Samsung Unpacked: Galaxy S21 launches today, sets up foldable device cadence

If Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra features the S Pen, what does that mean for the Galaxy Note?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Samsung's Galaxy flagship event kicks off January 14 in a move that will rejigger the consumer electronics giant's product cadence in the future to make way for foldable devices.

Samsung's event -- Galaxy Unpacked: Welcome to the Everyday Epic -- will start at 10 a.m. on Jan. 14. Like recent Samsung launches, the rumors and leaks are building up. There are likely to be three models with the Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra, which may include the S Pen.

You can see where this is headed: If Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra features the S Pen, what does that mean for the Galaxy Note? Samsung seems to have indicated that Note features will make it to other phones. Personally, I would love a Samsung Galaxy FE with S Pen support.

Viewing the Samsung Galaxy S21 launch in a vacuum doesn't highlight the new product cadence. Samsung is moving up its flagship Galaxy device launch by about a month and the status of its usual August event is in question. Typically, Samsung rolled out the Note in August. 

My thinking is the Note features are absorbed across the Samsung traditional form factor line. That move will mean that Samsung will reserve its summer launch for a portfolio of foldable devices. Executives have noted that Samsung's plan revolves around offering more foldable devices at various price points to make them more mainstream. Today, Samsung's foldable lineup -- Galaxy Z Fold 2 at $2,000 and Galaxy Z Flip and Z Flip 5G are $1,300 and $1,450, respectively -- are in the premium space.

An August launch for Samsung is likely to include a lineup with foldables that hits better price points. While Samsung's head of mobile TM Roh hinted at the shift to foldables, other executives have reinforced the message.

Jong Min Lee, vice president of mobile communications at Samsung, said Oct. 28 on an investor call:

Foldable phones as a category, we are expecting to record high growth in the future. Especially the Z Flip and the Z Fold2 actually recorded very solid sales trends despite the overall difficulties in the relatively weak demand for premium segments amid COVID-19. So even though as of yet foldables do account for a relatively small portion of our overall smartphone sales, we are planning to continue to increase our foldable portfolio and to widen the price ranges that we offer foldable options by leveraging the flexible technology that we have already built over several years. And therefore, we are expecting foldable phone sales to increase for several years going forward.

On Nov. 29 at an investor forum, Lee said foldables will go mainstream. Lee said:

This year, our sales performance is much better than last year. Next year will be much better. And it will be popularized in the market.

Add it up and the Galaxy S21 event will be important to Samsung's mobile product cycle but will also provide more of a foldable roadmap going forward.

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