Samsung Electronics is making foldable phones a priority, starting with a major promotional push in the latter half of this year aimed at bringing the premium form factor to a mainstream audience.
Discussing its earnings on Thursday, the South Korean maker of the Galaxy family of mobile devices went further and stronger in its commitment to the foldable category. Executives promised “a full-scale flagship marketing” blitz in the second half of the year, led by a handset the company has planned to launch on 11 August. The new model is widely expected to be the Galaxy Z Fold3.
Samsung traditionally launches new phones in the weeks prior to Apple’s annual iPhone line-up refresh around September, but this year the company is supplanting the Note series with its Fold launch. Company officials sidestepped a question about the Galaxy Note at Thursday’s earnings press conference, saying only that it’s dynamically addressing the various needs of consumers. It has already said its next foldable device will have S Pen capabilities, the key differentiator of its Note devices.
“Samsung is putting foldable smartphones upfront to become a dominant player in the premium market at a time when it’s facing fierce competition from Chinese brands in the low- to mid-price segment,” said Jene Park, senior analyst at research firm Counterpoint. “The absence of Galaxy Note series this year will be a positive factor for Fold3 sales.”
For the Galaxy Z Fold series to become a mainstream product, Samsung will have to bring its price down. The current Fold2 model starts at US$1 999, higher than the most expensive iPhone or Galaxy S flagship Android options. Still, Samsung needs a premium yet attainable device to put up against the new iPhones in September, especially in a year when it moved up its traditional launch window for the Galaxy S to January, expanding the gap between its release and the latest from Apple.
Counterpoint expects sales of foldable smartphones will increase to 15.4 million units globally from 8.6 million units in 2021 and three million units in 2020.
Samsung put an emphasis on “mainstreaming” the foldables category as a whole in its presentation and appears to see it as the long-term successor to its Galaxy Note series as well as a major differentiator from competing products. Foldable phones will start contributing to its bottom line starting in the second half of the year, the company said.
Samsung also discussed advances in its display technology. It plans to launch an under-display selfie camera that will eliminate the screen cutout dedicated for the front-facing camera. The novel technology will allow the camera to capture photos while sitting behind the display panel. — Reported by Vlad Savov and Sohee Kim, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP