Samsung will introduce the next generation of its foldable phones on Wednesday, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3. But to get consumers interested, the devices need two major updates: increased durability and lower prices.
The Korean phone giant has led the field of foldable devices. Its first device, the $ 1,980 Galaxy Fold, hit the market in 2019, after a five-month delay due to screen defects on some reviewer models. Samsung fixed the issues, which included a bulging, flickering screen, and refined its design for a second version a year ago, the $ 2,000 Galaxy Z Fold 2. Both devices fold out from phone to tablet. In February 2020, Samsung released another folding variant, the $ 1,380 Galaxy Z Flip. That device resembles a folding phone, closing like a shell to protect its internal screen.
Even though Samsung has worked to improve the durability of its folding cartridges, early setbacks didn’t do much to convince consumers that the folding ones were strong enough to withstand everyday use, let alone a storm or those accidental drops. They have marked the end of many glass phone screens. Neither device came close to being cheap anywhere. For most consumers, $ 2,000 was too expensive for a device that is more delicate than cheaper traditional smartphones.
“Consumers need to be convinced that a foldable device is not a very expensive device that will break down immediately after they start using it,” said Strategy Analytics analyst Ken Hyers. There is a concern that if “the screen is going to break, or the crease gets worse, or if it gets wet, do you suddenly have a $ 2,000 paperweight?”
In 2019, Samsung and other foldable phone vendors sold just 730,000 foldable handsets, according to Strategy Analytics. By comparison, total smartphone sales totaled 1.37 billion units. This year, those companies should sell about 7.4 million foldable devices, and about 63% of those come from Samsung, the research firm said, compared to 1.35 billion smartphones overall.
At its Unpacked event on Wednesday, Samsung has the opportunity to convince consumers that its devices are more rugged and affordable than before. The company is expected to add water and dust resistance to its folding for the first time, as well as use improved materials for better resilience. The Z Flip 3, for example, will feature “an even more refined style, armed with more durable and resistant materials,” wrote Tae-moon Roh, director of Samsung’s smartphone business, in a blog post in late July. .
Roh, in a separate post in December, also promised that Samsung’s new foldable devices would be “more accessible,” which market watchers interpreted as more affordable. Current rumors peg Galaxy Z Flip 3 price at $ 1,000, the same as the Galaxy S21 Plus and iPhone 12 Pro. It’s also $ 200 less than the higher-end Galaxy S21 Ultra and the current retail price of the original Z Flip. Meanwhile, the Z Fold 3 could see a price cut as well, although current rumors do not indicate a US dollar amount. The leaks suggest that the new device could cost roughly the same as the second-generation model in euros. In April, Samsung lowered the price of the Z Fold 2 to $ 1,800.
“This is not something you need. It is something you want,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies. “A lower price helps to streamline it more.”
Samsung declined to comment before Unpacked.
Wednesday’s event is Samsung’s third unbox of the year. In January, the company unveiled its flagship Galaxy S21 smartphone, which sold for $ 200 less than its predecessor. Then, in March, it highlighted its line of low-cost Galaxy A smartphones.
The Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip models are Samsung’s highest-end devices. None of Samsung’s early folding has been cheap. The first 4G-only Fold started at $ 1,980, making it unaffordable for most consumers. CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt called it “expensive” and “a status symbol that cash-rich early adopters might casually deploy to surprise their peers.”
Adding 5G and tweaking the design of the Z Fold 2 raised the starting price only slightly to $ 2,000. That indicated that Samsung probably believed that it had reached the highest price that consumers could take. The first Z Flip, which only connected to 4G and older networks when it hit the market in early 2020, cost buyers $ 1,380. Adding 5G just five months later raised the price to $ 1,450.
Earlier this year, Samsung cut the prices of the Z Flip and Z Fold 2 to bring them closer to its Galaxy S21 lineup. The Z Flip with 5G now costs $ 1,200, while the Z Fold 2 retails for $ 1,800. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S21 devices start at $ 800.
Apple and Samsung got consumers used to the $ 1,000 flagship phone, but have sometimes struggled to find buyers at that price point. And for the past 18 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has made some consumers reluctant to update their phones. That prompted Samsung in January to present its Galaxy S21 with a
At the time Samsung introduced the S21, an executive told CNET that the company’s lower prices were likely to stick around. “This is where we want to be,” said Drew Blackard, vice president of product management for Samsung Electronics America.
Pricing for the S21 was possible due to three factors: lower component costs, some minor trade-offs on the S21 and S21 Plus, and the world we live in now. At least two of those factors – lower component costs and the current environment – are likely to hold down for the Galaxy Z line. Because this is Samsung’s third generation of folding, it managed to streamline the manufacturing process. and reduce costs. Those improvements will be passed on to consumers who buy the probably least expensive folding machines.
Both Samsung and Motorola, which introduced a foldable Razr in late 2019, faced manufacturing and component issues with their foldable devices when they first introduced the technology. When Motorola’s Razr finally hit the market, it had a squeaky hinge, among other deficiencies. Samsung delayed the launch of its first Galaxy Fold to fix issues with the display and hinge.
Such problems are not unusual when completely new and somewhat experimental technologies are introduced, but they do not inspire confidence in the durability of folding.
Samsung finally revamped the display and fold design to fix the issues experienced by the early reviewers. With the Z Flip in early 2020, it included flexible, bendable glass on the device. That was the first time the folding was made and it fixed many of the problems that plagued the first fold overhaul units. Glass doesn’t scratch as easily as plastic, it’s generally more durable, and it also gave the lid a more premium feel than the fold and Motorola’s Razr, which used a plastic screen.
The Flip also featured Samsung’s new hinge design, which has a separate capability called “Flex Mode.” Unlike the original Fold, which closed at the hinge, the hinge on the Z Flip could be kept open at different levels. CNET’s Dolcourt called it “the most unique, interesting and effective feature of the Z Flip by far, because it allows you to interact with the phone hands-free.”
When it came time to introduce the Galaxy Z Fold, Samsung brought in the best new features of the Z Flip, including a glass display and Flex mode-compatible hinge, and also tweaked the design to give it a more premium feel.
With this year’s Z Fold 3, Samsung is expected to incorporate an under-display front camera. That gives you more protection and allows the screen to extend across the front of the device, without being interrupted by the camera lenses. It will also bring S Pen support to the Z Fold 3, giving buyers the ability to use a stylus with the ultra-premium folding.
The Z Flip 3 may not be compatible with the S Pen, but it will get new materials, Samsung’s Roh said. That could include a new hinge, more scratch-resistant glass, or other components that make it stronger. The Z Flip 3 is also expected to have a larger outer screen for when the phone is closed.
So far, Samsung’s folding products haven’t resonated with consumers, at least when it comes to opening their wallets. But Wednesday’s updates will see if that changes.