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The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is stealing customers because regular phones are boring

Samsung Foldables Z Flip Fold 3 Up Arrow
Samsung Foldables Z Flip Fold 3 Up Arrow (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung's latest sales update for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 are in, and they exceed expectations in every way possible. But it's not exactly impressive that Samsung sold four times the number of foldables in 2021 that they sold in 2020. It's not even impressive that these phones exceeded the lifetime sales of their predecessors in a mere four weeks.

What's impressive is that Samsung has started stealing customers from other brands because, quite frankly, those other brands have become incredibly stagnant.

Initial sales numbers show that Samsung sold around 2 million foldables and is poised to sell up to 10 million by the time the Z Flip 4 and Z Fold 4 debut in 2022 but, it turns out, a significant portion of those sales are coming from people who were once enamored with other brands like the iPhone. This is particularly true for the Z Flip 3.

It's more than just an upgrade

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Back Flex Hold

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung's own internal data from its trade-in programs and other retail data points show that Samsung has seen a 150% increase in consumers who switched from other brands when compared to the Galaxy Note 20. Similarly, they saw a 140% increase in consumers switching when compared to the Galaxy S21.

But, despite their cutting-edge specs, award-winning cameras, and efforts to make the design stand out among the pack, the Note 20 and Galaxy S21 line are still just slab phones that are easily mistaken for anything else, especially when put into a case.

Given that the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy S21 are two of the best Samsung phones around, the difference here is clear: Consumers don't just want another boring spec upgrade. They want something entirely brand-new. Because of this, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is attracting new customers to Samsung devices in a way that neither the Note 20 nor Galaxy S21 ever could.

Jitesh Ubrani, IDC's research manager of worldwide device trackers, says, "Samsung finds itself in a very favorable position as it's often the only brand with a foldable and no matter what case a user puts or how they hold the phone, it's very easy to tell that the consumer has a very unique device on hand. This is a key selling point for foldables today and is likely why so many users switch brands to Samsung."

The Z Flip 3 is attracting new customers to Samsung devices in a way that neither the Note 20 nor Galaxy S21 ever did.

For most people, foldables still fit squarely into the "magical" category, a category that hasn't existed in the smartphone space in over a decade. I can't tell you how many times people will see my wife's Z Flip 3 and gawk.

The first question always is, "Did you just fold your phone?"

Anshel Sag, a senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, agrees in saying, "I cannot tell you how amazed people still are at seeing my Fold 3 (or any foldable) in the wild; everyone seems extremely impressed by the screen size."

It's this sense of wonder that Samsung has so successfully captured with the Z Flip 3, in particular, as it's a form factor that doesn't deviate from expected norms too much when fully open but completely defies expectations when folded closed.

Of course, you can probably guess the next question they ask her, right? "Do you like it?"

The answer from my wife, so far, has always been, "I love it."

It's this sense of wonder that Samsung has so successfully captured with the Z Flip 3.

But this answer doesn't come from some euphoric feeling that comes from using such a unique device every day. No, that feeling will wane with time as your shiny new foldable phone becomes normal, and you stop gazing at it with wonder every time you fold and unfold it.

The love for the Z Flip 3 comes from the fact that, when folded, it actually fits in a pocket, a purse, or another place where the giant phones of today simply don't fit. The best part is that you don't have to give up all the benefits of having a large screen since the device unfolds and that, I think, is exactly why people are switching to the Galaxy Z Flip 3 in record numbers.

At the end of the day, most smartphones are going to offer a similar experience. Most smartphones offer a camera that's good enough for the everyday user, and almost all smartphones can run the same apps and games without issue, especially in the premium price range.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Cover Display Pocket

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

And that's another area where Samsung has clearly shown leadership among the crowd. Launching at $999 — or the same price as a Galaxy S21 Plus — the Z Flip 3 was already right in line with consumer expectations for premium phones. Not only that, but Samsung's trade-in programs are above and beyond what other companies offer.

As Ubrani puts it, "Having a price point that's comparable to other flagships as well as offering great trade-in deals has also gone a long way in attracting customers from other brands."

Samsung's marketing division has also done a bang-up job at hyping up the phone, even going so far as to include it in popular TV shows and movies.

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But how long will it be before other brands catch up? Sag thinks that "2022 will definitely be the year we see a lot more foldables and some competition, especially from the likes of the OPPO Find N."

I definitely agree, especially with OPPO's hardware on the Find N. But companies will need to start releasing their foldables more internationally, as Samsung has, to compete.

The love for the Z Flip 3 comes from the fact that, when folded, it actually fits in a pocket, a purse, or another place where the giant phones of today simply don't fit.

I'd also say — especially in the case of larger format foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the OPPO Find N — that companies are going to have to continue software innovation to make those form factors make sense. Clamshell foldables like the Z Flip 3 are an easy sell because of the obvious size benefits, but convincing people that they need a tablet with them at all times requires a bit more finesse.

Once that happens, it's certainly not hard to imagine a world where foldable phones are more common than slabs.

Nicholas Sutrich
Nicholas Sutrich
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu
20 Comments
  • I switched to the Razr 5G flipper a month or two ago and really am glad I did. It's a fun form factor and I like how compact and easy to store it is. Lots of folks ask me about it when I'm using it. Seems to be a lot of interest in these.
  • Buddy of mine whipped out a Z Flip 3 the other day.
    He has always been an Apple man and told me the folding form factor made him switch.
    Phone was freaking awesome!
    A folding phone will be my next phone.
  • I'm tempted by the Fold, but it's great that the Flip seems to be relatively popular.
    I just can't even consider the Flip 3 since I'm a Dex user.
    If Samsung makes the next Flip compatible with Dex, then that would get my attention as well.
  • Bought my wife one of these for her birthday, she loves it... Especially the extra features the fold brings... When unfolded it's bigger than a normal slab... I have a Fold 3 and won't be returning to a boring slab... Can't wait for Android 12L, nothing beats having a tablet in your pocket...
  • Nothing would beat a foldable with a keyboard below the outer screen for maximum productivity
  • Because they are boring? What about durability? I'm not sold yet on these initial generations. Same thing as electric cars, my 35 year old truck still runs with the same engine, will a 35 year old electric still run without a battery swap?? I am sure I will pick up a foldable at some point, I just need to see them lasting before I make the jump.
  • There are a lot fewer moving parts in an electric engine, so I'm guessing it's not unlikely to see 2020 Teslas driving around in 2055?
    One of the main reasons the Flip is great is because that folded state means the screen is 100% protected by a thick layer of phone on all sides.
  • You're not serious about that Tesla comment, right? I hope you know that buying a Tesla doesn't mean you own it. Essential components that enable control over the vehicle are owned by the company, and they retain more control over it than do the "owners". They strive to be like Apple, which means planned obsolescence via forced software incompatibility. The hardware will be rendered useless within the timeframe they dictate and if you don't think that will happen you're not paying attention. I'm sure they'll offer the ability to trade in and "upgrade" when that happens. Tesla's fanboys are just as clueless as Apple's, and they won't think to question the legitimacy or motivation of such tactics. No chance they'll let you use THEIR cars for 35 years when they have complete control over them.
  • Planned obsolescence with Apple ?? Are you serious ?? They support their devices longer than any other maker. Google announced the Pixel 6 would get a whole pathetic whopping 3 years of updates yet nobody yells planned obsolescence. Talk about clueless. I imagine your photo is beside the definition when you look it up.
  • I love my Z fold 3. Had the Z fold 2 before it and the 3 is an appreciated upgrade. Loved it so much I got the Flip 3 for my wife and she gets all kinds of compliments on it. The Fold is great for vacations and light work as well (wireless Dex is nice).
  • Guess Samsung has found their market with people who buy phones because they're not boring. "I'm gonna eat you, little fishy ..."
  • There's nothing about phones that is boring. If you think that's then you're using them wrong.
  • Boring "looking"(brick phones) is more of what this is all about.
  • sounds right, i'd still be on my s9+ if it wasnt for the fold3 just being so darn different and having good deals.
    phones imo have been solid for years now, its gonna take more than power bumps and cameras to make people upgrade soon.
  • I think it would be cool, if when Apple wants a flip phone, Samsung declined to provide the special panel. The folks in the Cupertino flying saucer are too busy making photo inspection software, self driving cars, and improving their resistance to imessage attacks to notice the retail playing field anymore.
  • I still don't like foldable phones. I prefer the size, weight, durability and price of a candy bar phone
  • Another benefit: you can finally use the built-in wireless chargers in many cars, which modern slab phones have grown too large for!
  • I own the Flip 3 now but I think I am going to switch back to the Note (now S22 Ultra it seems). The novelty wore out for me after owning for a few months. It's great piece of tech don't get me wrong but the inconvenience (?) of keep opening the Flip and a lackluster battery life are among big concerns for me to switch back.
  • Knowing that battery life is bad is a non-starter for me but this was the most intriguing phone of the year in my opinion.
  • I traded in my iPhone 13 Pro Max for a Z Fold 3 and I have zero regrets. I loved my iPhone, but the Z Fold 3 gets me excited as it actually tickles my PP whenever I open it.