Samsung is doubling down on its foldable smartphones with a range of new features, but it’s not updating what’s arguably been the single biggest deterrent for customers: the high price tag.
At its annual Unpacked event on Wednesday, held in Samsung’s home country of South Korea for the first time, the company announced updates to its tablets, smartwatches and foldable devices. All of the devices, however, feature relatively incremental upgrades, with the usual improvements to processor and screen technologies and a few new bells and whistles.
The event focused on the arrival of Samsung’s fifth generation foldable smartphones: the 6.7-inch Z Flip5, which folds into a 3.4- inch device; and the 6.2-inch Galaxy Z Fold, which opens like a book into a 7.6 inch device. Both smartphones feature improved designs, better cameras, and longer battery life.
What’s not improved, however, is the price. The Z Flip5 starts at $999.99 and the Z Fold5 starts at $1,799, the same price as the previous year and in line with other foldables on the market.
Samsung is the undisputed market leader for foldable phones and remains bullish on the form factor. But while influencers and celebrities have shown renewed interest in vintage flip phones, foldable and flexible displays have yet to go mainstream.
According to Counterpoint Research, shipments of foldables grew over 2,000% worldwide between 2019 and 2022 from around 600,000 to 13 million. The firm estimates shipments will exceed 100 million by 2027, making up about 38% share of premium market. This compares, however, to the 1.2 billion smartphones that shipped globally last year, market research company iDC reported.
Much of the limited traction for these devices is likely due to the unusually high prices. Lowering the price of foldables could help boost traction across the industry, but manufacturers may struggle to do that anytime soon due to costly components, such as flexible screens and custom-built hinges.
Drew Blackard, vice president of mobile product manager at Samsung, said he believes prices will fall and foldable devices will one day become flagship devices.
“I think you tend to see prices start to drop as the product lines and categories get to that maturity level,” he told CNN ahead of the event. “[We] still feel that these products are really at the forefront of the innovation curve.”
For now, however, Samsung must convince customers to pay up.
The Z Flip, which Samsung
(SSNLF) said makes up about two-thirds of its overall foldable phone shipments, now features a cover screen that’s nearly four times larger than the previous version. The additional real estate allows users more space to customize what appears up front, such as new clocks, more access to widgets, a full keyboard and the ability to take selfies.
The Galaxy Z Flip5 also adds AI improvements to its camera system, enabling clearer images with a 10X zoom and the ability to correct visual noise as well as utilizing Samsung’s upgraded Nightography capabilities for fixing photos and videos in low-lighting conditions. It also includes an improved hinge.
The device is available in various colors including mint, graphite, cream, lavender, gray, blue and green.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy Z Fold5 — aimed at power users and professionals — is thinner than its previous iteration and packs an improved Snapdragon processor to handle more multitasking. It comes with a slimmer and more compact S Pen Fold Edition. The device comes in blue, black, gray and cream.
Samsung also showed off its Galaxy Watch6 with improved sleep and heart tracking, and three new versions of its Galaxy Tab 9 tablet in three sizes — 11 inches, 12.4 inches and 14.6 inches.