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29 days ago
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The Korean tech giant's $700 phone -- $300 less than the regular S20 -- comes as the pandemic prompts demand for less expensive devices.

Samsung's got another Galaxy S20 in store for its fans, and the device has been tailored for our unusual times. The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, also known as the Galaxy S20 FE, packs some high-end features found in the rest of the S20 lineup -- like low-band 5G connectivity -- but at a starting price of $700 (£699, AU$999). That's $300 less than the regular Galaxy S20. Adding super-fast millimeter wave 5G connectivity for the Verizon model brings the price up to $750 (though the carrier is currently offering a promotional $50 discount).

The 6.5-inch S20 FE has the same Snapdragon 865 processor as the rest of the lineup and includes IP68 water resistance. It sports three rear camera lenses, including a 30x Space Zoom like what's featured in the S20 and S20 Plus. It's available in six bright colors. One of the device's biggest differences from the rest of the lineup: The back is made of plastic instead of glass.

Samsung, which unveiled the FE on Wednesday during its third virtual Unpacked event over the past two months, hopes to attract people who shy away from a $1,000 phone but still want flashier features of the company's Galaxy S lineup. And it's those people who want that Galaxy S brand instead of the cheaper but lower featured Galaxy A devices. During the novel coronavirus pandemic, that could turn out to be a lot of potential buyers.

"It's very much a response [to the pandemic]," Drew Blackard, vice president of product management for Samsung Electronics America, said in an interview ahead of the news. "We've seen the need for a really more value segmented offer that focuses on those core features that we know our users love the most and prioritize the most."

The company had considered introducing a device that fell between the A Series -- which ranges from $110 to $650 in the US -- and the bottom end of the S Series, which starts at $999, Blackard said. It's done something similar in the past, like introducing the $650 Galaxy S10 Lite in January at CES 2020.

But the pandemic caused Samsung to speed up the FE's development and release, something it could do because it controls many parts of its supply chain. The FE, which goes on sale in the US on Oct. 2, arrives about seven months after the other S20 phones hit the market, whereas the S10 Lite became available in the US over a year after its siblings went on sale.

"One of Samsung's core advantages and competitive advantages in the market is speed," Blackard said. "We can very quickly design new products and get to market."

Samsung, which lost its crown as the world's biggest phone maker to Huawei in the second quarter, has been introducing its new devices in a difficult environment. Instead of facing a strong market for phones, with 5G and foldable screens getting people to upgrade their devices, most handset makers are seeing lower demand amid the raging novel coronavirus pandemic. Nearly a million people have died, over 31 million have been infected and millions more are out of work, unsure when they'll next earn a steady paycheck.

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