Phones are pretty much the perfect plates these days. Whether you get a flagship, a mid-ranger or in some cases even a budget phone, you’ll probably be happy with the performance, build quality and features.
Mid-range phones in particular have gotten so good that sometimes I even wonder why anyone would be willing to spend over $1,000 for a major brand flagship.
Anyway, we’re in the middle of 2022. It’s not the magical space year of rollable phones, dual-screen phones, augmented reality, or at least one where everyone has a foldable phone in their pocket. But it remains exciting.
As it should be, because it’s getting harder and harder for brands to convince users to buy their new phones unless those phones have something cool and new to offer. Usually these days we see people like Apple, Samsung, OnePlus and Xiaomi on the camera – they will introduce a phone with a huge phone and promise improvements in that area. But is it enough?
Samsung knows it’s harder for people to sell a product unless it really offers something else
Z Fold 4 Leaked Design Images
The upcoming Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 aren’t just quirky, offbeat phones for a niche audience. With each generation of Z Folds, Samsung is positioning itself as the most reputable brand to buy foldables from, improve its products annually and get ahead of the competition. Especially competition that has not even started selling foldable devices until now.
But magically, despite Samsung being one of the few brands to release foldable phones, shipments of foldable phones rose 300% last year, and who knows how much further they will rise in 2022.
How does that work? Well the fact is, Samsung’s foldable phones sell way better than you might think, despite their seemingly niche appeal and high price.
Samsung took a big investment risk when it decided to make foldables in early 2019. There wasn’t really a market for foldables. Most people hadn’t even imagined a foldable phone, much less wanted one. And Samsung’s first Fold didn’t exactly have the smoothest launch either.
But all this didn’t stop the Korean giant from improving it every year, with every new Z Fold iteration. It never gave up on the Z Fold.
And where some might see a huge Korean company blowing away for a niche product that not many people want, we should actually see a company investing in the future.
A company probably knows it’s harder to convince you – the consumer – to buy the same new record every year with just a bigger camera. Instead, Samsung has single-handedly made foldable phones mainstream through lots of expensive advertising and even more expensive research and development. So when the time comes, when you just don’t have what it takes to spend money on roughly the same phone as last year, Samsung has something completely different and cooler to offer.
Z Fold 4 (closed) leaked design images
How likely is it that Google, Apple and those other guys are now releasing foldables?
Let’s start with Google. The search engine giant we all know and love (?) has already tried several times to release a foldable phone – the mythical Google Pixel fold.
According to the many leaks we’ve seen for it, this device has undergone several name changes, delays and a possible cancellation. And the latter is due to the fact that Google has decided it just can’t compete with the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Is Google smart, avoid losing money by releasing an inferior foldable version, or maybe it just isn’t? passionate enough to enter the folding market in the first place?
I’ve suggested before that if Google couldn’t release a Z Fold 4 competitor, it could have released an affordable foldable phone instead, one that would potentially massively undercut the Z Fold 4, and sell it purely for affordability. Many brands have done this – “If you can’t beat them, make something cheaper.”
But hey, it looks like Google has given up on the idea of a foldable Pixel, at least for now, because Samsung’s Z Fold is just such a scary competition.
Now let’s take a look at Apple – when will it come with a foldable iPhone? How come Apple used to be the brand that introduced new, cool products we didn’t even know we wanted, but now Samsung is doing it with foldable products?
Well, like Google, it was rumored that Apple too was toying with the idea of both foldable iPhones and iPads, but so far that hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, I bet Apple will never release a foldable phone, because it has its own trick up its sleeve: augmented reality. And it may be about to show it.
Apple has been quietly working on its Apple AR glasses, which the Tim Cook-headed company probably sees as the real “next big thing,” and not foldable phones.
But besides Google and Apple, there are other brands that we can check out. Brands that actually dared to compete with Samsung in the foldable phone market, despite the odds, which are concretely in Samsung’s favor.
Samsung’s foldable competition is here – it’s just vastly overshadowed by the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip
The first foldable Motorola Razr actually came out before the Samsung Z Flip, did you know? Moto beat Samsung to the limit, but the foldable Samsung is much more popular and successful – why should that be?
Well, it could be because Motorola’s foldable Razr is more expensive than the Z Fold, and perhaps more importantly – while I think it looks cool, the lens is less appealing to the masses than the Z Flip’s more conservative, sleek design.
It is also reasonable to assume that the majority of phone buyers today have more faith in Samsung as a brand than Motorola, and buying a foldable phone requires a lot of trust in a brand. Since the first foldables we saw appearing apparently broke way too easily and were prone to other problems, people are more likely to choose the brand with the most credibility.
And from our personal experience, the Motorola Razr we tested was quite creaky and didn’t feel too comforting or premium, so… it makes sense that the Z Fold 4 sells better. But nevertheless, I support Motorola, because we need more competition in the foldable market. May the next Razr be great!
Huawei was one of the first brands to compete quite boldly with Samsung’s foldable devices by releasing some of its own products. And while it’s not a brand you’ll see in the US or many other regions these days, it remains. In fact, we recently had a Huawei Mate XS2 hands-on preview, and found it to have a pretty competent, premium feel foldable.
But hey, even though it is clearly willing, Huawei can’t compete with Samsung when it comes to foldable phones or pretty much all phones, as Samsung has taken over the world, Huawei doesn’t have a huge market reach anymore.
A few months ago we published our Oppo Find N review. That’s a foldable one that I was pretty excited about and thought would be a solid Galaxy Z Fold competitor, as it actually has a subjectively better (wider screen) aspect ratio, and it’s smaller and more compact overall. It didn’t even have a crease in the center of the foldable screen, something Samsung hasn’t discovered yet.
So how come this cute, chunky, foldable phone from Oppo didn’t make waves and the world seemed to soon forget? It’s cheaper and more compact than a Z Fold, arguably with a better screen too. Well, it probably comes down to brand recognition and trust, again mixed with availability. You know Samsung and can buy a Z Fold just about anywhere. At the same time, you probably don’t know Oppo at all, the foldable is hard to find and buy even if you want it, and as a bonus it doesn’t have all the cool OneUI features that Samsung’s foldable has like Samsung DeX.
Sooner or later people will want something new, and Samsung is willing to give it to them as they crush the competition – the Z Fold 4 is just around the corner
So there are other foldable devices that we could have mentioned, such as the Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold, but you get the idea: the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 4 will definitely outsell any other foldable phone, second only to the cheaper and more universal attractive galaxy Z flip 4.
Guess what – was Samsung smart to take a huge financial risk and grow the foldable phone market into what it is today? Is it preparing for the future where a slab phone just won’t be enough? Or do you think foldables won’t last and will never go mainstream?