Samsung will take the stage in its home country later this week to unveil the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Flip 5 foldables. This marks the first time the summer Unpacked event is being held at home rather than in an international market. It’s also the first time the mid-summer Unpacked press conference will take place in July rather than August or September.
I thought the arrival of Google’s Pixel Fold might have scared Samsung into moving up the launch event. But what if Samsung is really looking to deal with the iPhone ticking time bomb at home by looking to launch the new foldables as soon as possible?
Until this year, Samsung has had virtually no competition in the foldables space since the first Galaxy Fold. Samsung could take its time to upgrade the Fold and Flip each year without delivering massive redesigns. But Chinese vendors started putting pressure on Samsung in previous years. And some of those devices launched in Europe and other international markets in early 2023.
The Google Pixel Fold is perhaps the biggest threat to Samsung’s dominant position in the industry despite some of its obvious faults.
Samsung is responding to these threats with the kind of big Fold and Flip design updates we’ve been waiting for. The Fold 5 will be slimmer than before, thanks to a no-gap hinge. The Flip 5 will feature a large external display occupying almost the entire surface of one of the phone’s halves.
On top of that, Samsung set its Unpacked press event for July 26th, the earliest date ever. As a reminder, this Unpacked event used to be the home of the Galaxy Note series. And it used to happen in early September before Samsung detached it from the German IFA tradeshow. The reason Samsung went to early August was the iPhone’s early September launch which would routinely obliterate Note sales.
All that is to say that Samsung might be worried about increased competition in the foldables space. But the iPhone might be the real reason it’s focusing on the Korean market.
The big iPhone problem
Samsung might want to make an impression on a specific category of smartphone buyers in its home market. Per The Korea Herald, a new Gallup survey shows that young adults in the country prefer the iPhone overwhelmingly to a Samsung phone.
The study indicates that Samsung is the main smartphone vendor in Korea, with 69% of adults owning a Galaxy phone. Only 23% of respondents have an iPhone.
But younger millennials and Gen Z like the iPhone increasingly more than Samsung phones. In the 30-39 age group, 41% of respondents have an iPhone. The percentage goes to 60% in the 18-29 group.
This is a major problem for Samsung. These young adults are growing with the iPhone and the entire ecosystem of apps and hardware. Switching from iPhone to Android becomes increasingly difficult the more you use the products.
As a longtime iPhone user, I can attest to that. I’ve been on iPhone and Mac for over a decade, and there’s nothing to make me switch to a different combo. And I was in the 18-29 group when I started using Apple for my main computing needs.
The young adults who bought iPhone over Samsung cited Apple’s premium branding as one of the reasons. They’d buy the iPhone even if the same storage device is more expensive than the Galaxy S equivalent. For example, the 128GB iPhone 14 costs 1,250,000 won in the country, or $980. The Galaxy S23 is 100,000 won ($78) cheaper.
Apple Pay, which arrived in Korea earlier this year, is another factor that convinces young adults to buy iPhones.
The study also says that 85% of respondents say they are likely to stick with their current brand. That’s great for Samsung in the older groups. But if young adults stay with iPhone, we might be looking at decades of problems for Samsung. Especially if the teenage generation in Korea positions itself in favor of the iPhone. That wouldn’t be a surprise if their parents also use iPhones.
The unsung heroes in this survey are the older smartphone users who still have LG phones. LG is no longer making Android handsets, of course.
Samsung is apparently aware of the iPhone problem. The Herald says the Korean giant opened a flagship retail store in Gangnam last month, branding it a “playground for millennials and Gen Z.” The store is less than a kilometer away from Apple Gangnam store.