Samsung launches latest foldable phones in the face of rising competition and Apple’s AI play

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    Samsung launched the Galaxy Z Fold6 at its Unpacked event in Paris, France. The tech giant said the foldable device is thinner and lighter than its predecessor.
    Arjun Kharpal | CNBC

    PARIS — Samsung launched its latest foldable smartphones on Wednesday — and they’re packed with artificial intelligence features. The South Korean tech giant hopes to regain share in a product category it pioneered by convincing users to upgrade their devices.

    The company took the wraps off the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold6 and Z Flip6, which come with improvements from the previous models and are enhanced with Galaxy AI, the company’s suite of artificial intelligence features.

    Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold6, which starts at $1,899.99, is a foldable device that opens out like a book. The smartphone has a 7.6-inch display when open and boasts a triple-lens camera on the back, as has become standard for high-end phones. Samsung said this is the company’s thinnest foldable so far at just 12.1 millimeters thick when folded.

    Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip6 opens like a traditional flip phone but with a bendable screen. The handset starts at $1,099.99.

    Both devices are available from July 24, Samsung said at its Galaxy Unpacked event in Paris.

    The launches come as Samsung faces rising competition in foldables and consumers continue to hold on to their devices for longer.

    “The ongoing challenge remains of getting users to upgrade with what is perceived to be incremental improvements on previous models especially for the Fold; more so when everyone are tightening their belts,” Paolo Pescatore, founder of PP Foresight, told CNBC by email.

    Samsung touts AI features

    All major smartphone makers have been touting the AI features of their devices this year to capitalize on excitement around the technology and to attempt to give users a reason to upgrade to more expensive handsets.

    One big trend Samsung is trying to take advantage of is the fact people are willing to pay more for phones.

    At the same time, Samsung is facing increasing competition in the foldable smartphone space, a category it pioneered in 2019.fli

    Some of the key AI features Samsung talked about are:

    • Translation features: On the Z Fold6, Samsung launched an “Interpreter” mode. This allows people to fold the phone halfway so that they can use both the back and inside screens. If two people are conversing in different languages, the screen will translate the conversation in the language relevant to the person looking at the screen.
    • Live translate: Samsung introduced a feature earlier this year that live translates phone calls in its own phone app. Now, that feature is being extended to third-party apps like WhatsApp.
    • Suggested replies: The Z Flip6 will suggest a reply based on a user’s style of writing messages without the need for a person to open their device and type a response.

    But it was only in January that Samsung launched its flagship S24 series debuting AI features. Analysts have questioned if the phones have enough appeal to get people to spend on an upgrade.

    The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip6 opens more like a traditional flip phone but with a bendable screen. When closed, the front cover screen can show apps.
    Arjun Kharpal | CNBC

    “We are still in the early days of foldables as they’re not sought after or must have devices among consumers. Samsung’s relentless commitment is undeniable, but more and more rivals have or are launching their own foldable devices. This is fast becoming the next battleground as they all seek to lure users to premium high-end devices,” Pescatore said.

    Samsung’s fiercest rival, Apple, launched its big AI play last month with Apple Intelligence, its suite of AI features, adding more competition to the market.

    “Consumers are savvier and taking their time with the next purchase of their smartphone. They know Apple typically releases a new smartphone in September and are happy to wait and see what others announce in the meantime.  All eyes are firmly on the new iPhone 16 powered by Apple Intelligence,” Pescatore said.

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