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Galaxy Z Fold 4 to face increased competition from affordable foldables

Published Nov 19th, 2021 10:48AM EST
Google apps running on Galaxy Fold 3 foldable.
Image: Google

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A report earlier this week said that Google canceled the Pixel Fold in its current form. Google could still release a first-gen foldable handset in 2022, but it wouldn’t be sooner than the second half of the year. By that time, the handset will probably compete against Samsung’s next foldables, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Flip 4 that are likely in development for a summer 2022 launch. Pressure from the current Fold 3 might be the reason why Google scrapped plans to release the first-gen Pixel Fold this year.

But 2022 might deliver even fiercer competition in this space, as several smartphone makers might unveil their new foldable handsets. These devices won’t just offer competitive hardware, but they’ll also feature better prices, putting additional pressure on Samsung.

Samsung’s big foldable push will continue

Samsung achieved two things with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Flip 3 earlier this year. The devices are much cheaper and durable than before. That’s to say you might not worry as much about foldable phones breaking after you’ve just paid a fortune for them. Foldable phones are still more fragile than regular form factors, but Samsung made us forget all about its early Fold mishaps.

Samsung’s big bet on foldables paid off this year. The company sacrificed Note sales in an obvious push to sell the more expensive Fold 3 and Flip 3. And the company hinted in its most recent earnings report that the strategy has paid off. It’s too early to announce the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Flip 4, but Samsung did say that it wants to continue to lead the “mainstreaming of foldables in the market.”

The only way to do that is by releasing competitive devices that people can afford. Samsung is still very aware that foldable phones are expensive, despite the price cuts. That’s why Samsung lets users trade in as many as four devices for a new foldable, whether it’s the more expensive Fold 3 or the surprisingly affordable Flip 3.

The latter matches the price of the iPhone 13 Pro. That’s what affordable means in the foldable space right now. It’s still very expensive for buyers who aren’t looking for flagship devices. And the Flip 3 is not exactly a real iPhone 13 competitor.

Galaxy Z Flip 3 handset folded and unfolded
Galaxy Z Flip 3 announced on August 11th, 2021. Image source: Samsung

The Galaxy Z Fold 3’s mysterious rivals

The Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) note from earlier this week pointed out that Google canned the current Pixel Fold plans as it believed the foldable isn’t as competitive as it needs to be. Previous rumors highlighted the camera hardware as a potential Pixel Fold disappointment.

But the DSCC experts named in the same report several Chinese smartphone vendors that will launch foldable handsets soon. These are Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, Huawei, and Honor. It’s unclear when they will launch new foldable handsets, but we don’t expect new announcements this year. It’s too late to take advantage of the holiday season. The chip shortages and shipping crisis would further complicate things.

With that in mind, it’s not surprising to see the prolific Samsung leaker Ice Universe tackle the future of foldables. The leaker has never shied away from criticizing Samsung’s plans, and he delivered another tirade aimed at Samsung’s Fold plans.

He signaled out one issue that Samsung needs to correct next year, and that’s the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s crease. He quickly pivoted to rivals, pointing out that next year will bring us renewed competition in the foldable phone sector.

The first teasers

He pointed out that the Huawei Mate X2 could be a great Fold 4 rival, featuring a smaller crease, a wider screen, and better camera hardware. There is a caveat with Huawei, however. The company can’t manufacture enough flagship devices, and it can’t run Google’s version of Android.

In the same series of now-deleted tweets, the insider also noted that more Chinese smartphone vendors would soon produce more Fold-like products. These devices will have “reasonable design” and “more cutting-edge technologies.” The unnamed foldables will also feature lower prices than Samsung. The leaker teased that at least five models are in the works.

Ice hasn’t identified any Fold 4 rivals, but we do have one new teaser. Realme marketing head Xu Qi Chase posted on Weibo a message that teases 2022 devices. He said that technologies like under-screen cameras and foldable devices will further mature. That said, the exec did not offer a timeframe for a Realme foldable phone release.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the first foldable phone to feature a camera under display, a design that Samsung will probably employ for the Fold 4 next year.

Realme is part of the BBK group that also owns Oppo, OnePlus, and Vivo. It’s likely that Realme will not be the only BBK company to make foldable phones in the coming years.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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