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Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 2 will fit in your pocket better than last year's model did

The company unveiled its updated device that folds open from a phone into a tablet, with a 6.2-inch cover screen and a 7.6-inch interior display.

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Samsung has redesigned its Fold foldable, adding a large front screen to the second generation of the device.

Samsung/Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 2 resolves one of the biggest complaints about the first generation: the front display. The South Korean electronics giant on Wednesday -- at its first all-virtual Unpacked event -- unveiled the new version of its first foldable from last year. The device sports a screen that stretches across the front of the phone, giving it a flashier and more modern design. 

The Z Fold 2's cover screen is 6.2 inches diagonally, while the interior is 7.6 inches laid flat. Both are Samsung's nearly bezel-free Infinity-O display technology. And the interior foldable display uses the ultrathin glass similar to what's inside the Galaxy Z Flip. The first generation of the Fold had a 4.6-inch outer display and a 7.3-inch interior screen made of plastic. 

Samsung made the body thinner and minimized the gap between the screens, making it fit better in a pocket. The device's "dual intelligent battery" will last all day, Samsung said, and the phone now has 5G for the US model. It will be available on AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile in the US. (5G models of the original Fold only launched in select markets like the UK.)

The company also redesigned the Z Fold 2's hinge, giving it a more firm snap to place it flat. A new flex mode will let the device stay open at different angles, similar to the Z Flip. There's no S Pen stylus in the Z Fold 2, despite some rumors saying it would appear in the device.

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The Z Fold 2 comes in two colors, mystic black and mystic bronze. Samsung didn't detail a sales date or price for the new device but said it will share more details on Sept. 1. Preorders will also begin that day. The company is hosting an event in lieu of attending the IFA electronics show in Germany.

"Samsung is making a sizable commitment to foldables," CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood said. "Although a small category today, it is of high strategic importance."

Samsung unveiled the device alongside the $999 Note 20 and $1,299 Note 20 Ultra at its event. It also introduced the new $170 Galaxy Buds Live earbuds, $649 Galaxy Tab S7 tablet and $399 Galaxy Watch 3.

The Z Fold 2 and other devices come at a tough time for the mobile industry. Last year's new innovations of 5G and foldable screens were supposed to get cheaper and more readily available in 2020, giving consumers a reason to upgrade. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic has been battering phone sales as consumers opt to save their money or spend it on PCs and other work-from-home supplies. Millions of Americans are out of work amid a recession, more than 700,000 people have died worldwide and countries around the globe continue to battle unending infections.

In the second quarter, Apple was the only smartphone vendor that saw its shipments grow, according to Canalys. Samsung, despite launching its new Galaxy S20 lineup in March, saw the biggest year-over-year drop of the world's top five phone makers. Its 30% decline allowed Huawei to leapfrog it to become the world's biggest smartphone vendor for the first time, the analyst firm said. It was the first time in nine years that a company other than Samsung or Apple shipped the most phones

"This is a remarkable result that few people would have predicted a year ago," Canalys senior analyst Ben Stanton noted. "If it wasn't for COVID-19, it wouldn't have happened. Huawei has taken full advantage of the Chinese economic recovery to reignite its smartphone business."

It's unlikely the new Fold or Note 20 will help it fend off Huawei. The devices are the most expensive phone lineups that Samsung offers, and the foldable in particular could be a tough sell for consumers who are guarding their wallets.

Last year's Fold, which started at $1,980, wasn't meant to go mainstream or attract a huge number of buyers. For Samsung, it was a way to show what was possible with its display technology -- and gain bragging rights by introducing one of the world's first foldable phones. But instead of boasting, Samsung faced problems ahead of the Fold's launch. The company delayed the launch of its first Fold, by five months from April 2019 to September, after some journalists found screen defects in their review units.

Samsung followed up with its Flip in February, its second foldable but its first to use glass instead of plastic. The device was Samsung's do-over, and its clamshell design proved to be popular with buyers. A 4G version of the Galaxy Z Flip went on sale for $1,380 on Feb. 14, and Samsung introduced a $1,450 5G model ahead of Unpacked. 

"After releasing two foldable devices and listening to user feedback on the most requested upgrades and new features, Samsung delivers the Galaxy Z Fold 2 with meaningful innovations that offer users an enhanced refinements and foldable user experience," Samsung said Wednesday in a statement.