Wednesday , 29 November 2023

Samsung Galaxy S23 and Book 3 Pro tell us two things about the future of tech

Samsung Unpacked 2023: sustainability

Image: Samsung

Following CES 2023 in January, the next date marked in tech-watchers’ calendars was 1 February, when Samsung held its first Galaxy Unpacked event of the new year. This followed the usual cadence of such things: rumours and leaks, confirmation of the date, and the event itself (in-person this time, as well as virtual). Going forward, we’ll see reviews of the new devices, and the reaction as they find their way into the hands of users. Rinse and repeat, annually. 

In years past, many users would have hankered after upgrading to the latest smartphone, tablet or laptop at the earliest opportunity. But these days, several factors conspire to put the brakes on such enthusiasm. Chief among these is the recent global economic downturn, which has resulted in reduced consumer demand for new devices. 

In 2022, global smartphone shipments fell by 12% to 1.2 billion units, a 10-year low, according to analyst firm Canalys. Although Samsung retained the number-one slot with 22% of the market, the company recorded a steep 17% year-on-year decline in shipments in the fourth quarter. 

Despite this gloomy overall picture, Canalys research analyst Le Xuan Chiew noted that “Samsung is [also] maintaining its profitability focus by strengthening its high-end portfolio and creating a premium niche segment via its Fold series.” This view was endorsed by Samsung’s president and head of Mobile Experience Business, TM Roh, who told reporters at Galaxy Unpacked that demand for premium models — the Galaxy S23 series and forthcoming Fold devices — is expected to grow by 10% this year. 

Also: Here’s everything Samsung announced at Unpacked 2023

The global PC market also saw a decline in 2022, down by 16% to 285.1 million units and by 29% to 65.4 million units in Q4, according to Canalys. Notebooks fared particularly badly, down 19% year on year and down 30% in Q4. “As expected, the global PC market faced further headwinds in Q4 to round out what has been a difficult 2022,” said Ishan Dutt, a senior analyst at Canalys. 

Of course, consumers and businesses may well resume purchasing new devices once the economic weather becomes more favourable, likely in late 2023 and 2024. However, there’s another factor that’s likely to have a lasting effect on purchasing behaviour — and that’s sustainability. 

Events like Galaxy Unpacked naturally extol the benefits of new designs, faster processors, smarter and higher-resolution cameras, and the rest. But buyers are also increasingly interested in maximising the lifespan of their existing devices on environmental grounds — to conserve the resources that go into them, and to dispose of end-of-life devices responsibly. Many people will hang onto their phones until a combination of accumulated damage, battery ill-health, and lack of OS or security updates force an upgrade on them. 

Large tech companies like Samsung are well aware of this, which is why there was a prominent sustainability message at Galaxy Unpacked. Here’s Mark Newton, Samsung’s head of North America corporate sustainability, speaking from the Unpacked stage: “We designed the Galaxy S23 series with the planet, and you, in mind. From the materials we chose for the product, to what the packaging is made from, to how long it sustains its best performance.” 

The Galaxy S23 Ultra increases the use of recycled materials, such as plastic, glass, and aluminum, from six internal components in the Galaxy S22 Ultra to 12 internal and external components. It also uses Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 with 22% recycled glass, comes in 100% recycled packaging, and will get four generations of OS upgrades and five years of security updates. Samsung also said that “Parts of the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra and Pro series were built from recycled plastics that use ocean-bound discarded fishing nets while eliminating all in-the-box plastics.” 

So, you may not want to shell out $800-plus for a Galaxy S23 smartphone or $1,250-plus for a Book 3 series laptop right now, but Samsung is at pains to reassure you that when you do, you can buy with a better environmental conscience. 

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra ecosystem

Image: Samsung

Another key message from leading manufacturers, like Samsung, with extensive portfolios is the value of buying into its ecosystem. Again, you may not want to buy a Galaxy Book 3 laptop immediately, but when you do there’s a range of other products and features that can enhance your productivity, at work or at home. Samsung calls this the ‘multi-device connected experience’. 

Also: The best green phones: Sustainable and eco-friendly smartphones

For example, with Link to Windows installed on your Galaxy phone and Microsoft Phone Link on your Galaxy Book laptop, you can use the Recent Websites feature to transfer web-browsing sessions (on the Samsung Internet browser only) from phone to PC, or use Instant Hotspot for single-click access to your phone’s internet connection from your laptop. Samsung Multi Control lets you control Galaxy tablets and phones (with the right One UI version installed) via the Book 3 laptop’s keyboard and trackpad, with copy/paste and drag/drop support, while Second Screen lets you use a Galaxy Tab S7 or S8 tablet as a secondary display for your Book 3 laptop. And with Expert RAW installed on your Galaxy smartphone, you can automatically transfer RAW images taken on the phone to your laptop for editing with Adobe Lightroom. 

Samsung is far from unique in promoting its sustainability credentials and the added value of buying into its device ecosystem, and we’re going to hear a lot more along these lines from leading manufacturers in the future. Just tune into the next big product launch event and see.

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