Samsung pre-empts MWC, unveils 2 smartphone firsts: foldable and 5G

Samsung commandeered the wireless industry’s attention this week by pre-empting MWC Barcelona with a flurry of new devices, including a foldable smartphone with a starting price of nearly $2,000.

The company’s new flagship Galaxy S10 is arriving in three variants—Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ and Galaxy S10e—with starting prices ranging from $750 to $1,000, available on March 8. Each of the big four U.S. carriers are now accepting preorders. A fourth version with 5G capabilities will be exclusively released on Verizon sometime before July and multiple carriers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom this summer, according to Samsung.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg joined Samsung Mobile CEO DJ Koh at Samsung’s press event to share their respective plans for exclusivity in the United States. “Building on our history of network firsts, Verizon is about to redefine the mobile experience when we become the first U.S. wireless provider to offer the Galaxy S10 5G on our 5G ultra wideband network,” Vestberg said in a prepared statement.

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In addition to 5G capabilities, the Galaxy S10 5G will be the largest of the lineup with a 6.7-inch screen and four cameras. With Samsung’s plans now public, but no date set for the 5G device’s arrival on Verizon, the race to be first with a 5G smartphone is heating up. LG and Sprint previously said they will be releasing the first 5G smartphone in the United States and they are expected to provide an update next week at MWC Barcelona.

One of the most highly anticipated devices from Samsung doesn’t have 5G, but comes in a completely new form factor that’s been under development for almost a decade. The Galaxy Fold, a foldable smartphone that folds out from a 4.6-inch screen to a 7.3-inch display, was revealed for the first time. Interestingly, while Verizon has an exclusive on the 5G variant of the Galaxy S10, the Galaxy Fold will initially only be available on AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States.

“Galaxy Fold introduces a completely new category that unlocks new capabilities never seen before with our Infinity Flex display,” Koh said in a prepared statement. “We created Galaxy Fold for those that want to experience what a premium foldable device can do, beyond the limitations of a traditional smartphone.”

The world’s largest smartphone manufacturer said the Galaxy Fold is the culmination of eight years of research and development on materials, engineering and displays. All that technology comes with a high starting price of $1,980. The device will start shipping in the United States on April 26, according to Samsung.

By holding its major annual product showcase just days before MWC Barcelona kicks off, Samsung has effectively put all of its competitors on notice. Every device, including those exclusive to 5G network deployments, will be compared to what Samsung already revealed.