Samsung challenges Apple with US$1,000 foldable phone


Samsung Electronics launched its line-up of consumer devices for the latter half of the year on Wednesday, positioning its new Galaxy Z Flip3 as a direct rival to Apple’s upcoming iPhone release.

The 5G-capable, Android-powered device dramatically lowers the entry price for the foldables category, coming in at US$999 (R21 999 in South Africa) after its predecessor had cost $1 449 at launch. Flanked by a new Galaxy Z Fold3 costing $1 799, a Galaxy Watch4 at $249 and Galaxy Buds 2 at $149, the Flip 3 will be Samsung’s star attraction in the spring, with the company omitting its usual launch of a Galaxy Note device this year. The larger Fold3 will be capable of using a stylus, effectively supplanting the Note’s position in the company’s premium range.

​Samsung committed to “a full-scale flagship marketing” blitz for its foldables this year during its most recent earnings call. The Suwon-based company has invested heavily in developing the flexible displays, custom-designed hinges and other adaptations required to produce durable foldable gadgets, and with its third generation it’s seeking to capitalise on that advantage.

Samsung is hoping to steal a march on the competition by popularising a device category that’s been plagued by technical problems and consumer ambivalence given the high price tags. The world’s largest smartphone maker is under pressure not just from Apple but also increasingly sophisticated Chinese rivals from Xiaomi to Oppo, particularly in parts of Europe and India. On Tuesday, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun declared his intention to overtake Samsung within three years.

“The market demand for foldable smartphones is growing exponentially,” Samsung said in a statement, citing analyst forecasts projecting a tripling of sales to 6.5 million units. “Samsung will be the leading and foremost provider, driving the market demand.”

‘Important milestone’

The Flip3 is the first major foldable smartphone to launch below the $1 000 mark, erasing the price disadvantage the category previously had. This is “the first important milestone for Samsung as more than a third of the iPhones sold globally are above $1 000”, said Counterpoint research director Neil Shah. “$800 to $1 000 will remain the sweet spot for the foldable smartphone over the next couple of years assuming the foldable display production yield rate improves.”

The clamshell-like Galaxy Flip3 has a 6.7-inch display on its interior and a 1.9-inch screen on its outside cover. Its size, weight, processor, memory and wireless specs are all in line with mainstream flagship devices. The only compromise to accommodate its design is the relatively smaller 3 300mAh battery. The book-like Galaxy Fold3 expands the inner display to 7.6 inches, has a full-size 6.2-inch panel on the exterior and fits a larger battery.

Both are now certified for water resistance, a first among foldable phones, according to Samsung. The Fold3 also has an under-display selfie camera, hiding it when not in use and eradicating the display cutout, or notch, typically required. Its new S Pen Pro accessory extends the Galaxy Note’s stylus capabilities to a new form factor.

“While we can’t disclose the upcoming models, we can confirm that Samsung is committed to expanding the Note experience across our Galaxy ecosystem moving forward,” the company said.

​Beyond the new smartphones, Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch4 series will be the first to feature its collaboration with Google on Wear OS. The software combines apps and services from both, such as Google Maps and Samsung Pay, while also supporting popular third-party apps like Strava and Spotify. These devices will showcase Samsung’s new 5nm processor for wearables — the Exynos W920 — which promises longer battery life.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 will cost from R37 999 in South Africa, while the Galaxy Z Flip3 will start at R21 999. The Fold3 will be available in black, gold and silver. The Flip3 will be available black, cream, green and lavender.

The devices will be available for pre-order from 1 September — pre-orders come with the Galaxy Buds2 earphones, Samsung Smart Tags and Samsung Care+ — and the phones will go on sale locally on 17 September.


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