Samsung has declared “the future is foldable” as the technology giant unveiled its latest generation of folding phones.
In a shake-up to its smartphone portfolio, the firm has opted against launching a new version of its popular Galaxy Note large-screen device this year, instead announcing the flexible-screened Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3.
Both new devices have been made water-resistant for the first time, feature stronger glass and metal frames to make them more durable and have seen their starting prices reduced as Samsung looks to make foldable devices more accessible.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 will start at £1,599 – down from £1,799 for last year’s device – while the Z Flip3 starts at £949, down from the £1,229 price tag of the previous version.
The phone maker’s corporate vice president for the UK and Ireland Conor Pierce said the aim was to take folding devices “mainstream” for the first time.
Samsung introduced its first foldable in 2019, adding the clamshell-inspired Galaxy Z Flip in 2020, but so far both ranges have been seen as ultra-premium, niche devices aimed more at tech enthusiasts and early adopters.
However, Mr Pierce said that because the new Fold3 and Flip3 offer better durability, and accessibility because of their lower pricing, he believed a major shift in the mobile marketplace was coming as the devices tapped into the ongoing public demand for larger screens for work and entertainment.
“I genuinely believe the future will be foldable. You’ve seen through the decades the change in form factor from ‘candy bars’, large buttons and antennas to touch screens, to flip phones, to smartphones – so it’s continuing to evolve,” Mr Pierce said.
“But this is definitely a moment in time in terms of overall smartphone evolution.
“The market has been crying out for a change. It’s been too many years with the same type of form factor – you go into a store and it’s a sea of sameness really, and now something unique stands out, it’s a very different experience.
“I think people are going to flock to these devices because it’s something new and they want to use their phone in different ways.
“We’re not just targeting our own audience, we have an opportunity to acquire from our competition and that’s a rare opportunity that we’re really going to leverage.”
Rivals Apple and Google are yet to launch a foldable smartphone, while other foldable devices such as those from Huawei and Motorola have failed to capture the public’s imagination, leaving Samsung as the main manufacturer in the market.
And as part of those efforts to lure more people to its foldables, Samsung’s S Pen stylus – commonly found with the firm’s Note range – has been made compatible with the new Fold3 for the first time.
Mr Pierce added that in years to come, he believed the conversation around smartphone use would not be whether people chose to use an Apple or Android device, but were they a “fold or flat” phone user.
But industry experts have suggested Samsung still has work to do to bring foldable phones into the mainstream.
Leo Gebbie, principal analyst for connected devices at CCS Insight, said: “Samsung’s Unpacked event underlined the size of the bet the company has made on foldable devices, with the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 continuing the company’s considerable investments in what remains a niche part of the smartphone market.
“Both devices are a case of evolution rather than revolution, as Samsung aims to gradually improve the capability and functionality of foldables and address user concerns about their durability.
“Questions remain around the true value that foldables deliver, especially compared to ‘regular’ flagship smartphones which offer top-level specifications at lower prices.
“Samsung has staked a clear claim as a leader in the foldables market, but it’s notable that rivals like Apple have not felt the need to follow, raising the question of whether the level of consumer demand justifies the investment.
“We believe that foldables remain focused at technology enthusiasts and early adopters at present, and are some way away from providing a truly compelling solution to the mass market.”
The new foldable phones were unveiled alongside two new smartwatches – the Galaxy Watch4 and Watch4 Classic – as well as the Galaxy Buds2 wireless earphones, with the entire range of new phones and accessories going on sale in the UK on August 27.