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'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."
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."
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.
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.
spotted on #EmilyInParis2 a @SamsungMobile Z Flip 3 (I'm pretty certain) (Yes, I know I said I wasn't going to watch after the first 3 mins, but meh...something to pass the time with) pic.twitter.com/94GfAQOEcospotted on #EmilyInParis2 a @SamsungMobile Z Flip 3 (I'm pretty certain) (Yes, I know I said I wasn't going to watch after the first 3 mins, but meh...something to pass the time with) pic.twitter.com/94GfAQOEco— Shruti Shekar (@shruti_shekar) December 29, 2021December 29, 2021
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.
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.
Flip phones are back
Small enough to fit in your pocket, big enough to get things done
The new Galaxy Z Flip 3 is perfect for anyone who misses the good old days when hanging up was as dramatic as slamming your phone shut. And with the larger external display, it's perfect for controlling music, checking messages, or taking selfies with the dual-camera setup.
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