Programmatic Lunch

Samsung unveils new Galaxy Note 9, Watch and smart speaker

Tim Maytom

Electronics giant Samsung has revealed its latest premium smartphone, the Galaxy Note9, a new smartwatch in the form of the Galaxy Watch and announced the Galaxy Home, the company’s first smart speaker. The announcements came as part of Samsung’s Unpacked event.

The Note 9 builds on the Note series’ reputation as one of Samsung’s flagship lines, with a new S Pen with Bluetooth connectivity and what Samsung claims is its most intelligent camera yet. The Galaxy Note 9 boasts a 4,000mAh battery, the largest ever on a flagship Galaxy phone, and a cutting-edge 10nm processor with up to 8GB RAM and an on-device AI-based performance adjusting algorithm designed to deliver powerful but stable performance. The Note 9 is available in 128GB and 512GB versions, and features a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED Infinity Display.

“The Note has always been our showcase for premium technology and industry-defining innovation, and Galaxy Note 9 is no exception,” said DJ Koh, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics’ IT & Mobile Communications Division. “It’s designed for a level of performance, power and intelligence that today’s power users want and need. Note fans are Samsung’s most loyal; we know they want it all, to get the most out of work and play, and Galaxy Note9 is the only phone that can keep up with their busy lives.”

The Note 9’s camera is apparently Samsung’s smartest yet, using intelligence to identify elements of a photo, such as scene and subject, to automatically classify it into one of 20 categories and instantly optimise it based on the category. The camera comes with Flaw Detection, a feature that lets users know if a shot is blurry, backlit or the subject blinked.

As with other Note devices, the Note 9 comes with the S Pen, now with Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) support. With it, users can take selfies and group pictures, present slides, pause and play video and more, while developers will be able to integrate the S Pen’s BLE functionalities into their apps later this year.

Alongside the Note 9, Samsung also unveiled the new Galaxy Watch, which aims to bring the best of Samsung’s Galaxy ecosystem to a wearable device. The Galaxy Watch has new stress and sleep monitoring capabilities, and later this year will be updated to include 4G connectivity. The Watch will be available in silver, midnight black and rose gold, with a variety of customisable watch strap colours.

“At Samsung, we have a long history of providing consumers with choice, while maintaining innovation within our products, and we are excited to continue the proud heritage of our Galaxy line with our wearable,” said Koh. “The new Galaxy Watch was designed for all lifestyles to help meet consumer needs, such as more efficient batter life to stay connected longer, and better wellness tracking to help users maintain their goals – we are delivering them with connected experiences, all at the touch of a wrist.”

Designed with wellness in mind, the Galaxy Watch has a new stress management tracker which automatically detects high levels of stress and offers breathing exercises to help keep users relaxed and focused. In addition, a new advanced sleep tracker monitors all levels of sleep, including REM cycles, the help users adjust sleeping habits and get the rest they need to take on their day.

For fitness, the Galaxy Watch adds 21 new indoor exercises, tracking a total of 39 workouts that allow consumers to customise and change up their routines, while for nutrition, the watch comes with intuitive calorie tracking and personalised alerts. Users can also track their meals using Bixby Vision, taking a photo of each meal and instantly logging nutritional information in Samsung Health.

The Galaxy Home is Samsung’s entry into the smart speaker market. A high-end speaker, the Home promises higher-quality audio than the Amazon Echo and Google Home, and is designed to compete with Apple’s HomePod, which also focused on sound quality. The Home has six built-in speakers and a subwoofer, and also includes eight far-field microphones for detecting voice input, which will be managed by Bixby, Samsung’s AI personal assistant.

Few details of the Home have been revealed beyond that, with Samsung holding off a fuller announcement until its developer conference in early November. The Galaxy Home will be entering a crowded and increasingly mature marketplace, and faces something of a hurdle in the form of Bixby, which has historically performed poorly compared to other voice-activated assistants. Samsung has been working on numerous improvements for Bixby, including a just-announced partnership with Spotify, and is clearly hoping that the Galaxy Home will provide its AI with an opportunity to redeem itself.

Finally, Samsung confirmed the heavily-rumoured launch of Fortnite on Android as a Samsung exclusive. The hugely popular game is available in beta on a range of recent Samsung devices from today onwards, either via Samsung’s Game Launcher app or developer Epic Games’ new installer. However, the exclusive is likely to be short-lived, with Epic Games saying that the beta version of the Android game would come to non-Samsung devices “in the next few days”, meaning that by the time the Note 9 arrives in stores on 24 August, the exclusive will already be long over.