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Samsung will unveil Note 20, Galaxy Z Fold 2 on Aug. 5 in virtual Unpacked

The phone giant becomes the latest company to move its product launch online as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

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Samsung will introduce its new mobile devices during a digital event on Aug. 5.

Samsung

It's official. Samsung will unveil its newest mobile devices -- likely the Note 20Galaxy Z Fold 2 and a confirmed 5G version of the Galaxy Z Flip -- during a virtual Unpacked event on Aug. 5.

The company on Tuesday said it will host a live, digital event at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT at www.samsung.com. The plan follows similar moves by companies like Apple, which have shifted their events online during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Samsung is expected to show off its second-generation Galaxy Fold, which expands from a phone into a tablet. The company delayed the launch of its first fold, which started at $1,980, by five months from April 2019 to September of that year after some reporters found screen defects in their review units. This year, it's expected to launch round two with what what could be called the Galaxy Fold 2 or Galaxy Z Fold 2. The new device would build on what Samsung learned from last year's disaster and February's Galaxy Z Flip, which is more like a clamshell smartphone that fold into a compact package. 

Notable updates to the Fold could include a glass display instead of plastic and a bigger internal screen. Some rumors even suggest it will come with an S Pen stylus, and others say Samsung will introduce a cheaper Fold E or Fold Lite alongside the pricier Fold 2. 

And Samsung may even introduce a 5G version of its Z Flip foldable. The first version, which hit the market in mid-February, only ran on 4G networks. 

Along with the new foldables, Samsung on Aug. 5 is expected to unveil its next Galaxy Note, likely called the Note 20. Instead of two models, like last year's Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus, Samsung could introduce three Note models this year, possibly named the Note 20, Note 20 Plus and Note 20 Ultra. The latter device could have two curved screens, whisper-thin bezels to free up maximum screen space and a slightly thinner body overall compared with the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. All models are likely to come with 5G connectivity.

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It's a tough time for companies to introduce phones. 2020 was supposed to be a strong year for the phone industry, as innovations like 5G and foldable screens got people shopping again. Instead, financial struggles and worries about COVID-19 will limit the number of devices companies can make and how many phones people will actually buy. Even once the worst of the pandemic is behind the US and other markets, the global economy will likely continue to struggle.

Samsung's home of South Korea was one of the first markets to get hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The company temporarily shuttered factories, and it also has closed its four US stores. The pandemic spread at the same time Samsung introduced its most important device of the year, the Galaxy S20. Starting at $999, the device could be a reach for consumers out of work or watching their bank balances. In April, Samsung introduced a new lineup of A Series phones in the US that start at $110. The company hopes they'll appeal to more budget-conscious buyers, including the tens of millions out of work in the US.

Going digital

The coronavirus has forced companies to rethink their product launches. GSMA canceled Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile show, a week before journalists were to arrive in Barcelona, Spain, in late February. Instead of phone launches over the past couple of months, AppleHuawei and OnePlus have all held digital events or introduced devices via press release. Apple in late Jun held a virtual developers conference instead of gathering thousands of app makers in California, and companies like Google and Facebook have opted to scrap their developer conferences this year. 

Samsung tends to hold big mobile product launches twice a year, once in the late winter/early spring and again in the summer. Its last product launch, for the Galaxy S20, came only weeks before the US and Europe went into lockdown because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. That timing couldn't have been worse for Samsung. The company's most important phones of the year hit the market just as consumers stopped spending money. February, the month when the S20 went on sale, was the

In late April, Samsung warned that the coronavirus would "significantly" hurt its operations in the coming months. The company's memory chip business has been benefiting from "robust" demand for servers and PCs as more people work from home, but its mobile, TV and other businesses have been hurt by the pandemic. Still, in early July, Samsung said its second-quarter profit actually rose because of a one-time gain related to its display business. It will give more details about its results later this month. 

Along with Unpacked, Samsung said last week it plans to host another virtual event in September instead of participating in the IFA electronics show in Berlin. Samsung typically introduces its mobile devices at Unpacked and then uses IFA to talk about its home appliances and give more specifics about its new products. But it sometimes introduces mobile devices at the show. Last year, it shared information about its Galaxy Fold and launched its first lower priced 5G smartphone.