Samsung is the most important foldable phone vendor in the world right now because there’s not much competition yet. Huawei can’t sell its foldable phones as widely as Samsung does, and they don’t run the version of Android version that most users want. Motorola’s foldable was basically dead on arrival the minute the Galaxy Z Flip arrived. And Xiaomi only unveiled its first Galaxy Fold-like device a few weeks ago.
More companies will release foldable phones in the coming months and years, and Samsung is expected to launch two new devices this summer. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 will take the place of the Note 21, featuring several exciting upgrades over their predecessors, including key fixes that should make foldable phones even more exciting. But Samsung has chosen a peculiar moment to remind people it’s making foldable phones that want to buy.
May 18th, 2021, brings two significant tech developments. First, Google hosted its I/O 2021 keynote — the first in two years due to the pandemic. Google showed off Android 12, as well as other software innovations from Wear to Maps. 24-inch iMac reviews also went up on Tuesday, and they are as positive as Apple fans could have hoped for. The new iMac features an exciting, colorful design and runs on the Apple M1 processor launched last fall.
And yet, May 18th is the day Samsung chose to share a blog post about its foldable phones.
Samsung has been teasing this form factor for years before announcing the first-gen Galaxy Fold device in late 2019. The rollout wasn’t an immediate success, as Samsung had to fix design issues that turned out to be a significant risk for the foldable screen’s integrity. Since then, it’s been smooth sailing, as the Flip and Fold 2 deployed further fixes to prevent accidental screen damage and delivered a few new features meant to help users take advantage of the foldable screen.
Samsung makes no mention of the 2021 generation of foldable devices, but says it continues to “refine the foldable user experience,” as users are looking for devices that can adapt to “fit our lives in any moment.”
Samsung reminds users of some of the Fold and Flip’s features, including the tablet-like experience on the larger foldable or using the Flip for hands-free video chatting. Samsung also says that many of the most popular apps were tailored for a foldable screen experience that allows users to combine various apps on the same screen. There’s really no new information in here.
Samsung does say that Fold 2 owners phones love the size of the display, and that’s the number one reason they bought the handset, according to an internal survey. Flip users love “their phone’s sleek, fashionable design and having a full-sized smartphone that folds to fit in the palm of their hand.”
The Fold 2 has 96% user satisfaction, Samsung says, and 9 out of 10 users say they would purchase a foldable phone again. A survey in the US last month told Samsung that half of US consumers are interested in buying a foldable phone as their next device.
Samsung also says that the 2021 foldable market is expected to triple over last year. That must be good news for Samsung, which sold 75% of foldable phone sales last year. But Samsung doesn’t disclose any sales numbers.
The blog post also notes that Samsung wants to make foldables more accessible, citing the recent 100-day trial program that Samsung ran in the US. “Users who experienced the Galaxy Z Flip or Galaxy Z Fold2 during that extended trial period kept their devices at even higher rates — because once people get their hands on a foldable phone, they see its value in their daily lives,” Samsung says, without disclosing any data.
While building up this hype around new foldables, Samsung doesn’t even tease any of the exciting foldable display technologies that Samsung Display unveiled earlier this week. Samsung confirmed reports that it’s working on dual foldable phones (seen above), foldable laptops, and phones with rollable screens. Under-display camera tech was also shown off again.
But several reports have already detailed the Fold 3 and Flip 3’s designs, specs, and features. Even without Samsung promoting foldable phones, buyers should have a few reasons to be excited about the 2021 devices. The new Fold and Flip should be even durable than last year’s models, and the Flip could be significantly cheaper than before. Fragility and costs remain the main problems that foldable phone vendors need to fix for foldable phones to become mainstream.