriguing alternative, at a more affordable price, to a comparable MacBook Pro.
Galaxy Book3 Pro 360
More moderately priced laptops were announced as well. Samsung’s new Galaxy Book3 Pro 360, which also comes with a 16″ AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh, has a touchscreen and integrated style. This model utilizes Intel’s 13th Gen i5 or Core i7 processors and includes optional 5G radio support and standard Wi-Fi.
Galaxy Book3 Pro 360 2-in-1 Laptop with S Pen (Image Credit: Samsung)
Available in multiple memory and storage configurations, the Galaxy Book3 Pro 360 has a starting price point of $1,399.
Galaxy Book3 Pro
Last but not least, Samsung announced the entry-level Galaxy Book3 Pro with a starting price point of $1,149. This model is available with either 14″ or 16″ AMOLED displays, Intel 13th Gen processors, and more modest memory (8GB, 16GB, and 32GB) and storage configurations (256GB, 512GB, and 1TB).
Galaxy Book3 Pro in Graphite (Image Credit: Samsung)
It’s hard to assess the Galaxy Unpacked 2023 event in the proper context until Apple begins to show its cards, starting at WWDC in the June timeframe, followed up by its presumed iPhone 15 announcement, which generally occurs in September.
At this moment, Samsung continues to push the accelerator on the computational photography aspect of the smartphone. Interestingly, no new foldable smartphone designs were announced at Galaxy Unpacked 2023, signaling limited market appeal for these devices due to high pricing and unconvincing usage models.
Samsung may not like to acknowledge this, but the company — and the industry — needs Apple to jump into this category and validate the space. However, if industry rumors are accurate, Apple may not offer foldable smartphone (or tablet) models until 2024 or 2025.
Beyond the hardware aspects of the laptops launched yesterday, it’s worth pointing out that Samsung emphasizes the importance of an integrated ecosystem among consumers. Apple has built a multi-billion-dollar business convincing consumers that there are integration virtues with owning Apple-branded devices that can seamlessly share content and resume work from device to device with a common user experience.
Samsung’s Galaxy Book experience puts a user’s entire library of Galaxy apps and features in a single place, making it easier to manage the user’s Samsung account.
Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro multi-device experience presentation. (Image Credit: Samsung)
Other PC vendors have attempted to do this with so-so results, chiefly because of the OEM differentiation dynamic and Window’s open nature, which doesn’t easily facilitate a shared experience. It remains to be seen if Samsung can pull that off.
It also doesn’t help that iPhone users — about half of the entire smartphone market — are not a part of the legacy Windows ecosystem from a text messaging standpoint. The inability to access iMessage on a Windows device is one of the core reasons why I remain ensconced in the Apple ecosystem, even though Windows-based devices are often more attractively priced and featured than comparable Apple products. I suspect I’m not the only one stuck in this quagmire.
Regardless, because of its legacy smartphone market presence, Samsung is one of the few companies that can offer an interesting alternative to Apple’s ecosystem. While the company is playing catchup to a degree with Apple, give Samsung credit for presenting a credible choice for consumers, as it’s always a win for consumers when they can make intelligent selections that best suit their usage model needs.