I've been following the emergence and development of Samsung foldable phones since the original Samsung Galaxy Fold failed to launch back in 2019, culminating recently in me writing about how impressed I was with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G, which I considered the best foldable phone you can buy today in 2022.
So I read with interest new reports coming out of South Korea (opens in new tab) this week that Samsung has apparently decided to decrease focus on its non-folding Galaxy S and A phone line-ups going forward, and re-double its focus on its folding phones, which this year are rumored to include the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4.
And, to me, this has all the signs of a genuine epochal shift in the Android phone market. If this report is accurate, and The Korean Times source is usually well informed, then for first time in modern smartphone history we're going to see Samsung directly look to combat Apple and other rivals in the premium phone segment with handsets that don't share the same form factor.
Indeed, the report states that:
"Samsung Electronics will clash with Apple in the premium smartphone market in the second half of this year as the Galaxy maker is set to unveil new foldable phones ― the Z Fold 4 and the Z Flip 4 ― in August to challenge the new iPhone, according to industry officials and analysts."
Now Samsung's technical leaders each year and, arguably, overall flagship phones, will be foldables not non-folding phones. And this seems now even more possible considering the news that Samsung is looking to downgrade its focus on its Galaxy S and A ranges.
I for one can't see future Samsung Galaxy S flagships having the same clout if the best hardware and most innovative features are instead launching on Samsung's foldable phones. Indeed, this seems to be already happening in part, with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra seeing its disappointing Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU one-upped according to the latest leaks by a much more efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor. This means, in 2022, the Fold 4 will have the most powerful and efficient processor, not the S22 Ultra.
Rumors of the flagship S-series phone's party piece, its in-built S Pen digital stylus functionality (as inherited from Samsung's old technical leader, the Galaxy Note series), coming to future Galaxy Fold foldables also adds weight to this shift. It soon looks like if you want the best smartphone experience Samsung has to offer, then you're going to be buying one of its foldables.
And these foldable phones are going to be marketed in direct opposition to rival non-folding flagships from Apple and other Android phone makers. That feels like a big shift in the industry to me – as now a key buying point is always going to be, to fold or not to fold?
The idea of Samsung going to people and saying, don't buy an iPhone 14 Pro (or rival Android flagship) but instead buy our new folding phone flagship sounds a bit crazy right now, as I think up till now folding and non-folding phone markets have operated with a large degree of separation (largely driven by cost differentials). But folding phone prices have now dropped to the level of new flagship non-foldable phones, meaning that at least on price the fight is now fair.
Seriously, I'm looking at the rumored specs for the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 5G and they're absolutely elite-tier and more than a match for any single-screened phone on the market. And if that's the case, and it also delivers a party piece which they don't, the ability to fold in half for extremely great portability and style, why wouldn't I opt for one over a non-foldable?
That's the bet Samsung seems to be making right now, that going forward foldable phones are going to be the increasingly bought premium phone of choice. And, if that is the case, Android phone makers and even Apple may very well soon have to play serious catch-up, as Samsung is in my mind orders of magnitude in advance of anyone else when it comes round to folding phone tech.