The day has passed and, as expected, Samsung launched its all 5G range of S20 Galaxy phones. Better cameras, better screens … everything you would expect from a flagship phone series. The fact that they live-streamed the event using the S20 camera was a nice touch, helping to prove that the phones have truly met the standard of production camera kits… at least for a livestream anyway.
Beyond the obvious capabilities of the phone comes the equally unsurprising move of including 5G in all variants. With Samsung being the largest Android player in the U.S. market, this is important and will drive 5G adoption across all available bands (low, mid and millimeter wave). Of course, we are still in search of true consumer use cases for 5G, but as long as the carriers don’t expect to charge a premium for the faster speeds, we will all be using the networks as soon as they become available. To an extent, Samsung’s use of 8K cameras will help justify the need for 5G as 8K files will be so much bigger to upload and will benefit from the faster speeds, but still, it’s not a “must have” use case just yet.
In that regard, T-Mobile is the near-term winner, with a low-band 5G network that it already claims as having nationwide coverage. Add to that the timing of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger success in the courts this week, and the soon-to-be-merged carrier is in great shape to make the most of the 5G opportunity, driven by the availability of the new Samsung phones and the Sprint mid-band spectrum. Of course, the merger is not quite ready to be consummated: the California Public Utility Commission still needs to be appeased, but we can expect that puzzle piece to fall into place relatively soon.
But back to Samsung’s big day. It wasn’t all about cameras, phone design, (yes, the ZFlip is a gorgeous design) and speeds. An interesting announcement caught my attention even more than even the ZFlip: Samsung is partnering with Microsoft to bring some Xbox games to the Samsung world. That fits neatly with the 5G use case (lower latency equals a better gaming experience), but is yet another example of a formerly protective ecosystem (Xbox) lowering its walls to ensure it stays current in the evolving market. It also continues a strong partnership between Microsoft and Samsung that was formerly focused around Office apps.
Google also took to the Samsung stage to talk about how they are helping, particularly with the foldable version of its Android OS, but it felt like more of an aside to me. The big news was Microsoft. It left me with two keys thoughts to ponder: first, why didn’t Sony manage to do this, combining its phones with the PlayStation assets? And second, is Google slowly getting sidelined in the Samsung relationship? Sure, Samsung is building Duo into the core of the phone and yes, Android is the fundamental OS that Samsung needs, at least for now, but it’s a common utility across all non-Apple smartphones. That’s not necessarily a bad place to be, but is Google losing its edge in keeping the world excited about new phone-related innovation? Time will tell.