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Image: Samsung

Samsung has introduced two new foldable phones as well as a major overhaul of its watch lineup at an online event Wednesday.

The big picture: Samsung may seem to be shaking things up this year by skipping a new Galaxy Note and using its fall event to launch new foldable phones. But it's actually returning to the early days of the Note, when its mainstream smartphone would launch early in the year and more experimental devices would roll out in the fall.

Details:

  • Samsung introduced the third version of its foldable devices, the Galaxy Z Fold and the Galaxy Z Flip.
  • The company also debuted a pair of new smart watches, the first to use a new software platform co-developed with Google that combines elements of both companies' wearable software.

Between the lines: The Note — the grandaddy of phablets — was a niche device when it first launched back in 2011.

  • For many years, Samsung would update its Galaxy S line in the spring and debut a new Note in the fall. But over time, smartphones grew ever larger to the point where the only thing really separating the Note from other flagship smartphones was its companion pen.

Foldable devices, by contrast, are the biggest shift to come to the smartphone since the whole industry shifted to a single slab of touchscreen glass following the success of Apple's iPhone.

  • While Samsung has had foldable devices for a couple of years now, the category is still in it early days, where it is both rapidly evolving and not quite ready for the mainstream.
  • In making new foldable devices the centerpiece of its fall launch, Samsung is signaling to the market that it sees a more-than-niche future for the category.

Meanwhile: The new smartwatches are an attempt by both Google and Samsung to turn the page on what has been a largely unsuccessful effort to rival the Apple Watch. In addition the new software, Samsung this week announced a new homegrown Exynos chip that will power the new devices.

  • Google is also planning to bring the high-end of Fitbit's product line to the new software platform.

Update: Samsung has now made these announcements official. Here's a good rundown from CNET.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 22, 2021 - Technology

Microsoft debuts new Surface hardware

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft unveiled updates to its Surface line, including laptops, convertible tablets and an improved versions of its Android-based dual screen Surface Duo.

Why it matters: The new devices come ahead of Windows 11's official launch on Oct. 5.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.

9 mins ago - World

Top general: China's hypersonic missile test "very close" to a "Sputnik moment"

Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Wednesday that China's test of a hypersonic missile is "very concerning" and "very close" to the kind of "Sputnik moment" that triggered the Space Race during the Cold War.

Why it matters: The comments by America's top uniformed general underscore the depths of U.S. concerns about China's rapid military expansion and development of advanced weaponry.

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