It will take time to get used to a foldable smartphone form factor, but experts say that the cheaper price tag on the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 will entice a younger TikTok-first generation who may not be tied to Apple's smartphone ecosystem.
At its Unpacked event on August 11, Samsung announced two new foldable smartphones: the Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3. While the Fold is the more powerful flagship, Samsung said that the Z Flip 3 is "our most stylish smartphone yet," designed to "make a statement."
The sleek flip phone costs $999, the same price as a Galaxy S21+, which means anyone walking into a carrier store will be able to buy a phone based on design, form factor, and eye-catching cases, without worrying as much about the cost of the phone.
Anshel Sag, a senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said in an interview it's very clear Samsung created the phone for a younger audience.
"It feels geared towards content creation and portrait-based apps like TikTok," he said. "They are targeting an audience who has gotten bored of the same old iPhone designs and operating system."
The phone's foldable design helps users set the phone without needing a full tripod to record a video or take pictures, which can be compelling specifically to content creators. Samsung noted in their event presentation that this is part of the "foldable experience that you can't find on a regular smartphone."
But is the phone compelling enough to convince users to walk away from iMessage? Sag has his doubts, saying that "getting people to leave the iMessage ecosystem will be the hardest for that generation."
Carmi Levy, a technology analyst, shared Sag's reservations during our interview. However, despite the strong pull that Apple has on users being part of its ecosystem, Levy thinks Samsung is at least making a strong push to switch.
Foldables are finally more affordable than ever before
Compared to other regions, North American smartphone sales operate a bit differently. Samsung's specific strategy is to structure the volume of its smartphone sales to go through telecom operators, IDC's research director on worldwide device trackers, Nabila Popal, said in an interview.
While unlocked phones are on the rise, an overwhelming majority of phones sales are through carriers in the US. Samsung was smart to strike key carrier partnerships a decade ago.
But because of this, carriers typically offer different deals than the manufacturer; in the end, many consumers don't even realize the full price of their phone. Levy explained:
This means that social media-raised Gen Z consumers will not be willing to compromise with lousy cameras, bad performance, or weak battery life just so they can have a specific phone.
Samsung will maintain market share in foldable phones
Neil Shah, vice-president of research at Counterpoint Research, agreed with Levy, adding in an interview that Samsung is now riding on the fact that this is one of the first foldable devices that is actually affordable.
"Bringing the (foldable) experience below $1,000 is the first important milestone for Samsung as more than a third of the iPhones sold globally are above $1,000," he said.
This price point is likely going to become the "sweet spot" for the foldable smartphone over the next couple of years, he added, though all of that is dependent on the adoption rate, which has so far been very limited.
"There is a supply constraint, as the yield for foldable displays has not been that high to take it mainstream at S-series level. So Samsung needs to improve its capacity to make that high-volume scale move," he said.
The company's first foldable phone debuted in 2019 at a whopping price point of $2,000. In early demos, the phone performed well and the folding technology, which had only been seen in limited forms and not on a shipping product, appeared resilient. But when reviewers got units, they discovered that the Galaxy Fold was prone to dust ingress through openings in the hinge, damaging the display assembly and rendering the phone unusable. It was quickly recalled and re-released later in the year.
The company's CEO DJ Koh said at the time that he pushed for the release "before it was ready," and that the issues the phone had were "embarrassing."
Although the foldable market is still niche, Counterpoint Research indicates that by 2023, there will be 10 times growth in foldable smartphone shipments.
Shah noted that the entry of leading Chinese brands like Xiaomi, OPPO, or Vivo with a flip form factor device should ideally help "popularize the form factor and bring it to sub-$600 levels in coming years."
"However, this will also depend on if these smartphone manufacturers can tap in the supply chain to procure and design a flip phone or take a different route to differentiate with a rollable or bendable phone," Shah said.
But even if other smartphone manufacturers enter the foldable market space, Counterpoint indicates that Samsung will still dominate the space with nearly 75% market share.
Are flip phones making a comeback?
Shah explained that for the older generation there is a closeness to the clamshell flip phone design stemming from popular phones like the Motorola Razr. Particularly in markets like North America and parts of Europe where flip phones outsold candy bars in the mid-2000s.
"Japan is another market where flip phones are still popular among the boomers and Gen X," he said.
He added that the younger generation has been "accustomed to buy a default 'closed-display' design."
"But considering the compactness and less bulky option, we could see the adoption of the Flip form-factor in markets such as the U.S., China, and some European markets," he said.
Like Shah, Levy noted that in 2004 the Razr "struck a nerve at a very unique point in time in the history of mobile devices." But when the iPhone was released in 2007, it became the form factor that "set the tone for the future of all mobile devices."
Sag noted that with the different iterations of foldable phones that Samsung has put out now, it could mean that flip phones "are staging a comeback with foldables and are likely here to stay."
"There's a reason why flip phones stuck around for as long as they did and never really died in Japan. The flip phone has a unique utility to its ability to be extremely compact and to end a call by simply closing it," Sag said.
"I do think generous trade-in offers will help adoption, but hype is the ultimate driver and unique compelling features that are well marketed will ultimately sell the most phones once the pricing is reasonable and accessible."
For the Galaxy Z Flip 3, that time could be now.
Ready to flip?
Finally, a folding phone that fits our pockets and our wallets.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 brings a revamped cover display, water resistance, and the spec bump it needs for bouncing between apps, but the most alluring aspects of the Z Flip 3 remain its price and its style. Available in seven colors — including a luscious lavender — the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is hoping to bring foldables to the masses without breaking the bank.
Shruti Shekar is Android Central's managing editor. She was born in India, brought up in Singapore, but now lives in Toronto and couldn't be happier. She started her journalism career as a political reporter in Ottawa, Canada's capital, and then made her foray into tech journalism at MobileSyrup and most recently at Yahoo Finance Canada. When work isn't on her mind, she loves working out, reading thrillers, watching the Raptors, and planning what she's going to eat the next day.
It might interest a few people here and there but i don't see too many iPhone users getting it especially young people. Young people are most likely to follow their friends, sadly people don't message other because of the green chat bubble
Is there a limit as to how many times you can fold the phone before it hurts the screen? Is there a visible crease in the middle? Those are my biggest concerns.
I don't think anyone has done a torture test on the Z Flip 3 yet but the original Flip has been tested for over a million folds (I believe) with no issues. CNET did their own torture test with their own hand made device that handled the phone more like an inside linebacker handles a running back but it still got somewhere around 100000 folds before the hinge exhibited problems. As for a crease, there is still a crease but most folks that have used it say they don't even notice after a few minutes especially when looking at the screen straight on. When I had the Flip 3 in my hand at my local Best Buy I saw the same thing, a crease you could see if you looked at the screen off angle but I never noticed it when looking straight on. Swipes were quick so I got used to the crease quickly and eventually didn't notice it after about 10 minutes.
It's rated for at least 200,000 folds. It's a new hinge, stronger materials both in frame and hinge.
Yeah, the crease isn't a problem once you stop obsessing about it. I've had the old Z Flip since that one launched in February last year.
It is like going back in time when we had flip phones, what next slider phones?
Anyone who thinks $999 is affordable for a phone, then they have more money than sense.
I would never buy a Samsung and don't like the idea of the flip smart phone. If they did not start making the phones with silly aspect radios and a load of lenses on the back, then we could have kept the phones smaller
I will stick with my Oppo.
It's not taking young kids from iPhone, the cult is too strong and so is iMessage.
I agree. These foldable can't tempt the iPhone lover (especially the youths)away from iPhones and the Apple ecosystem I carry an Android and an iPhone daily and I DISLIKE FOLDABLE PHONES.
Chance and Success are not the same thing. They may be going after Apple's youth users. but those users are not the ones paying. They also don't want to leave their friends that are all on Apple. The parental controls on the iPhone are also too strong for a parent to give up. iPhone SE is practically free, and more than enough for most kids.
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