Samsung has yet another virtual product launch in the works for this Wednesday (Sept. 23), even though it seems like the electronics giant might be all out of phones to unveil. After all, the Galaxy Note 20 lineup debuted in August, and the Galaxy Z Fold 2 followed earlier this month. So what does Samsung have left for a second encore?
Enter the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, a rumored entry to the Galaxy S20 lineup introduced much earlier this year. The rumor mill points to a phone that delivers some of the Galaxy S20's more noteworthy features without its hefty price tag.
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But until Samsung takes the stage to show off its new release, one question is bound to persist about the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition. Just who is this phone supposed to be for?
Where the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition fits in
In case you haven't noticed, there's a lot of Samsung phones out there these days, particularly when it comes to Samsung's high-end flagships. Besides the three S20 models that came out in the spring — the Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra joined the standard S20 — Samsung just rolled out the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. That's already five models across two flagship lines before the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition even sees the light of day.
But as capable as those devices are, there's one segment of the phone-buying audience they're not serving — the folks who don't want to pay $999 or more for a smartphone. Both the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 20 start right around $1,000, and the different Plus and Ultra models scale up from there.
"Samsung has an enviable lineup of super-premium Galaxy S, Note, and Z phones at price points starting at $1000, and it has strong budget options in the mid-tier with the Galaxy A51 and Galaxy A71," said Avi Greengart, lead analyst with Techsponential. "My assumption is that the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is intended to fill the gap in between."
You might not suspect that gap would be so large given the effort Samsung has put into beefing up its Galaxy A lineup in recent years. Those phones pack in some pretty impressive features — multiple cameras, long-lasting batteries — while also costing several hundred dollars less than Samsung's flagship handsets. Some Galaxy A models have even added 5G connectivity, as seen in the $699 Galaxy A71 5G. That's one of Samsung's more expensive midrange models, and it's still $300 less than what you'd pay for a Galaxy S20 or Galaxy Note 20.
Galaxy S20 Fan Edition specs: How they’ll compare
Screen: 6.5-inch AMOLED (120Hz)
CPU: Snapdragon 865
Rear cameras: 12MP main; 12MP ultrawide; 8MP telephoto
Battery size: 4,000 mAh or 4,500 mAh
But for some shoppers, there clearly is a gap between the highest-end Galaxy A phone and Samsung's flagship offerings. The processors in the Galaxy A phones are powerful enough, but they're no match for the Snapdragon 8 Series chipsets Samsung uses for its Galaxy S and Note devices. More importantly, while the cameras on the Galaxy A51 and A71 are serviceable, they're outperformed by both expensive flagships and cheaper budget phones. The Galaxy S20 Ultra, in contrast, is currently the best camera phone you can buy, and the Note 20 is highly regarded as well.
"The core features of any smartphone are camera and display, and I would expect that Samsung will optimize both [with the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition]," Greengart said.
Based on leaks about the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, it certainly seems like Samsung is looking to pack the most into a less expensive version of the Galaxy S20. According to the latest Galaxy S20 Fan Edition leaks, the 120Hz refresh rate Samsung introduced with the rest of the S20 lineup will be in effect for the Fan Edition's 6.5-inch AMOLED panel. The device will either be powered by a Snapdragon 865 or 865 Plus — there are conflicting rumors on that front — but either way, you can expect performance in the ballpark of Samsung's other flagships.
On the camera front, the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition looks like it's getting a 12MP main camera, augmented by a 12MP ultrawide angle shooter and 8MP telephoto lens capable of a 3x optical zoom. On paper, that's a downgrade from the S20's telephoto lens, which used a 64MP sensor so it will be interesting to see if the Fan Edition's photos can measure up to what you get from the rest of the Galaxy S20 lineup.
Galaxy S20 Fan Edition: Setting a price
Much of the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition's appeal will hinge on its price. Samsung has to pick a price that's lower than what it charges for its other flagships — not too difficult, given the $999 starting price — while also leaving room for its Galaxy A phones to find an audience.
"There is always a danger of cannibalizing other Galaxy phones, but the Galaxy S line has a large installed base, and when those customers are ready for a new one, the first place they are likely to look is another Galaxy S phone," Greengart said.
Most rumors point to a $750-or-so price for the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition. That would be $250 less than the Galaxy S20. More significantly, it would be right in the middle of the rumored prices for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Max models that are expected to ship next month. One area where Apple has consistently out-positioned Samsung in recent years is in offering a less expensive version of its flagship phone — think the iPhone XR and iPhone 11. The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition could be Samsung's way of addressing that gap in its lineup.
Samsung has been down this path before, introducing the Galaxy S10 Lite earlier this year. But with that phone getting unveiled just as Samsung was introducing the Galaxy S20 while also cutting prices on the existing S10 models, it never felt like the Galaxy S10 Lite had a defined reason for existing.
We'll know by the middle of this coming week whether Samsung can avoid making the same mistake twice with the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition.