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Folding phones are the future — they're just missing one crucial thing

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 standing
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 standing (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

I think we're well beyond the point of labeling folding phones as a fad or simple trend. Even though the form factor has only been around for less than two years, it's clear that companies are pumping tons of money and research into making foldables the next big thing in consumer tech. Just look at the differences between the original Galaxy Fold and the new Z Fold 2. In about a year's time, Samsung drastically improved its hinge and display tech, making the Fold 2 a lot more appealing than its predecessor ever was.

Tech publications and influencers have already started to sing the praises of the Galaxy Z Fold 2, and that'll likely continue once full reviews can be published. I don't blame them one bit, because from what I can tell by watching from afar, Samsung has crafted the most promising foldable yet. It address the issues of the first model, improves all of the key specs, and keeps the same general design that got people so hyped in the first place.

As much as the Z Fold 2 has improved, though, it's still plagued by an issue that all folding phones will have to face for the foreseeable future — cost.

Galaxy Fold, iPhone and Galaxy Z Flip

Source: Michael Fisher (Image credit: Source: Michael Fisher)

We can talk up the Fold 2's 120Hz display and upgraded cameras as much as we want, but that means absolutely nothing when the vast majority of people can only dream of owning the thing. Samsung is asking $1,999 if you want the privilege of owning the Fold 2, which is just way too much money for anyone other than die-hard tech enthusiasts with deep pockets.

Folding phones are breaking new grounds, but all that innovation comes with huge price barriers.

I say that with a solid understanding that the Galaxy Z Fold 2 (and all folding phones, for that matter) is equipped with bleeding-edge technology and is paving new roads that haven't previously existed. These are uncharted waters for every company dabbling in the folding niche right now, and as they work through new designs, durability issues, and anything else that pops up in the development process, that ultimately results in higher price tags than we're used to seeing.

Samsung's obviously aware of this, too, which is perfectly evident by its pricing for the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — two phones that cost $1,400 and $1,300, respectively. When you compare the Galaxy Z Flip 5G next to them, a phone that sells for $1,450, it doesn't look as outrageous. The fact remains, however, that that's still almost six times more than the $250 Moto G Power that your parents and grandparents are probably going to buy when it comes time to upgrade.

It might be silly to ask for folding phones that are that affordable, and while they may never reach Moto G-level pricing (at least not anytime soon), the fact remains that we need substantially lower prices in order for the form factor to go completely mainstream. If you showed someone from ten years ago a Nokia 2.3, they'd probably be blown away by the thing and think it costs an exorbitant amount of money. Today, the phone can be had for a little over a hundred dollars.

As time goes on, new technologies become cheaper, easier to produce, and get to a point where they can target varying prices/costs. Traditional smartphones are a commodity in 2020, and ten years from now, we'll hopefully see folding phones get to that point, too.

Even in the short amount of time that folding phones have existed, it's been fascinating to see how the technology is being used in different ways. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 effectively gives you a phone and tablet in one single device, which in turn comes with an incredibly high price. The flip-phone design found with the Galaxy Z Flip and Motorola RAZR doesn't offer nearly as much utility, but it brings the idea of a folding phone to a price that's considerably lower (though still very expensive).

That's ultimately where folding phones are right now. They're a fun and exciting thing to watch from a distance, but for the vast majority of consumers, they won't be a legitimate purchase consideration for many years to come. That's something companies need to address and be aware of, because if no one's buying these breakthrough devices, all that hard work is for naught.

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

8 Comments
  • The writer is absolutely correct about sky-high phone prices these days. This folding phone's price is outrageous. The average (or is it sane person) can not or will not pay these prices, especially in this new economic environment. Studies over the past couple of years are showing that folks are keeping their phones 2-3 yrs or until it breaks before buying another. I just bought a 1-month new OnePlus 8 5G with all original accessories from eBay for $480. Granted you need to be careful and use due caution but success can be achieved. Sites like Swappa and others are thriving and mostly because you can get a premium phone for far less money. There will always be people with deep pockets or will sacrifice their monthly rent for the 'latest and greatest' new phone, but I sincerely believe that the majority of the 'average joes and soccer moms' will hold on to their hard-earned money. It will be interesting to watch this price gouging phenomenon over the next few years. Ok, finished with my ranting...
  • I don't get this comment, these phones aren't being made for the average consumer and probably never will be. Samsung is positioning this as a luxury device for people that aren't the "average Joe." The average Joe did not go to college or attain a higher education. The Average Joe makes ~$25-30K a year; for which a device such as this would be almost 10% of their income. These phones are made for the same audience that drive a BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, etc... not the people that drive a Toyota Corolla or Honda. If all people waited for a phone to be on Swappa or eBay to buy them then we would still have flip phones as the primary phone due to a lack of people purchasing new technology to justify the R&D costs needed to make the newer phones. "It will be interesting to watch this price gouging phenomenon over the next few years. "
    - This isn't price gouging. Price gouging would be skyrocketing their lower and mid tier phones due to a sharp uptick in demand. This is a high cost for a high end device. Phone manufacturers will continue to make the A series devices or the SE devices using recycled designed and hand me down sub-premium parts that will allow them to make significant amounts of money, and in many cases more than their flagship phones. If you think this phone's pricing is ridiculous, how much should it cost? $500? $700? You're getting the latest and greatest in specs with a Snapdragon 865+, phenomenal cameras, two gorgeous panels (one of which is a foldable at maintains 120 Hz refresh rate), and a premium build quality. How much should a company charge for such a device?
  • I don't see the need personally and this technology is in its early stages so I would wait to purchase one. I carry my ipad mini LTE with me and I have the best of both worlds.
  • @O4liberty, I have arrived at the same conclusion. I looked at this new Fold and felt it would really fulfill my needs in terms of handling documents on the go. I do a lot of my work on the go but I just could not justify or stomach the price. I can buy it but it but looking at cost benefit analysis, I could not justify it. I'm the kind of person who generally carries two phones. I have decided the best course of action is to get a slick 8 inch tablet which I will carry alongside my Galaxy Note 10 Plus. Problem solved at a fraction of the cost.
  • No doubt the Fold2 is easily the best new technology on the market nobody is beating this hands down. The Fold2 is a luxury item people who can afford to buy it will definitely buy it because it offers something different something new and refreshing to the tech game. Others will look and want it real badly but know they can't afford it then convince themselves to move on to something else on the Android platform. I applaud Samsung they are technology and android they are who manufacturers try real hard to copy which helps all the future products we buy.
  • Foldable phones won't be important until Apple invents it.
  • I much prefer LG,s take on it, 2 screens which are separate so you can have just a 'normal' phone or dual screen when you need it. We now have 3 form factors, folding, dual screen with hinge (surface) or detachable 2nd screen (LG) but sadly it won't be till apple decide which one they gonna go with that will determine which one android manufacturers go with too.
  • I don't agree that foldables are the future of phones. I even have a Duo on order. I think there is a niche use case for these things, and lowering the price may broaden the scope of those that think they need one, but that won't ever make them the default. None of the options really do much that a small tablet doesn't do. The small tablet doesn't fit in your pocket, but that is easily mitigated with a bag, purse, satchel, backpack, whatever. You can get an iPhone, iPad Mini (or iPad Air) and something to carry them in for way less any of these foldables, and that will likely be the case for a long, long time. The combo will even do their jobs better, than one device that has to compromise on functions.