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Samsung's Top-Secret Galaxy S Phone Is a 5G Monster With Six Cameras

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Samsung’s strategy to reverse a sales slump? A top-secret 5G phone code-named “Beyond X.” Pictured, people try out a Galaxy Note 9 smartphone in Seoul, South Korea, in August.


Photo:

SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg News

SEOUL—

Samsung Electronics
Co.

is planning a major technological upgrade for its 10th anniversary flagship phones next year, including next-generation 5G network speeds, bigger screens and more cameras, according to people familiar with the matter.

As with rival

Apple
Inc.’s


AAPL -3.96%

10th anniversary iPhone offerings last year, Samsung’s 10-year reboot of its premium smartphone lineup is seeking to dazzle consumers with more ambition than in years past, these people said, part of a bid by the South Korean technology giant to reverse a recent sales slump.

Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker by volume, is preparing three versions of its next flagship Galaxy S10 smartphone, with displays that range in size from 5.8 inches to 6.4 inches, the people said, versus two variants in previous years. Those three phones are set to debut in February next year, they added.

In addition, the South Korean technology giant is developing a fourth variant of the Galaxy S10 that will be 5G-enabled and is internally code-named “Beyond X,” some of these people said.

The 5G phone, slated for a spring release in the U.S. and South Korea, would sport an even larger screen, measuring 6.7 inches diagonally, and pack in a whopping six cameras—two in the front and four in the back, these people said, which promise richer photos and better spatial perception.

Apple’s latest top-end iPhone, by comparison, includes three cameras, two on the back and one on the front.

A Samsung spokeswoman declined to comment.

After several years of declining sales of smartphones, its biggest moneymaker for many years, Samsung needs a big hit next year.

The company’s devices account for one out of every five smartphones shipped globally, but it suffered a major handset sales tumble this year. The smartphone’s overhaul will test consumers’ willingness to ditch their years-old devices for ones that offer flashier features—for a higher price tag.

It is an industrywide problem. Global smartphone shipments slid 8% from a year earlier for the three months ended Sept. 30, the fourth straight quarter of declines as consumers hold on to their devices longer, according to Strategy Analytics. Samsung shipments struggled even more than the industry average, declining 13% during that stretch.

Apple in recent weeks slashed production orders for all three of the iPhone models it unveiled in September, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, due to lower-than-expected demand.

“There are no signs of recovery for the smartphone industry currently,” said Tom Kang, a Seoul-based analyst at Counterpoint Research.

To stage its comeback, Samsung saved up several new features to set its 10th anniversary Galaxy S smartphone apart.

Samsung is planning a mid-February event where it will unveil at least the feature-heavy 5G Galaxy S phone, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The handset’s release date would be pegged to whenever wireless carriers could launch 5G service, according to people familiar with the matter, which is expected by next spring.

Samsung has held discussions with

Verizon Communications
Inc.,

AT&T
Inc.

and

T-Mobile US
Inc.,

as well as large South Korean carriers, though no final decisions have been made, according to these people. Samsung is in discussions with Verizon about a potential exclusive distribution arrangement, though the terms and length of that arrangement aren’t yet final, some of these people said.

With 5G, Samsung is expected to enjoy a sizable lead over Apple’s iPhone, which analysts forecast won’t be capable of supporting 5G until 2020.

The three Galaxy S10 handsets scheduled for an earlier release than the 5G phone bear the internal code names “Beyond 0,” “Beyond 1” and “Beyond 2,” according to people familiar with the matter.

They would each have between three and five cameras in total, based on current plans, according to one of these people.

A feature considered for some phones is “reverse wireless charging,” in which a Samsung handset could be used to recharge other devices by placing them together, according to people familiar with the matter.

The timing, design and phone features for all the devices could change since decisions are still being finalized, according to people familiar with the matter.

Separately, Samsung is also set to release early next year its first ever foldable-screen device, which opens like a book and boasts a 7.3-inch display. Internally, Samsung executives are debating the foldable phone’s name, with “Samsung Flex” and the “Galaxy Flex” emerging as two candidates, though the decision is far from final, according to a person familiar with the matter.

But even with the new launches, Samsung will face challenges in a smartphone industry dealing with consumers holding on to their devices longer and economic uncertainty brought on by global trade turmoil, analysts said.

“Everyone is being affected by some similar market forces,” said Melissa Chau, associate research director at International Data Corp., a market researcher. “Overall volumes will decline for everyone.”

Write to Timothy W. Martin at timothy.martin@wsj.com

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