The Galaxy S24 might be the Android phone of the moment, with special emphasis on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, but we can’t ignore what lies ahead. We’re just getting started, and 2024 will introduce plenty of new Android hardware from Samsung and other vendors.
Samsung fans already know what to expect from Samsung’s phone release calendar. After the Galaxy S24, we should get new mid-rangers in the coming months before foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Flip 6 take center stage. But unlike in previous years, Samsung might surprise buyers this year with the phone they’ve been dying to see: An affordable Galaxy Z Fold 6.
Lagging the competition
Samsung was the de facto leader of the foldable smartphone market because it was the only top Android vendor selling the devices worldwide. That was the case until early last year, when competition was virtually absent other than from Motorola.
In recent years, we’ve seen plenty of exciting, and often affordable, foldable phones in China. These models competed against the Samsung Flips and Folds, but only in China, where Samsung was hardly a top seller. Chinese vendors also outsold Samsung in their home market.
Then, the likes of Honor, Xiaomi, Oppo, and OnePlus came out with international versions of their handsets, unleashing them onto the world in early 2023. Last year, after MWC, where most of these foldables got international releases, I pointed out that it felt like Samsung was playing catchup in a game it invented.
The Flip-like device from Oppo featured a much larger external display. Motorola then came out with a similar Flip design that was incredibly appealing, the Razr Plus.
As for phones like the Galaxy Z Fold, competitors from China already sold their flagships for cheaper prices, and offered better specs. Some had thinner profiles. Others had larger batteries.
Add Google’s Pixel Fold to the mix, and there’s increasing pressure on Samsung to make a better effort. The Flip 5 and Fold 5 brought new designs. The Flip 5 gained a large external display, and the Fold 5 lost the screen gap, becoming thinner than before.
Samsung is third in China’s foldables market
But Samsung’s foldables were still on the expensive side. And the Flip 5 and Fold 5 didn’t help Samsung do better in China. All of that should be enough to explain why Samsung might be considering a cheaper Galaxy Z Fold 6 this year.
According to The Korea Herald, Samsung wants to put up a greater fight in China, which is also witnessing the reemergence of Huawei.
Banned by the US a few years ago, Huawei struggled for a few years before finding its footing. In the process, Huawei launched new foldabels, which were especially popular in its home market.
Citing data from research firm Omdia, the report notes that Samsung came in third in China with a 19% share of the foldables market. Honor (28%) and Huawei (26%) took the first two places.
It’s still unclear how affordable the cheaper Galaxy Z Fold 6 would be. If Samsung goes forward with such a device, to begin with. Also, the report doesn’t mention the compromises Samsung will inevitably make to drop the price. It might not be just about the specs, but that’s only my speculation.
For example, as a fan of foldables and generative AI, I also can’t but wonder whether Galaxy AI will cost extra to run on a cheaper foldable device.
Galaxy AI comes free with Galaxy S24 phones, and should remain free through 2025. But that might change in the future. Also, while most Galaxy AI features are cloud-powered, it’s unclear which Samsung devices will get Galaxy AI support and when it’ll happen.
I brought up the Galaxy AI features as the Galaxy S24 phones have prices that are almost identical to their predecessors. Only the Ultra is slightly more expensive.
Samsung’s pricing structure might be good news for its 2024 foldables. Even without a cheaper Fold 6, one might hope Samsung could maintain last year’s Flip 5 and Fold 6 prices.
A cheaper Fold doesn’t guarantee success
The Korean-language report doesn’t address artificial intelligence in any way. However, it points out that Samsung wants to increase the market share of Fold-type devices. The cheaper Galaxy Z Fold 6 could help in that regard.
Samsung is apparently aware of what critics are saying about its foldables. According to the report, the Galaxy Z Fold 6 might be thinner than its predecessor. I don’t dream of it matching the Honor Magic V2, however.
Since battery size is another issue, Samsung might increase the battery size too. But this is just speculation.
Separately, Samsung is also aware of potential hurdles along the way, like a weaker economy and the cheap Fold 6 possibly cannibalizing Flip 6 and premium Fold 6.
While the report can’t offer any certainties about the fate of Samsung’s 2024 foldable series, I’m certain everything will leak well before mid-July or early August. That’s when new Samsung foldables should be unveiled, considering Samsung’s way of doing things.